Gutsy and ballsy. Not me, but the food at Bistro Bruno Loubet, smack in the heart of Clerkenwell.
Best for: an informal lunch or dinner with clients not yet collecting their pension.
Worst for: a formal deal celebration lunch with City types who may have heard of Clerkenwell, but wouldn’t want to actually gothere.
Nearest tube: Farringdon
It’s sufficiently off the beaten track to make the more conservative lawyer feel rather edgy, but, despite the quirky furniture and the bright pink loos, it’s more Hockney than Hoxton; a classy eatery which will win you brownie points with your foodie clients.
Whilst the eponymous chef has worked for Raymond Blanc, the influence of another of his mentors, Pierre Koffman is more obvious. This is regional French cuisine and the region is the South West. I’d call it “French gastropub”, should such a thing exist.
Expect to see items such as boudin blanc and snails, amongst a number of more unusual offerings like mackerel tartare with salted watermelon.
Having possibly scared you with that last choice, let me assure you that the menu isn’t difficult or, heaven forbid, experimental, and the food is generally straightforward and simply described. If you don’t fancy your chances with the mackerel, you can always have something more conventional like pan-fried sea bream, with cauliflower and parsley puree and squid ink stew – now that’s not at all scary, is it?
It’s a great wine list too, starting at a very reasonable £15.95 for a basic red or white with many bottles priced between £30-£35. Again, the emphasis is on south-west France and on interesting, rather than grand. And notwithstanding that no vegetarian main course actually appeared on the menu, the waitress rattled off three delicious-sounding vegetarian dishes that the chef could make, if you were that way inclined. But, as she whispered conspiratorially, he is French and he doesn’t really “do” vegetarian. You’ve been warned.
Carb addicts note: good bread, good butter. My artichoke barigoule (stew, to you) was very garlicky, with intense flavouring of pesto and mature Parmesan. An enormous portion. This was followed by summer fish cassoulet. Three different types of fish (including a salmon mousse sausage – I know, but it worked) on another bed of, effectively, stew. And entirely for your benefit, you understand, I ordered the completely unnecessary side dish of mashed potato with garlic confit and herbs. Deluxe comfort food indeed.
My waistband had nowhere to go, but in the interests of completeness I ordered fresh strawberries, lemon marshmallow and green peppercorn ice cream. Interesting, it was of a piece with the strong flavours of the rest of the cooking. Not entirely to my taste I must confess and the only slight disappointment of the evening. And to think, I could have had the chocolate delice with salted caramel. Next time, then.
This is a very confident and generous restaurant. It isn’t extravagant and the prices feel appropriate in the current climate. It’s not intimidating and won’t make a massive dent in your marketing allowance. It’s not haute cuisine nor does it pretend to be, just very good cooking by a chef who doesn’t stray too far from his roots.
Nicky Richmond, Managing Partner, Brecher
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