When I first passed the site of Bo Cinq on the Lange Leidsedwarstraat, I had two thoughts, and I admit they were both somewhat negative:
1. Damn, they’ve closed my favorite tapas restaurant and opened up a French restaurant in its place.
2. Like the world needs another French restaurant. Humph.
I stand now with my hand on my heart and admit that I was wrong about Bo Cinq. So, so very wrong.
First of all, it is not merely a French restaurant. It is French and Arabic fusion with creative aspects that are not found in your average couscous restaurant or French bistro (sesame prunes anyone?) .
Opened for just 10 months, Bo Cinq is not only the newest member of the Tao Group– those hard-hitting entrepreneurs hell-bent on dominating the It-Scene with places such as nightclub Jimmy Woo and cocktail bar Suzy Wong– but also a collaboration between the owners of other great ‘Places to See and Be Seen’ such as La Marais and Mamouche. In short, Bo Cinq was created by People Who Know Fine Dining.
On arrival, curious to take in the interior and the ambiance, we first had a drink in the lounge, located in the back of the restaurant (also with an entrance on the Prinsengracht). The decor was a mix of artists-studio (exposed brick) meets modern shaker furniture with quirky touches like a large bulbous red and white striped armchair. Colors were muted, lighting was low, and there were enough ‘pieces’ to keep you looking about if conversation stalled. The place was cleverly designed with intimacy in mind, but groups would find more than enough space to mingle and talk.
After lounging on low, comfy couches by candlelight and enjoying our amaretto sours we were seated in the main dining area in a cozy corner table for two and given the menus.
This is where I always come to the table braced for disappointment. I have mentioned before on this blog that I am vegan, and my date for the night was a pescatarian. I knew that he would have enough options to choose from, but I wasn’t so sure about myself. Suffice to say, it turned out that I needn’t have worried.
Before we ordered, the waitress brought over homemade brown bread, olive oil and Dukkha, an Egyptian blend of spices to dip the bread in. It was the first time that olive oil had ever caught my attention (just call me a novice when it comes to olive oil) and the dip itself was great. It was a nice twist on the average bread-and-butter routine.
For the starters we ordered the “Three Tastes of Arabia” (a ‘surprise’ selection of dips with pita bread and appetizers that I requested be vegetarian and fish – leaving out the meat option that normally comes with it) and the courgette flower stuffed and fried with feta cheese and dates and served over a salad of courgette flower stuffed with feta cheese and dates, served with a radish salad, apple, and smoked almonds.
My main course was Moroccan-style roasted vegetables, couscous, and caramelised chilli figs, which sounds ordinary until you get to the last part (caramelised chilli figs?!) and then see the actual dish itself, with pomegranate seeds in the couscous and lovely fresh organic vegetables on top. My date, although pescatarian, also had a vegetarian dish: sautéed wild mushrooms and spinach with chickpea crisps (chickpea crisps?!). Neither of us was disappointed with our selection, and I do believe the conversation fell silent between bouts of “Ooooooh my goooooooooood”-type sighs and moans.
Dessert consisted of a chocolate and date souffle with vanilla and caramel sauce, and fresh fruit with mint sabayon.
Our wine was a light South African white wine (chenin blanc) with the lightest stinging bite (forgive me, I’m not a wine connoisseur but ‘stinging bite’ is used as a good description in this case- trust me). We also had a glass of prosecco with dessert.
If it weren’t for a few interesting ingredient enhancements, the menu itself might read like any old average restaurant. However, Bo Cinq took each dish and apparently ruminated on how to take it to the next level. So there isn’t just “lobster and risotto” but grilled lobster with seafood risotto and baharat spice butter. It’s not a starter of “oysters and lemon to squeeze on top”, but flat oysters with champagne
Sesame prunes, saffron yoghurt ratatouille, caramelized chilli figs, chickpea fries: these simply aren’t things you can find on any other menus. And it’s that very attention to the finer details of your taste buds which makes Bo Cinq so wonderful.
Obviously the food was the most impressive, but this doesn’t mean the rest of the experience was lacking in any way. The decor, the presentation, the attentive and friendly staff, the vibe of the crowd, the art on the walls- the entire restaurant stepped up and put its best foot forward. That’s pretty impressive for a Tuesday night.
The only thing I can say to you if you are considering Bo Cinq is: please do. My one complaint is that I hadn’t eaten there sooner.