Bob Bob Ricard, 1-3 Upper James Street, London W1

If restaurants were as rigorously market-researched as movies, would Bob Bob Ricard ever have made it through the testing process? The concept is fine – a Wolseley-style brasserie open from breakfast to 3am is a welcome addition to the Soho scene. But that name – what were they thinking?

The "Ricard" would just about have worked on its own; the feel of the place is French, and Ricard is the pastis of choice in French brasseries. But the food is trad Brit with a twist, which is presumably why they chucked in that demotic double Bob. It doesn't work. Since I visited BBR, I've recommended it to several people, and each time been met with incomprehension, not helped by the fact that it's impossible to say the word Ricard without putting on a comedy French accent.

Oh well, as Soho's other unpronounceable restaurants Yauatcha and Incognico have proved, it's possible to hang in there if the offer is appealing enough. And BBR is unexpectedly good. On the site of what used to be Circus, a media-friendly restaurant with a fashionable basement bar, it's an eccentric, retro-themed brasserie inspired by the golden age of rail travel, which is as good-looking as any restaurant in town.

Designer David Collins has created the same sense of golden-hued nostalgic glamour he achieved at the Wolseley, but using a slightly more playful palette. Waiters in powder-pink blazers nip between a grid of marble-topped tables, divided up for twos or fours, each equipped with a button to call the champagne trolley. Cubist chandeliers hang from a high Venetian-mirrored ceiling, and faux ancestral portraits gaze down across a room expensively decked in dark wood, glowing leather and polished brass.

The menu offers options for every dining occasion known to man – this is surely the only restaurant in Soho offering both Kellogg's cornflakes for breakfast and caviar and blinis at two in the morning. The lunch and dinner menus, from ex-Le Pont de la Tour head chef James Walker, are relatively short, but full of personality and provenance, with options available for two people to share, including shepherd's pie and macaroni cheese (the latter priced at an unfathomable £11.50 per person).

Wearing their outlandish costumes with some dignity, the waiting staff are clearly a cut above the norm, raising hopes that the food may be as important to the concept as the design. And so it proved. The dishes we tried were uniformly good: simple, well-conceived and pleasingly enhanced with characterful tracklements. Potted middle- white pork, served in its own mini Mason jar, was rich without being over-fatty, paired with a delicate perry jelly and fingers of thyme-dusted Melba toast. Spiced parsnip soup, with a ramekin of parsnip crisps to sprinkle on top, struck just the right balance of sweetness and spiced warmth.

The core menu of standard brasserie dishes is supplemented by interesting daily specials, which included roast partridge and lobster thermidor (£38). I tried the fish special, a tranche of wild halibut (£19.75), lightly cooked under a golden crust, served with a tangle of garlicky wild mushrooms. Chicken curry was very much of the Anglo-Indian school, featuring generous chunks of meat in a sweet, korma-like sauce, garnished with fresh banana and pineapple pickle; sounds awful, I know, but very enjoyable.

The nostalgia theme was echoed at the next table, where they were pouring themselves beef tea from a burnished silver teapot. Little did the owners know, when planning these little end-of-Empire touches, how timely that theme would seem when the restaurant opened. But for every champagne button, there is also a tableside socket, suitable both for the breakfast toaster, or for a mid-afternoon laptop-and-Lapsang session. This day-long flexibility rescues BBR from seeming like some grotesquely timed folly.

Some of the pricing does seem questionable, from that millionaires' macaroni, to the £10.25 for a cheese plate comprising modest slices of three British cheeses – Stinking Bishop, Ticklemore and Stichelton – with more of the perry jelly. With a couple of glasses of wine each, we ended up paying around £70 a head including service.

What BBR does have is that quality so elusive in a new restaurant: romance. The bar downstairs, with its floor laid out like a backgammon board, is pure Orient Express. And the booth-based layout of the restaurant gives it both buzz and intimacy; on the Saturday night we visited, the clientele was made up largely of couples, plus a party of obnoxious fashionistas, whose bellowing for their missing driver brought reception to an appalled standstill.

It's handy to know about a place like this, though, just one minute from Piccadilly Circus and offering a refuge from the madness that engulfs Soho at night. There's something heartening about a restaurant that tries so hard to please, and does it in its own quirky way. In fact, I'd pronounce it a hit – if I could pronounce it at all.

Side Orders: All-day dining

Piazza by Anthony

This lavish brasserie is the new outpost of ambitious Leeds chef Anthony Flinn, with additional chocolate shop and cheese deli.

Corn Exchange, Leeds (0113-247 0995)

Thorpeness Brasserie

The wild mushroom and asparagus risotto will set you back just £9.50 at Tom Brent's innovative eaterie.

Aldeburgh Road, Thorpeness, Suffolk (01728 453105)

The Print Room

This French brasserie in evocative Art Deco surroundings has a charcuterie, patisserie and deli bar.

Richmond Hill, Bournemouth, Dorset (01202 789669)

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

    £25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

    £20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager

    £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager required for ...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator

    £25000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator A...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent