bistrot bruno loubet
A few days ago I mentioned a certain East London restaurant that got ample coverage in the blogosphere this week, so much so that I contemplated dropping my review altogether. But that would be a silly stance to take as I’d end up hardly writing at all (food bloggers seem to move in droves), plus there can never really be too many reviews floating about – I myself consult several before heading to any new destination. So the restaurant in question? Bistrot Bruno Loubet – a relatively new addition to the London dining scene. Those who were around in London in the 1990s will know Loubet well. A seasoned chef who spent his formative years with Pierre Koffman and Raymond Blanc, before moving on to Four Seasons Mayfair (which obtained a Michelin star during his time as head chef). He later pitched up on his own with much success, first at Bistrot Bruno, followed by L’Odeon. He then inexplicably took off to Australia, and now a decade on he’s back.
After a brief stint cooking alongside former mentor Koffman at his pop-up at Selfridges towards the end of last year, Loubet partnered with The Zetter hotel to open with his eponymous restaurant, Bistrot Bruno Loubet. When I visited, the bistro had been operating just shy of two months and was already running like a well-oiled machine. It was a Thursday night and the place was buzzing (read atmospheric but noisy), filled with families and city types alike. The waiters, when we managed to wave one over, were all very friendly, extremely helpful and were well versed in both food and wine menus. We had ordered a new world Pinot and our waiter advised us (quite rightly) to get a carafe each of a different wine, to better suit our contrasting mains.
For my starter I had Mauricette Snails and Meatballs with Royale de Champignon – the snails were plump and earthy (but not gritty), and surprisingly a great partner to the juicy bite-sized balls of veal. The dome of mushroom mousse was just heavenly, custard-like in consistency and a wonderful mellow contrast to the garlic herb butter, rich tomato based sauce and its meaty treasures. A very well balanced dish and a joy to eat.
My dining companion K opted for the Revised Lyonnaise Salad and Beaujolais Dressing, which we had high hopes for but found to be rather bland – strange considering the numerous deep-fried items on the plate. The crisp pig trotter croquette had a soft gelatinous centre that could have done with (much more) seasoning, and the salad was very sparingly dressed indeed. The deep-fried pigs ears were a fun touch and did add texturally to the dish, and I’m always a fan of a well-poached egg, but honestly the only thing with any real flavour in the salad was the bacon.
My main of Hare Royale, was rather good although a touch rich for my tastes. It was so substantial that I literally felt full after just one bite of the roulade of hare surrounding pork belly, duck livers and foie gras. Luckily the bed of pumpkin and mandarin orange purée and onion raviolo offset the heaviness of the royale, as did the sauce which had a welcome hint of acid.
I preferred K’s Quail and Pistachio Dodine with Spinach and Egg Yolk Raviolo (so pleased we agreed to share everything at the start of the meal!), which was actually my first pick until I was swayed by the description of the Hare Royale special. The tender boneless quail stuffed with pistachio-flecked sausage meat sat on silky smooth pomme purée, and a pool of intense savoury sauce. Though the elements were delicious on their own, they were made even better when combined with the oozing yolk of the raviolo.
We were pretty satisfied after our first two courses and had decided to just have coffee but one wave of the pudding menu in front of us and we succumbed; ordering one of the lighter options of Lemon Crème Brûlée with Jasmine Tea Sorbet. Like the love-child of a tarte citron and crème brûlée, this creamy pud had a lively citrus pucker and a perfect sugar layer that shattered pleasingly when tapped. It paired harmoniously with the sorbet, that had beautiful fragrant floral notes which softly lingered on the tongue.
We were a bit miffed that despite asking for our cappucinos to arrive after dessert, they came during, so were barely warm by the time we got to them. Annoying – like how the waiter forgot to bring our water until halfway through the meal – slight missteps from the otherwise lovely service. This is a great stop if you happen to work or live nearby and are looking for refined bistro fare in an informal setting, but it’s not so good that I’d make the trip over from the West again soon – although thinking about those sensational Mauricette Snails and Meatballs again, I think I can definitely be persuaded!
Bistrot Bruno Loubet
The Zetter Hotel
86-88 Clerkenwell Road
London EC1M 5RJ
t. 020 7324 4455