Why French Chef Fell in Love With an English Pub: Richard Vines

Pierre Koffmann and Claude Bosi
Chefs Pierre Koffmann and Claude Bosi outside Bosi's restaurant Hibiscus in London. Bosi has opened a British pub. Photographer: Richard Vines/Bloomberg

Claude Bosi is an unlikely Anglophile.

The Lyon-born chef speaks with a charming accent that wouldn’t be out of place in a “Pink Panther” film. It’s easy to picture him settling down to a bottle of red wine and charcuterie with friends in a provincial French bistro.

Sometimes stereotypes just don’t work.

Bosi, 38, who moved to England in 1997 to work in provincial Ludlow, holds two Michelin stars for his modern French cooking at Hibiscus in London. His resume features experience with giants of gastronomy such as Alain Ducasse and Alain Passard. His current passion? Opening a pub in Wimbledon.

“I love drinking real ale and eating roast beef,” Bosi says and smiles. “My friend (chef) Sat Bains says, ‘You’re more English than I am.’ I like the pub because it is a community place and it reminds me of my childhood and what my mum and dad used to have at home, a bistro de quartier -- a place where you can go and have a drink with some friends or read the papers.”

Bosi’s new home from home is the Fox & Grapes, a pub on Wimbledon Common that he fell in love with when he first visited it and saw local people sipping beer, their dogs beside them. The opening -- after refurbishment -- is scheduled for Feb. 10.

“It’s an old village pub,” he says. “I like the idea of a community, to be part of something and that’s why we decided to do it there. There were people drinking with the dogs who just came back from a walk and it was fantastic. I’ve got two dogs, a border collie and a Labrador. I absolutely love them.”

Six Puddings

Bosi’s brother Cedric will run the pub and the kitchen which will be headed by Patrick Leano, a Canadian sous chef at Hibiscus, the 49th best restaurant in the world, according to S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants. The menu will be British, with about six starters, six mains and six puddings.

“It will be the kind of things I like to eat on my day off,” Bosi says. “You will have things like jellied eel, prawn cocktail -- I love prawn cocktail. We’re trying an ox liver terrine, chicken Kiev, coq au vin, steak. It’s very simple.”

(Bosi and Cedric previously ran a pub in Ludlow.)

Bosi says about 95 percent of the produce he uses at Hibiscus is British and he is aiming for close to 100 percent at the Fox & Grapes. “I love Britain,” says the chef, who lives in Clapham with his English girlfriend Lucy Taylor, the head of restaurants at Toptable.com, and recently won the right to vote.

“When I came to England in 1997, it was a bit strange,” he says. “The food has changed and people more and more love great food. People are not just here to sit down, eat and go to work. In France, it’s the reverse: People eat and go, though you’ve still got families in the countryside where they will pass time at the table.

“As I’m French, it would be so easy for me to get a van and go to France to get produce, but if you’re part of a community, you have to adapt yourself to it. That’s very important: It’s respect for people who come to taste the food.”

(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)


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