We talk to… Claude Bosi
The Michelin-star chef tells Tina Lofthouse where he loves to eat in Clapham and why a good burger can be every bit as good as a plate of lobster
It’s been a busy few years for Claude Bosi. Not only is he leading Bibendum, one of London’s most iconic restaurants, to Michelin-starred glory, winning two of the coveted stars, but he is also overseeing Esher’s popular gastropub, The Swan Inn, as chef proprietor.
Bibendum, set in the old Michelin Tyres London HQ and named after Michelin’s famous tyre man character, was originally opened by Sir Terrence Conran and publisher Paul Hamlyn back in 1987, and was soon a major fixture on the London dining scene. Ironically, given the Michelin building location and in spite of its success, it never won a Michelin star in its 30-year-history. Claude Bosi became involved, re-opening after a massive refurbishment in March 2017 and two coveted stars quickly followed.
“We worked hard and it paid off. It was great teamwork and an amazing achievement.” Claude is no stranger to success. He won two stars at his restaurant Hibiscus in Ludlow, Shropshire, and again when he moved Hibiscus to London – although time was pressed before the builders moved out and Michelin came in and it initially lost a star when it first opened.
Is there any particular advice that has spurred him on his journey? “I am quite stubborn and I don’t really listen to advice. If I mess up, I want to take responsibility for it. That said, the best advice is to stick to your beliefs and don’t change your mind to follow a trend. Stick to what you do.”
He loves the fact that his new restaurant is in such an iconic building – the original stained-glass windows with the cartoon tyre man loom over the proceedings, an elegant dining room with white linen on the tables. Dishes include favourite touches from Hibiscus (most of the team came with him) along with Bibendum classics. Its original premise when it first opened in the eighties was to bring to London classic, accessible French cooking, although it was hardly at bistro prices. Offal was a mainstay, and it remains, albeit with a Bosi twist with the menu featuring dishes such as ‘My mum’s tripe and cuttlefish gratin, pig’s ear and ham cake’. Claude grew up in Lyon, where his parents ran a bistro.
“My mum would go to the market each morning to get fresh produce, which would result in a plat du jour every day.” He likens the conviviality of the bistro to our British pubs. In 2016, he set his sights on Esher’s The Swan Inn, turning it into a gorgeous gastropub with comfort food favourites. “There is as much you can do with a burger as you can do with a plate of lobster. Food is not just about luxury ingredients,” he says.
“I am quite stubborn and I don’t really listen to advice. If I mess up, I want to take responsibility for it. That said, the best advice is to stick to your beliefs and don’t change your mind to follow a trend.”
Claude moved in 1997 from his native France to Shropshire, where he started at Overton Grange, before opening Hibiscus. Home for him now is Clapham Common. “We’re lucky there in that we have great places to eat out.” He cites The Dairy, Trinity, Soif, May the Fifteenth and Pizza Metro, although he describes his three-and-a-half year-old son as a tornado when he goes out to eat. “I tend to keep my head down when I go out. It usually ends with me apologising and trying to pick up the crumbs from the floor.”
At home, Claude favours simple dishes. “I Iove making food that you can cook in just one pot as I usually do the washing up! I love ragus and chicken casserole, comforting dishes that you just put on the stove.”