What:A progressive Indian restaurant on North Audley Street in Mayfair. Bibi is a landmark for subcontinent food in the capital,adopting a contemporary approach focused on development while ensuring that the result is always recognizable to the Indian. There is also an emphasis on top quality products, with an unusual level of effort sourcing ingredients from small UK suppliers as well as Indian handicrafts including chocolate, coffee, semi-dried spices, pickled peppers and heritage. cereals.
Who: Chet Sharma, former head of development for Moor Hall and L’Enclume.He has worked in the restaurant business since he was a teenager but also found time to study physics at Oxford and to do masters and doctorates. Towards the latter’s end he realized he wanted a career in cooking and has since been in high demand as a scientifically minded development chef, working with restaurants such as Moor Hall, L ‘Anvil and The Ledbury. Bibi was launched in partnership with Gymkhana and JKS Restaurants, owner of Trishna (Sharma has been working behind the scenes of the group for a few years to secure a site for Bibi).
The atmosphere:Eyebrows were raised in restaurant towers as Sharma showcased her launch plans with an old-fashioned hip-hop-focused playlist. Would JKS restaurants really approve of this given the location of Mayfair? It does, and it works very well, with Bibi having a more relaxed and trendy feel than most other places in the area without being a lifestyle. Bibi translates into Urdu as “lady of the house” and is used as a loving term for grandmothers. The restaurant is inspired by Sharma’s paternal and maternal grandmothers and therefore exudes a feminine atmosphere that is the antithesis of the men’s club, an aesthetic of colonial inspiration favored by many Indian restaurants, notably the Gymkhana and the brigadiers of the JKS restaurant. Modern Indian art hangs on the walls and the fabrics are inspired by one of her grandmother’s pashminas collections.
The food:Bibi offers a tight menu divided into snacks and a selection of dishes that refer to the sweet, spicy, sour and salty flavors of the chaats before moving on to more substantial hot dishes, the majority of which are cooked on a sigree grill. Bibi offers a ‘chef’s selection’ menu priced at Â£ 35 at lunch and Â£ 55 at dinner, a surprisingly affordable price considering Sharma’s pedigree, quality of ingredients and Bibi’s location. But the emphasis is on the menu, with the cuisine taking the selection of each table and punctuating it to create a cohesive meal with dishes coming in complementary waves. Dishes include Orkney ‘nimbu pani’ scallops, raw Highland beef fries, buffalo milk paneer with fenugreek masala kebab and lamb belly galouti with cilantro and mint chutney.
To drink:Bibi has a small selection of cocktails which, like all JKS restaurants, are skillfully pre-mixed off-site. There are a few beers available but the emphasis is on wine. The list is surprisingly accessible for the region, starting at around Â£ 30 a bottle and peaking just north of Â£ 100. As in most of the group’s restaurants, the emphasis is on contemporary producers that are less obvious and offer good value for money.
And something else:Chet Sharma and JKS Restaurants were always going to be a winning combination. The restaurant has already received a rave review from the Evening Standard’s Jimi Famurewa and a visit from at least one national reviewer seems likely given how unique Sharma’s approach is.