Bistro Bruno Loubet

Potted shrimp and smoked mackerel
86-88 Clerkenwell Road, London, EC1M 5RJ, 020 7324 4455, www.thezetter.com/en/Restaurant

Here is somewhere that’s made the critical cup overfloweth with stars and top ratings, ten-out-of-tens and complements aplenty. This, it seems, is the return of the prodigal son.

Whatever. He’s back, Bruno Loubet has returned from Oz. And boy – judging by the reviews – are the critics glad to see him. All of which, you’d think, would lead to a mighty anti climax when you actually ate there. Right? Well… not really. Because, underneath all the hype and hysteria, Bistro Bruno Loubet is rather good.

What you get here is well thought out, executed and extremely tasty food. Good value too. This is classic French bistro food done at a very high level. It’s certainly the equal of anything I’ve eaten at Galvin Bistro de Luxe or Boudin Blanc. Even with the odd dud.

Open beetroot ravioli
Beetroot ravioli, fried breadcrumbs and sage with rocket salad

Having read a review by The London Eater we came prepared to make careful choices. The starters all displayed a deft hand in flavour-matching and some innovative touches.

Beetroot ravioli were open, small dumpling-like clusters of beetroot and sage sitting top al dente pasta disks. The flavour was soft and almost fruity balanced by the sage.

Toothsome Mauricette snails came with small but strong tasting meatballs and a wonderful umami-rich mushroom cream panacotta mousse type affair. A very well thought out combo with lots of powerful but complementary flavours. The potted shrimp with smoked mackerel did the same with very different flavours.

But the real eye opener, in a quiet way, were the cubes of fatty salmon tartar which came with the merest hint of spice, just enough to lift it to a whole new level. Delicious.

Mains were generous in size and bold in flavour. Beef daube Provencale was two fist-sized hunks of aromatic, unctuous and moist beef. Tender strings of glutinous meat just came away on the fork. Saffron risotto was a classic of its type, creamy, al dente, tasty.

Roast English veal was the only dud, not bad, the meat was very tasty. It was just a bit boring. Especially in comparison to the confit lamb shoulder. Sitting atop pureed white beans with some gently spicy green harissa on the side, was a tennis ball of dark, tender lamb. It was superb with a flavour that was both soft and strong. Fabulous.

A special mention at this point to our waiter who was charm personified, and he knew his stuff too. Not afraid to recommend in a non-pushy way, he gauged our tastes and everything he pointed us to was superb. He made a good evening into a great one.

Rice pudding panacotta
Rice pudding pannacotta and marmalade

The standout dessert for me was rice pudding pannacotta, all creamy goodness cut beautifully with bitter-sharp seville orange marmalade. The rest of the table all thought the brioche, creme fraiche and rhubarb tart the best. This was a ronseal dish – did exactly what it said, and very well indeed. In comparison, like the veal, the chocolate tartlet was decent, but uninspired.

With two bottles of wine, the three courses came to about £45 per head, which for food of this quality is not bad at all. I would have no qualms about coming back again, making sure I chose carefully. This is one place that rewards a sense of adventure, but can punish the timid.

9 Responses to “Bistro Bruno Loubet”

  1. catty

    I’ve heard SO many good things about Bruno Loubet and can’t wait to check this out. £45 per head with two bottles ain’t bad at all!

  2. The Grubworm

    Definitely go – i think i prefer the atmosphere in Eastside Inn Bistro, but if you choose well, the cooking here is about as good. Be brave – head for the strong meaty flavours and steer clear of the more ordinary sounding dishes, because they are. Ordinary that is.

  3. Mathilde's Cuisine

    I had the Daube de Boeuf at Pierre Koffman in Selfridges and it was just like … home! This place is definitely on my Top 5 places list to go very soon

  4. The Grubworm

    It certainly comes across as proper bistro cooking (although my experience is limited as it’s been a couple of years since i last had bistro food in France outside Paris). It is some seriously good food though. And pretty damn reasonable too. If i had the daube again, it;s probably all i’d have because it is BIG. Maybe with some cheese to finish off…

  5. Greedy Diva

    I’m going on Sunday – can’t wait. Sounds terrific. I’ll be sure to be brave in my choices.

  6. The Grubworm

    Cool – i hope you like it. It’s one of those rare places where interesting sounding dishes really live up to their descriptions.

  7. Tom

    Was good to read another thorough review of dinner. I think between yours and London Eaters I would be able to choose a proper meal if we go back…

    I still am focused on a proper visit to the Eastside Inn given our relative reviews of the two

  8. Tom

    That was mean to be YOUR relative reviews of the two of course.

  9. The Grubworm

    @Tom – it’s definitely worth a return visit, you should have a look at @MarinaMetro’s review of it here too:
    http://www.metro.co.uk/metrolife/food/820589-bistrot-bruno-loubet-is-causing-a-stir-at-the-zetter-in-st-johns-square she gives you a good idea of what to avoid.

    And you should definitely try out EIB, food was comparable and more consistent and the atmosphere is wonderful. But do read Greedy Diva’s write up, she was stuck in a less buzzy part of the restaurant last weekend: http://greedydiva.blogspot.com/2010/04/eastside-inn-bistro-fare-in-farringdon.html

    UPDATE—– 09 Apr 2010
    Went back to the EIB last night (review to come later in week) and it has upped its game – food was even better and atmosphere buzzing. Really great food.

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