Bistrot Bruno Loubet

I ate at Bistrot Bruno Loubet on Wednesday (2 June) and I’ve been wondering whether to blog about it ever since. The problem being that EVERYONE has already written about it – it seemed as though all of the national critics did so back in March/April, as did squillions of bloggers. I even had to remind myself before I went that I hadn’t already eaten there, just read a ridiculous number of reviews. So why add another review to the pile? Won’t anything I write just be a rehash of all the reviews that I have already read?

Then I read Jasper Gerard’s review in Telegraph on Friday and was comforted that maybe it wasn’t too late after all. (Still, an odd decision from the Telegraph – did they forget they had published a review by Zoe Williams’ 7 Friday’s before).

But on Saturday I started worrying again. What can I write about that has not already been written? Looking at the menu now, I’m pretty sure all of the dishes have been described (lovingly) already, and certainly the ones that we ate. There seems little point describing the Revised Lyonnaise salad (Matthew, Giles, Fay, Jasper) or the mauricette snails and meatballs with royale de champignons (Jay, Giles).  You’ve definitely read about those before. And you’ve definitely read about the confit lamb shoulder (ZoeAdrian) and the Valrhona chocolate tart too (Zoe and Jay). And probably the quail and pistachio dodine and the praline Saint Honore Bistrot Bruno Loubet (maybe not, but I’m bored of all this hyperlinking anyway).

For a nano-second I thought I could do a comparison of the reviews and tell you that I agree with Giles and, say, Adrian, but not Fay, or Jay, or Jasper, or Zoe or Matthew […or insert basically anyone who has every had a review published in a broadsheet]. But I quickly remembered that won’t work can’t because they all wrote the same thing: “Welcome back Bruno. Your restaurant is ace. It’s everything a bistrot should be…and the Revised Lyonnaise salad is a treat, particularly the pig croquettes and the Beaujolais dressing“.

And then it struck me. The Revised salad. That’s it. That’s my in. The critics raved about it. Giles really raved about it. Clearly, the dish you must order is the Revised salad (though, bizarrely, I had read that I should do so on so many occasions, that when we sat down I had a mental blank and had to be reminded that the Revised salad was the starter that I had to have).

But for me, it was just, well, fine. I mean it was nice. It was a good bistro salad. But I didn’t think that all the clever things that Mr Loubet had done with trotters and ears and frying and stuff elevated it much beyond a standard warm salad of bacon, a poached egg and a nice red wine vinaigrette.

And another thing! I didn’t taste the snails and meatball starter that my friend had, but definitely got the impression that it was just fine too. She certainly wasn’t raving about it. I could be on to something. At the point of deciding what to have (before I was reminded that I definitely had to have the bacon and egg salad) I felt that all of the starters looked fantastic. Did we end up with the only two that actually weren’t? Or is this the most overhyped restaurant ever?

Well, er, no. I’m afraid not. That’s all I have. Those two points are the only new things that I can add to the pile.

Our mains and desserts (see above) were really good; I loved, in particular, the egg raviolo that was served with the quail and am still getting amazing chocolate tart flashbacks. The wine was very nice and good value too. Mr Loubet gets bonus marks for the fact that many wines can be bought by the glass, in various sized carafes or by the bottle (we were in a more than a glass of wine but not quite a bottle kind of mood). The waiting staff were excellent (really excellent). The crusty bread in flower pots was great. And finally, the only real complaint is that it’s not the best looking restaurant in the world…but you’ve read all of these things before. So not exactly the groundbreaking second ever restaurant review that I was hoping to write.

Welcome back Bruno. Your restaurant is ace. It’s everything a bistro should be…but I wish I’d ordered the beetroot ravioli or guinea fowl boudin blanc to start.

The Bill

With service, a carafe of very reasonably priced red (I think about £13) from the South-West of France (I think – must start making notes), and a G&T each from bar at the start of the evening, our bill came to £52 each – starters are about £7; mains average around £16.50; desserts about £16; and most budgets are catered for on the wine list.

[Chocolate tart flashback]. Hold on. I’ve got a third point: the caramel and salted butter ice cream that was served with the tart was just fine too. Or maybe it was a bit less than just fine – if it tasted of anything at all, it tasted like milk that is just going over – you know, at the stage where it’s just about ok, not particularly nice, but hasn’t got to the stinky split/lumpy stage yet. – 86 Clerkenwell Road, EC1M 5RJ – 020 7324 4444
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