I’ve had a great Bank Holiday weekend, including a rather fabulous leisurely Sunday lunch at Bibendum, the restaurant on the first floor of the Michelin Building, down the Fulham Road in SW3, whose, relatively-newly-in-situ, head chef is Claude Bosi.
Wow, that feels like a long way of saying: nice restaurant, good chef, great lunch.
Okay, I can expand on that because we enjoyed it a lot. Again.
We’ve been to Bibendum a few times before – this was the first visit with Claude Bosi as chef – and it really is one of the nicest dining spaces in London though none of the images I’ve seen really convey the height and light of the beautiful stained glass windows and roof light.
Along with a beautiful room, there are comfortable chairs and decent spacing between tables so … pleasure lunching nirvana.
We had high expectations of the food from Claude Bosi, formerly of Hibiscus where we’d eaten previously, and it didn’t disappoint.
I had light fresh scallops and strawberries to start, followed by rabbit and langoustine, winding up with a sublime pistachio soufflé, banana ice cream confection that was to die for if you’re a dessert person (obviously, I am). D had the same as me, other than veal sweetbreads to start. All delicious.
Replete with food, drinks and coffees – the petits four were yummy too especially a runny caramel, dark chocolate egg which was like a ridiculously refined mix of an Aero and a Cadbury’s cream egg if we’re thinking Arabian race horse to donkey comparisons – I should be done here, shouldn’t I?
But, no, I’m not because there’s always more on the wheelchair access, isn’t there? And none of it reflects well on me and my wheeling skills!
Having been before, at least once in my manual wheelchair, I was fairly confident about wheelchair access if a little unnerved by remembering a side entrance, curved ramp and tight spaces to the lift.
However, we were assured they now have a straight ramp via the front entrance with a maximum height of 32cm. Surely, that’d be fine, no?
On arrival, they set the ramp in place and it was kinda fine. Certainly wide enough and long enough if rather too centrally in public view for my liking.
I have a severe spatial awareness problem and big empty spaces on either side of me tend to blow my brain. In addition, my forward vision is horribly double right now so that’s not helping any. And, finally, I loathe being the centre of attention because what does everyone do when a huge ramp is heaved into the middle of a space in a place?
Yes, they look, brazenly, boldly and often with a running commentary of either words, expression or both. Often, they, and certainly small children, just stop and gawk. Again, not helping my totally-not-Zen-like state of mind at all.
Going up the ramp wasn’t too bad. I had bit of a brain seizure as I neared the top, seeing the space either side of me but I managed to slowly keep going, stay on the ramp, and merely mutter to D that, ‘I’m really not liking this …’
Coming down: not so good.
I hate downward slopes way more than upward slopes – fallen frontwards, snapped femur, months of agony, yada, yada. The Oyster Bar forecourt and the shop were busier. There were more people helping, hence closely watching, me. Also, downwards, those big, big spaces yawn open before you.
At the top of the ramp, I panicked.
Totally forgetting to reduce my speed – going down, wheelchairs gather speed and power wheelchairs ‘fishtail’ if stopped abruptly on said slope – I wheeled onto the ramp … and gravity just took over.
I tried to stop, then pushed forward as I felt my rear wheels go fishing. I looked up, saw the looming space and slammed the brakes on again. The chair skewed toward the space and with the edges looming and D screaming, ‘stop, stop’, my brain just went into ‘get me out of here’ mode and I raced to the bottom … somehow, god knows how, staying on the ramp. Instinct, maybe? Not good sense that’s for sure.
After a series of what felt like the wheelie equivalent of bunny-hops, I landed at the feet of the charming wide-eyed, open-mouthed Italian waiter, laughing nervously, saying, “Shit, sorry, that was scary.”
D stalked across, shouting, ‘WE AGREED THIS: when I say stop, you stop. We agreed…’
I looked at him, laughed, and said, “I’m fine aren’t I?”
I caught the eye of one onlooker who just grinned at me. I grinned back.
“I think I’m getting better at handling these dismounts,” I remarked to D as we rolled out.
Silence from him.
But don’t let this stop you going. The ramp is fine, honest. I really do think that the problem is me (and D agrees).
As a restaurant, Bibendum is so worth a visit. We really had a great time.