The best restaurants in London: restaurants our editors love
An exciting South-Asian opening shaking up Mayfair’s culinary landscape
BiBi has been on our radar for a while now, after chef Chet Sharma bought the site nearly two years ago, blissfully unaware of the complications of a global pandemic, multiple lockdowns and a fuel shortage would bring. However, the restaurant finally opened its doors in September 2021 and is well worth the wait. Behind an unassuming red-brick Georgian front, inside, the wood-panelled ceilings, checkerboard flooring, and a smooth, dark wooden countertop set BiBi apart from the traditional, slightly tedious Mayfair stalwarts. Melding the neighborhood’s extravagant propensity with a dash of heady Indian design laced with charming family influences, BiBi’s effectively nails the brief: a restaurant that slots naturally into its surroundings, yet abounds with personality and a contemporary feel.
Chet Sharma’s career has taken him through some of Europe’s biggest restaurants – from Lancashire’s Moor Hall and Cumbria’s L’Enclume to Mugaritz in Spain’s Basque Country – but at BiBi, his training and experience converge with passion and family influence. The menu is a unique blend of contemporary skills and Indian authenticity, with traditional comfort food dishes plucked straight from visceral childhood memories, and the restaurant prides itself on working directly with farmers. Turn over the menu to explore a map of South Asia, with pins marking the farms that each ingredient has been sourced from – here, you’ll find pomegranate from Kandahar in Afghanistan, cardamom from Sikkim, wild black mustard seeds from Odisha and chocolate from Puducherry.
The waiter recommends you choose two dishes from the snacks section, two chaat (small, starter-style dishes inspired by India’s street food scene) and three or four sigree (an Indian grill), plus sides. This might sound like a lot, but each dish is small, punchy and moreish, so ordering too much isn’t an issue you’ll have here. Order the cheese papads for a light, crunchy take on prawn crackers, and the oyster pachadi to start. While purists might feel that oysters are best left as they come, Chet lightly poaches them in lime, coconut and fermented fresh chilli, before drizzling with peanut oil to create a deliciously zingy, nutty, slightly spicy mouthful that’s an excellent way to kick off the meal. From the chaat, try the Orkney scallop nimbu pani for a creamier take on ceviche with added texture from puffed lentils, and the beef pepper fry – raw Highland beef fermented in punchy Tellicherry with crispy fried onions. The stand-out dish from the sigree was without a doubt the paneer; served hot, the cheese is braised in buffalo milk and sprinkled with lightly fried fenugreek kebab masala. It melts in your mouth, leaving behind a complex blend of creamy sweet flavors with a nutty depth. The khatti meethi cod was also perfectly flakey fish with a tamarind sweet-and-sour style sauce served with a peanut podi, and the goat chapli kebab – served with a peshwari onion chutney – is another exciting dish to add to your list. ‘Chapli’ means flat, taken from the word ‘chappal’ meaning sandals – the (former) tool of choice used to flatten the kebab.
BiBi’s cocktail list is delightfully different. Start with a refreshing Calamansi Gola – tequila, lime, mango, ginger and green chilli served over crushed ice – or the Sandalwood Mizuwari, a whiskey-based long cocktail mixed with cold-brew osmanthus oolong, mandarin peel and mysore sandalwood. There’s a solid wine list of whites, reds and sparkling, as well as a selection of teas (served hot and cold) to accompany the dishes. Round off the evening with a reverse Espresso Martini – vodka distilled with coffee beans, coconut water and coconut milk – with a distinctive foam made by hand-whisking dried espresso with sugar.
Merging high-end food, glamorous interiors and a hard-to-impress postcode, with authentic familial influences and traditional Indian cuisine, BiBi was well worth the wait. Olivia Morelli
Address: BiBi, 42 N Audley Street, London W1K 6ZP
phone: +44 20 3780 7310