Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Bistrot Bruno Loubet

I'd been wanting to try this place for quite a while; it's had good write ups, I love the area and anywhere named after the chef themself has to be good right?! Not including the ghastly Jamie’s Italian of course.

I’ve been pigging my way through Clerkenwell's venerable establishments at a steady pace, yet this most prominent of landmarks has remained undiscovered. There is a popular al fresco breakfast and lunch scene, which combined with The Modern Pantry gives the square a busy vibe throughout the day. The brunch offering does look good, but having held out this long, I think it has to be dinner.

Before the food, an off-list New York Sour is strong, faithful and perfectly presented. The Zetter Hotel itself has a bit of a NY feel to it, and the little bar area would be a cosy place to get intimately sloshed. That sounds rather dirtier than I meant, but never mind – they do have rooms too should you require one.

boudin blanc
But now let’s to table: my starter of boudin blanc was very meaty, despite being so light and almost foamy in texture. It's quite an alien texture but I enjoyed it very much once I was used to it (5 seconds?) The bed of semi-crushed peas is a worthy accompaniment too. I should really go back to Boulud (do people still go there?) and sample some more of the more unusual charcuterie rather than the burgers. The duck carpaccio is generous and rich with a well-dressed garnish, and both starters are around £7.50.


Piglet’s rack of lamb was a conservative pink, although I noticed that each of the three ribs was a different hue of 'doneness' so perhaps this was a diplomatic attempt to hit one right. Or just inconsistent? The miso sauce and broccolini salad was a good combinaton but didn’t provide much in the way of sustenance. Side dishes weren’t recommended either as is often the case.

The grilled quail on a bed of herb and broad bean risotto was a fantastic dish. I’m even more chuffed because I ordered this myself! I usually struggle to go past a rack of lamb or a steak in a French bistro, but I’m so glad I did. The three quail legs were very nicely grilled, with a proper bbq charred taste to them. The risotto had meaty juices to give it bolder flavours, but also tasted very fresh and healthy due to the beans. An excellent dish overall, and I felt very virtuous afterwards.

Desserts were impressive too: a selection of three sorbets and gelati nicely presented. Flavours ranged from the usual suspects to orange & cardamom. The fresh English strawberries with lemon marshmallow and green peppercorn ice cream was absolutely brilliant too.

The service was efficient but not overly memorable on the night. Some of the other dishes looked a little shaky, but I admire the ambitious mixes of flavours and ingredients, and the deliberate avoidance of bistro staples to offer some more daring, adventurous food. If this place was in the West End, it’d be buzzing into the early hours.

I wish the bar and restaurant would actually stay open for later service to give it that true New York feel. And the bar, although pleasant, seems almost an afterthought use of the space, it should be more epic and 'destination' to match a hotel of this conspicuous stature. Am heading off to ZTH next with high hopes to see how they run a bar, given the right space…

Food – 7/10
Drink – 8/10
Service - 7/10 (great in the bar, fine in the restaurant)
Value – 7/10
Tap water tales – 7/10 (iced glasses brought on request, no attempts to sell bottled)  
Staff Hotness – 5/10 (nothing too notable, serious French career-waiters)
 Bistrot Bruno Loubet on Urbanspoon