Returning to London on a balmy April evening was very special, particularly as Cowie was able to join me for dinner at my hotel’s much hyped new restaurant, Bistrot Bruno Loubet. Many words have been written about Bruno Loubet’s return from gastronomic exile in Australia so I shan’t write about the subject. Especially as I am not geeky enough to have heard of him until very recently.
I hardly ever spend much time writing about the staff we encounter in restaurants apart from when we almost needed gas masks because of our waiter’s smelly pits in Belgos and the disastrous service at The Albany. But Bistrot Bruno Loubet deserves enormous amounts of praise for the front of house and for our waiter who was affectionately known as “The Chicken” by his colleagues. Between the two of them, they made us feel like the most important people in the room and took great pride in recommending their favourite dishes with the sort of enthusiasm that you know is genuinely because they love the food.
I also very rarely write about the design of restaurants, mainly because I am utterly unqualified to do so and partly because I normally get too excited about the food and blast on in. I really enjoyed the aesthetic experience of the restaurant. From the stylish royal blue and gold typography to the abundance of cool lamps, to the integration of the objets d’art into the menu, to the soft, textured leather wine list, the experience was thoughtfully composed. The only irritation was the way the lighting resulted in me eating in my own shadow. Maybe it’s just a quirk I’ve got, but it’s very offputting.
The menu here is the kind that makes you consider bulimia and wish you were wearing expandable trousers. Cowie and I negotiated for around quarter of an hour before deciding what to scoff.
Cowie’s skate terrine with Sauce gribiche was the sort of clean, bold and refreshing starter that such a fine evening warranted. It’s not a dish I’ve seen before but is one that’d I’d love to try again.
My snails with meatballs and mushroom mousse was as impressive as it sounds weird. The snails and meatballs made exceptionally good bedfellows. And the red wine sauce they were swimming in couldn’t have been any more French if it had cheated on its wife whilst surrendering to a baguette.
Cowie’s salmon confit was soft, slippery and quiveringly moreish. The juj of salad that came with it tasted not only of spring but also of Cowie’s platonic form of side dish.
My hare royale was like Wagner’s Flight of the Valkyries. It boomed with baroque flavour and rumbled with bass notes of rich meat. Lumps of foie gras studded the centre. Shards of pork belly jostled for position with the lumps of tough hare. And all was drenched under more heavy red wine sauce. Beneath lay some sweet pumpkin puree. And on top perched an undercooked ravioli containing an unknown filling. Whilst I’ve been critical about some of it’s technical flaws, it wasn’t half tasty. I'd just love to know what it’s like when it’s perfect.
By this point I felt like an inbox that’s reached it’s limit that keeps issuing quota warnings whenever you get a fresh email. So the only solution was to purge ourselves with a trio of ices. Raspberry sorbet was good, but was too deep, whilst rose water ice cream was perfect. But the passion fruit sorbet was far too sharp and needed an extra beehive of honey to counteract the acid. I wish I’d had space to try their Valrhona chocolate tart instead. Or some of their salted butter ice cream.
Whilst our meal wasn't utterly perfect, it was still very good and I’d love to return to test out more of the menu, especially some of the lighter dishes in the summer time, such as quail and pigeon. And also to indulge in their desserts. To appropriate the words of David Ogilvy, “advertising and PR can’t sell a bad product twice”, so it’s great that the hype around Bruno Loubet is well founded. It’s a great restaurant that fits the current trend towards nostalgia that we all need in a time of uncertainty and I look forward to dining here again.
P.S. When I checked in for breakfast I was told I had become the mayor of Bistrot Bruno Loubet on Foursqaure! Does that mean I get free champagne?
We still love to go on trips around the UK, staying in BnBs or camping in search of a good meal or two - hence, Around Britain with a Paunch. Quite often the trips have been prompted by Diana Henry's Gastro Pub Cookbook. Here's where we've been to: