In January, you could go to Bob Bob Ricard in Soho. I do not know why it is called Bob Bob Ricard; and I do not really care. I am currently reviewing cars for another magazine and cars’ names make restaurants’ names sound reasonable. Perhaps Bob Bob Ricard is always slightly drunk and needs to mumble its name — ‘Bob?’ — for fear of forgetting it, like the people in the VIP field at Glastonbury. I do know that it is a restaurant for affluent halfwits, of which there is an infinite supply in Soho. I wonder if it might have been Jimmy Savile’s favourite restaurant.
It occupies the ground floor of a dull brown block on Upper James Street, in the ‘functional’ part of Soho. It may be Edwardian, but probably isn’t. It doesn’t matter. This is all about reinvention; about champagne; about the nearby London Palladium, which I also think about in Bob Bob Ricard.
Inside it looks like Harrods, spliced in a weird machine by an evil -interior design genius, and remade slightly wrong because his calculations were inaccurate. The booths are red and gold. Too much gold. More gold than Rumpelstiltskin would covet. He’d scream off it, jump into recovery, spend some time with straw. I haven’t seen so much gold since I toured Ludwig of Bavaria’s palaces and saw his collection of carriages. There are velvet curtains and mad polished ceilings and a flinty bar, which looks like the kind of bar that prostitutes manifest if there is enough dirty money in the room. Do Russian oligarchs, for whom this place exists (the menu is exactly half Russian, like the Ukraine), know how camp it is?
The selling point — the zenith or nadir, depending on your perspective — is a gold button in each booth. It says ‘Press for champagne’. What drowsing childhood or alcoholic dream made that button? So I do ring for champagne. I want a glass for my companion. I do not want champagne for myself. I mean, of course I do want champagne, but I haven’t had a glass of champagne since 2001 and if I had one now I would smash up this restaurant because I want all the champagne. It probably wouldn’t look worse if I did. You probably wouldn’t notice. Gold is gold.
They bring two glasses of champagne. The button doesn’t understand that only my companion wants champagne or rather that I do but I don’t because I want all of it. The button is simple.
They also bring doughy, horribly adequate food which would be fine if I were drunk after multiple pressings of the monomaniacal champagne -button — the Oxford ’bab van would be fine after that much Pol Roger — but is absolutely not fine if you are not drunk. It tastes, at best, like the Tesco’s Finest range, but Russian plutocrats on Pol Roger probably don’t notice or care. I had a £21.50 chicken kiev and my companion had a lonely chateaubriand for one for £34.50 and both were edible but no more, and the bill, after pressing the button, was close to £200.
I know I should hate Bob Bob Ricard but I don’t. I had a fantasy when I was a child that I would be a musical theatre star — Oklahoma! — but I have no talent for it so I’m here instead. Bob Bob Ricard feels the closest I can get to that dream, and I only have to eat chicken kiev and not press a button. And I’ve never met a broken man I couldn’t love.
So, a restaurant to fall out of drunkenly into the gloom while singing Rodgers and Hammerstein badly. There’s something for everyone in London. Happy New Year, readers.
Bob Bob Ricard, 1 Upper James St, London W1F 9DF; tel 020 3145 1000.