Feb 7 2013

Bo London


Bo London is a Chinese restaurant created by Alvin Leung (aka the Demon Chef – how he likes to call himself but don’t worry he is not a demon, and this apparently comes from the Greek word "Daimôn", meaning "good-spiritedness") and in Bo London which opened in December he showcases his X-treme Chinese food. The restaurant has been getting more negative than positive reviews but that is because of the price, as for dinner you are supposed to order Bo’s tasting menu which costs £138 and at the moment is the most expensive tasting menu in London (despite the fact Bo London at the moment does not have any Michelin stars it is more expensive than Gordon Ramsay’s 3 Michelin star restaurant tasting menu). But considering Alvin has apparently invested 1 million in his restaurant (which you can’t really tell when in the restaurant) I can see why he would want to charge the customer a lot to get his money back. Alvin Leung at Bo London does his signature cooking style, “X-treme Chinese” where he plays with ingredients and techniques and combines old recipes with modern cooking methods, and does molecular gastronomy and “food that is trying to push the limits”. Alvin Leung’s restaurant Bo Innovation in Hong Kong has 2 Michelin stars (and is ranked the 52nd best restaurant in the San Pellegrino World Restaurant Awards) and he himself is a self-taught chef. He was actually born in Britain despite having Chinese descent, so you can see why he would opt to open another restaurant in London as opposed to all the other cities.

I went to Bo London with my friend Paul on a Thursday evening for dinner and Bo London is located on a side street in Mayfair.  The room is trendy with dark and white colours and wooden tables (but as I said does not look like a million dollar room). For dinner you only have 2 options, Chef’s Menu for £138 which you are encouraged to have and Bo’s "Ode To Great Britain" menu at £98. A lot of the critics have not had this evening menu and have opted for a smaller and cheaper lunch menu, which I think actually does not show Bo’s skill in the same way (for lunch you can have 2 dim sums plus 1 main course for £30.00, 2 dim sums, 1 main course plus dessert du jour for £35.00 or Chef’s lunch, a smaller version of the dinner dishes, for £98 and you can also order a la carte dim sum). The waiter told us we had to have Chef’s Menu of 14 courses and also if you wanted to have the Chef’s signature dish “sex on the beach” you would have to pay £8 extra as this was an additional 15th course. As this dish has been generated a remarkable amount of press we decided to order one of these to share (all the proceeds of this dish go to an AIDS charity so nice to know Bo is not trying to charge you 146 for the food). The waiter brought us the 14 course menu and put it next to us so we could see all the courses and in which order we would have them. First came “dead garden” and the waiter explained that this is how Alvin Leung thinks a garden looks like in London in winter due to the snow and the cold and also in Hong Kong due to the pollution, and I loved this explanation and the dish was extremely cute and did look like a dead garden in a wooden box, presentation was top notch. The enoki mushrooms were sticking out (so like trees or bushes without leaves) and once you dag through the brown earth you tasted an avocado and lime type of mush which also had morel and green onion. I liked the taste and the look of this dish. Next came his semi famous dish called “bed and breakfast” that had a smoked quail egg on a crispy taro nest and topped with oscietra caviar. The “bed and breakfast” was presented in a metal tree type of structure, very pretty and the smoked egg had a lovely flavour to it. The waiter then brought us a dish called “Cloud” and he explained that Alvin Leung thought that this was the constant colour of clouds in Britain (it was in a greyish and ugly colour, see the picture below). No wonder the British food critics don’t like Bo London if he keeps insulting their gardens and clouds. The cloud dish had mackerel on the bottom of the spoon and it was seasoned with black sesame ponzu, ginger and rose. The mackerel was nice and good quality fish (Paul surprised the waiter by asking where the fish was sourced from and the waiter had no clue and had to check) and it was kind of interesting eating the cloud. The next course was “Fois gras” and it reminded me of the traditional Chinese chicken wrapped in lettuce leave, but here instead of chicken they had used fois gras and applied Abby’s sauce on top (you usually use this for meat and fries). I have read some reviews where people slag this off, but I absolutely loved it as the fois gras was so soft and literally melted in your mouth and I thought it was a great combination to have it with a lettuce leaf. The next dish called “scallop” had a scallop with crispy woba, jolo and sugar snap pea foam. From all the dishes I had this was probably the least memorable for me, and despite writing this review a few days later I can’t recall what it tasted like, and that for me is a clear sign of not a very good dish. I love tomatoes and I was intrigued to see “Tomatoe” on the menu and the waiter brought us 3 small little things on a black plate, one of them was a tomatoe without the skin infused with “pat chun” chinese vinegar (which is a famous sweetened vinegar), and it was delicious, still had the tomatoe taste and a nice slight hint of vinegar, and you were told to eat this first. The second thing on the plate was Chinese olives wrapped in a crispy thing and fried, and it had a wonderful subtle olive flavour and the third thing was a tomatoe marshmallow, which I thought was extremely cool as I love tomatoes and I love marshmallows. The next dish was called “X-treme” and “xiao long bao” and xiao long bao means the Shanghai dumpling which is super super delicious and that has soup inside it and that I always order in a Chinese restaurant. Bo’s interpretation of this was the inside of the dumpling made into a small sea through liquid bulb and it exploded as you ate it and had the exact taste of the Shanghai dumpling just did not have the outside dough. It was very cool and interesting, absolutely surprising to have the same taste in a different format. Our next dish was called “lobster” and the lobster was poached in Sichuan butter and topped with crispy woba and served with roasted corn and peas in a broth type sauce, lovely good quality dish. Next came a very intriguing dish called “hawthorn” bubble tea, and varied orange and yellow shade drinks and things were placed in a see-through plastic tube and you had to drink the liquid with a straw from the tube. The end of the liquids was very bright and lit up. The taste of the liquid was not particularly memorable, but look-wise it was, and there were these soft squashy balls at the bottom of the tube, and whilst Paul was drinking this he made some funny remarks. Our second to last main course was “sweetbread” served with oyster sauce, charred bamboo shoot, artichoke puree and mushrooms. I was not a huge fan of this dish, as I do not east oysters and don’t like that taste, so I did not eat it, and also the sweetbread whilst soft I did not think was particularly memorable with the mushrooms and the bamboo shoot. Next came “wagye beef with black truffle soy and cheung fun”, and the wagye was soft and nice but I have to say not as nice as the wagye beef dish in HKK where I remember the taste much more and where I was really impressed. Our first desert was called “Bai Jiu” and was ice parfait, caramel and passion fruit, it was a nice soft cakish desert, and our next desert was “coconut trifle” which was also a good desert. Before our last course that was called “petit dim sum” we ordered to share the famous “sex on the beach” dish that is the signature dish of Alvin Leung and as I mentioned before costs an extra £8. You can see the picture of this famous dish below and it needs no explanation, but it was made out of biscuits and condensed milk and other sweet things, and Paul thought this was incredibly tasty (especially the purple bit) and almost finished the whole thing on his own. Impressive look, some say it is disgusting and they could never eat it, but it generates a lot of press and publicity which I guess you need if you are going to charge people so much and need them to be intrigued and come to your restaurant. The last dish was “petite dim sum” and was just petite fours, and we got a variety of 4 different small sweets, but by this time I was feeling too full to eat them. To go with our petite dim sum we had also ordered their traditional cocktail which was served in quite interesting looking glasses (Paul thought sexual, no idea what he is talking about) and which the waiter explained were from the old days in China and all the kings used to drink from these type of glasses made out of a heavier material though.

One of the nice things about this visit was that we actually managed to meet Alvin Leung who was visiting the restaurant (he was flying back to Hong Kong the next day). Alvin has to fly and visit all of his restaurants so he is constantly on the move and we were lucky to meet him (see a picture of his back that I took whilst he was chatting to another table). He asked me and Paul how the meal was and what we thought and I told him I did not think the meal was “Chinese enough” and he felt a bit taken back by it and went through almost all the courses and emphasised to me the Chinese element and what he was trying to do with each dish. This was very interesting and I think speaking to Alvin actually made me appreciate Bo London more. Overall I did enjoy Bo London very much, I liked the different plates and ways as served in, the different consistencies of the food, so Bo London does the molecular gastronomy well. Also we had a very funny waiter, which Paul accused of not being very enthusiastic, as he seemed a bit bored in doing the job and had been working with Alvin Leung for years now, but I thought was very funny in his slightly bored way. I agree this place is very expensive, but I have paid similar amounts of money in Noma and Alinea, and whilst I think the food was a bit better in the previous mentioned places, Bo London was still very impressive and memorable. I always rate highly a restaurant whose dishes and taste I can remember even after a few days, and Bo London is definitely like that. So I do recommend you save money and go there for a special occasion. Also most of the people that review this place go there for lunch, and I don’t think you can fully judge this place by that and I think dinner is much more impressive.

Date: 07/02/13
Location: Mayfair
price for 2 with a bottle of wine: 444.94

Bo London on Urbanspoon

Maija rated: 



Bo London
4 Mill Street W1S 2AZ
United Kingdom
Bo London Reviewed by Hungry Bee Maija on . Rating: 4.5