Claude Bosi, Hibiscus, Mayfair

The  Staff Canteen

Claude Bosi came to the UK fifteen years ago after stints working at L’Arpege and Restaurant Alain Ducasse. He had soon opened his own restaurant, Hibiscus, in Ludlow, Shropshire which quickly won two Michelin stars. In 2007 Hibiscus moved to London where it quickly regained its second star as well as numerous other accolades such as a place in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list and 8/10 in The Good Food Guide. The Staff Canteen spoke to the 41-year-old French chef to find out how his food style is continuing to develop.

You grew up in Lyon where your parents owned a restaurant; what were your first memories of cooking and the restaurant business? My main memory of the restaurant is the busy lunch; lots of people running around and the great atmosphere of the place. I was lucky enough to go home every day and eat lunch at the restaurant from the plat du jour menu. Sometimes I helped out in the kitchen with the washing up but I was very young and I left home very early at the age of 15 to do an apprenticeship. Growing up in Lyon was great. The food market on the side of the river is one of the best in France and there are a lot of food halls where you have small suppliers doing some fantastic food.

When you came to the UK, what struck you most about the food scene here? When I came here fifteen years ago there was not a lot of the produce I wanted and I had to go shopping from France but over time I found a lot of different small suppliers and some fantastic produce; it’s different from the produce in France but it’s great.

Is that something you see yourself helping with – promoting great British produce? Oh definitely, it’s part of your job as a chef and something you have to do; you have to support and help these small producers and artisans.

In 2007 you moved Hibiscus from Ludlow in Shropshire to London; did you miss having great local produce just next door like you did in Ludlow? Not really, I managed to keep working with the same suppliers as I had in Ludlow so we have the best of both worlds here. We get some fantastic rosé veal from there and a lot of game comes from the same supplier which we had in Ludlow. We also have a supplier from Ludlow who gets us great wet walnuts.

Now that you’re in London you’ve opened up two pubs as well; what was the thought process behind that? I like the pubs because they remind me of what my parents had in France where you could go and have a drink, have a sandwich or read the newspaper – a very relaxed place. Of course, if you look at the financial side of it as well, pubs are also more profitable than somewhere like Hibiscus and also I wanted to do something with my brother Cedric who is a restaurateur.

You’re also making some changes to Hibiscus to make it a bit less formal; what’s the thinking behind that? I think people are moving away from the formality of fine dining so we’re just trying to make people realise that you can come to Hibiscus and have one course if you want and you can be in and out in half an hour. You don’t have to come to a two Michelin star restaurant and spend two hours at the table. People think of fine dining as being a particularly French thing but the same trend is happening in France as well – there are lots of little bistros opening everywhere. People in general want a more relaxed style of dining so it’s not just about following a trend but giving people what they want.

Will the more relaxed atmosphere go hand in hand with a simpler style of food? The style of the food will stay the same, the philosophy is the same but we’re taking away more things that maybe we didn’t need before. It’s more directly about the produce and not so much about other things that don’t need to be there. I think it comes with getting a bit older and a bit more mature and you realise that you don’t need so much fuss.

Are you pushing for three Michelin stars? Yes of course we are but first and foremost we’re pushing to keep the restaurant busy. With the economy as it is at the moment, that has to be the main focus. If we get three stars, fantastic. I think any business that has two stars will want three stars one day.

Jason Atherton’s Pollen Street Social is literally just down the road from you. Do you have a friendly rivalry? There’s no rivalry really. We are two very different restaurants. Jason is a friend. He knows that I’m here for him if he needs me, and he’s there for me if I need him. Jason is a very busy man. When he’s there we try to catch up for a coffee but it can be hard!

You’re also a very busy man who travels a lot; where are some of the exciting places you’ve eaten recently? I love Asia; there are some fantastic flavours there –Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam – all these countries. I went to Poland recently and the food was fantastic there as well. Anywhere you go, you can always find something that makes you say "wow, I could do something with that," and when you come back you add that to your style and your philosophy. I’m French and my style is French but I love travelling and I love taking flavours and techniques from wherever I go. You can learn a lot about cooking from the different countries you go to and it’s not always about flavour combinations or style of cooking; it can be the way they think about food and the way they see food.

What does the future hold for Claude Bosi? I would definitely like to open more places with my brother. We have three places at the moment which is plenty so maybe we’ll wait a bit and think if we want to open another pub or a bistro or something different but I’ll definitely keep working with my brother.  

Do you ever think about going back to France and opening something up there? No, I’m happy here and I’ve got a young daughter. I love England, except when they play France at rugby or football, then I put my French shirt on!  

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th June 2013

Claude Bosi, Hibiscus, Mayfair