Claude Bosi: Hibiscus must evolve to stay on top

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Two-Michelin-starred chef Claude Bosi says he must not turn a blind eye to the increasing ‘casualisation’ of fine-dining as he looks to try and keep people flocking through the doors of his Mayfair establishment Hibiscus.

In a wide-ranging video interview with BigHospitality at The Restaurant Show last month, Bosi admitted that, while the quality of dining in the UK is getting better every year, many customers are now turning to more varied cuisines and less formal environments – putting more traditional restaurants at risk of closure.

“There are lots of new one-star places and lots of new Bib Gourmands,” said the Frenchman. “It shows what Britain is really about at the moment.

“It shows you the way that gastronomy’s going. People want to eat great food, but they want to do so in a different environment. Social eating house is fantastic, I love the place and what Jason’s doing is fantastic. And Lima shows the variety of food you can now get in London. Food from South America is one the rise and they have great produce.

“As a more traditional restaurant, we have to listen to this. We have to open our eyes and realise what people want. If not we could stay in a bubble and I could be closed in a couple of years’ time.

“There’s often an idea of fine-dining, two-Michelin-starred restaurants being a sanctuary where you can’t really talk and I want to move away from that. I want to show that you can be a two or three star restaurant and still have fun.”

Pub food

Bosi originally opened Hibiscus in Ludlow with his former wife Claire in 2000, before moving it to its current Mayfair location in 2006. Earlier this year, the chef bought out his business partners to ensure the restaurant is fully, independently owned.

As a result of that move, Bosi also sold his shares in two pubs - the Fox & Grapes in Wimbledon in 2011 and the Malt House in Fulham – to private investors. He remains a consultant of the pubs business, which is now known as the Jolly Fine Group.

But, with Tom Kerridge’s Hand and Flowers recently taking number one spot in the National Restaurant Awards, Bosi agreed that the rise of pub food has been ‘fantastic’ for the industry.

“What Michelin has done with Tom (Kerridge) and some other pubs has been great,” he added. “Before, you used to have this idea of a pub chef where they just put things on a plate. But showing that you can have good food quality in a pub is one of the best things for this country.

“You can go to a local pub and have some fantastic food made with locally sourced produce. It’s great for Britain.

“Drinking and driving has finished. People can’t go for more than two pints and drive back home. But you still have to do have something to attract these people. Great food is the way you should go.

“There’s good produce in this country, it should be easy to do it. Just try to keep it as simple as possible and cook some good home food that you would like to eat yourself.”

Keeping busy

Bosi concluded that he has some exciting plans for Hibiscus, which is now in its 14th year of operation.

“We must just try to keep busy. The restaurant’s doing well. As for more openings, I’m not sure. I’m still looking after the two pubs even though I lost my shares in them.”

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