First, a lesson in economics: what does it take to meet the standards of a three star venue?
- A maximum of 40 seats.
- A table turn of one.
- Closed for most lunch days and at least one evening.
- A four to one ratio of diners to waiting staff.
- A three to one ratio of diners to chefs.
- A recognised wine steward and support staff.
- A size-able front and back of house.
In short, a low revenue and high cost model. No wonder most establishments are loss making and depend on merchandise revenue as well a lecturing career or TV shows. Right? Not quite. Exist stage left, enter stage right.
If I were told that a one Michelin starred restaurant in Ludlow were moving to London to make it big, I’d have been skeptical. Isn’t the reverse normally true? Move out to the middle of nowhere to reduce rental costs and position yourself as a destination venue (or as the Michelin Guide puts it “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”)? Well, no. At the moment, la mode in cuisine is to break the mould, why not the economics too?
Last Friday, I visited Hibiscus for about the 30th time. I cannot speak more highly of the place. A fizzy cucumber and pineapple pearl amuse bouche, toasted rice and mushroom soup, scallops with grapefruit jelly, an asparagus tart for dessert. Exquisite. At what price? Their set lunch menu at £29.50.
A higher table turn at lunch as they target business clients (this does not affect the service as a three course meal and staggered reservations provides the perfect balance). An extensive half bottle wine list to tempt clients to have just one during their lunch break. Open only for lunch during the weak to maximize the benefits of their prime location and just evenings at the weekend for a real destination experience (tasting menu now between £75-100). Cook books? Famous TV personality? No. Just two Michelin stars and totally deserving three for fantastic cuisine, service and guts.
Hibiscus (5 out of 5): 29 Maddox Street, London, W1S 2PA, +44 (0)20 7629 2999.