Samyukta Nair and Claude Bosi: "It feels like we have something special"

By Stefan Chomka

- Last updated on GMT

Samyukta Nair and Claude Bosi on their new French restaurant Socca

Related tags Socca Bistro Claude bosi Fine dining London Restaurant Samyukta Nair

The duo behind new bistro Socca on creating a contemporary Mediterranean restaurant, a shared love of French bistro food, and taking tripe to Mayfair.

Samyukta Nair, co-founder of restaurant collection LSL Capital which runs Mayfair venues Jamavar, Bombay Bustle, KOYN and MiMi Mei Fair, and French chef Claude Bosi have just opened French Riviera-inspired restaurant​ Socca in Mayfair on the site that was formerly Richoux.

How did you come to be working together?

Samyutka Nair:​ My father and Claude were the original friends, now he’s more my friend. They met when we took Hibiscus site to open Bombay Bustle and Claude said that if he’d ever consider doing a bistro, he’d be happy to explore it. When the pandemic hit the site came up and we had been yearning for the south of France so we thought we would do a French bistro. My father said, ‘I think I have the perfect person’, rang Claude that day and here we are.

What’s the idea behind Socca?

SN:​ To open a convivial, fun bistro which is contemporary but also classic. I grew up in New York and a lot of French bistros over there are very neighbourhoody, such as Le Charlot, which js located on the Upper East Side and feels very fun. We thought it would be nice to replicate that in Mayfair - it doesn’t really have that many fun, convivial places to go to that are also food led.

Claude Bosi:​ When you go through the door you think you’re in the south of France. I never wanted to do a 200-seat massive restaurant; I’d have no control over it. Here it has 75 seats and it’s a tight 75 to create that bistro atmosphere, which is something very special to me. You need tables close to each other so that it’s noisy and the restaurant has a bit of life to it.

Socca is your fifth Mayfair restaurant. Why do you like the area so much?

SN:​ It reminds me of old Bombay - and old Bombay reminds me of Mayfair. The way that it is laid out feels welcoming, it feels like home. The old Richoux site has been a part of my childhood memories.

What is it like returning to Mayfair?

CB:​ It’s a bit stressful to be honest. I was quite happy to leave first time and coming back and not being in the kitchen was a bit stressful, but I’ve got an amazing team who have been with me for a long time cooking here. I’ve always wanted to open a bistro so to be able to do the first one in Mayfair is very special. It’s nice to be back and to have a good following of people welcoming me back.

Image: Steven Joyce

Tell us about the food

SN:​ The concept itself is sharing, small plates that come to the table, which makes for a more convivial dining experience. Precision is not that much of the focus here; it is about abundance. The dishes don’t feel pretentious or as if they are trying to hard but they stay true to Claude’s DNA and a desire to offer a wholesome meal.

CB:​ It’s ingredient-led, simple cooking that you find in the south of France. It is not fussy. I was a bit worried because with my background and with Bibendum that people would be expecting something different but lot of friends I can trust say they really like it. The menu is what I want from a bistro.

Will the menu change often?

CB:​ It will change with the season. Some dishes will never change, such as the roasted chicken, but the vegetables will change. There are no tomatoes or burrata on the menu yet but their season will come. The pesto fusilli will always be there because we have basil all year round.

Is there any crossover with the food at Bibendum?

CB:​ It will be completely separate. The approach of this place and what we do at Bibendum and also at the oyster bar is very different and I think it’s very important to keep things separate. If I was to do another fine dining restaurant then there might be a link to some of the dishes from Bibenbum, but because the restaurants are so different there won’t be. The only dish that is similar is the tripe dish because that will do well here.

Image: Steven Joyce

As well as tripe there’s andouillette on the menu. Is Mayfair ready for dishes like this?

CB:​ We shall see! I saw Pierre [Koffmann], and he said, ‘you know me, and you are the only people who will eat andouillette’. I had some friends over and I said they should try it. Daniel Clifford ordered it but Tom [Kerridge] said ‘there’s no way I’m eating this!’ In restaurants in Nice you will always find tripe and andouillette, they are the ingredients are the south of France, so if were doing cuisine niçoise than this is what we need to be cooking.

SN:​ People come in to eat what they know and then if you push them, they are happy to explore. We didn’t want to do just another ‘me too’ restaurant, it has to be two people coming together with their ideas, otherwise what’s the point of collaboration?

What is it like working together?

CB:​ What LSL does is very precise, they do not cut corners. It’s my philosophy of work that if you do it you do it properly or not at all it and it’s so refreshing to be able to work like this. In the climate we are living in at the moment is everybody is tight on cash; you have a duty to deliver something. That is why the flowers are always fresh, servers immaculate clean, it’s part of the duty. We can never take this for granted.

SN:​ You definitely can’t take your clientele for granted. Everyone has choice and that means it could be one bad meal, you’re not going to get many chances to do it right. The endeavour is to focus and do what you do well. With Claude’s name behind it and the offering we have it feels like we have something special.

Image: Steven Joyce

What are your future restaurant plans?

SN:​ I’m quite instinctive. If I really like a site, it leads to a lot of things. Everything has happened serendipitously; I didn’t come with a plan to open restaurants in Mayfair. We started with what we knew, which was Jamavar and then Bombay Bustle and the rest have just grown from there because I realised I like doing this. It’s the food we love to eat and the kind of restaurants we want to go to. I wouldn’t be able to tell you where I was going next, it just unfolds and that’s the beauty of it. Each site is different and has its own voice but doesn’t feel like it’s trying to be something it’s not.

Would you consider opening outside of Mayfair?

SN:​ Never say never. You never know, but right now Mayfair is what we know, I enjoy it and it’s familiar.

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