The excitement around Chef Bruno Loubet is understandable really given stints at both La Tante Claire as well as Le Manoir but he's chosen to avoid the obvious and do his own thing; the result would appear to be paying off. Recognition in the aforementioned restaurant awards is one facet and a very full bustling restaurant is another. What's more, the restaurant is alive with the atmosphere that only genuine enjoyment delivers and there's not an empty seat in the house; the place sparkles.
What he didn't get this January (and to be honest, we don't know whether he cares or not) is a Michelin star. There again, nor did former mentor Koffman (who certainly doesn't care) with his Knightsbridge venture of that name. When we consider Petersham Nurseries recent elevation (see The Skinny Bib's post here), our Michelin interest wanes.
The food though in both Koffmann's and Bistrot Bruno Loubet remains exceptional and plays to the prevailing theme of recognising the density of flavours that can be extracted from 'lesser' cuts, eschewing say rack of lamb for best end of neck. Fillet steak, no chance, oxtail rather. Both my starter (homemade guinea fowl boudin blanc) and the day's special starter, a charcuterie plate also put you in mind of Bar Boulud up to this point (though you wont find a burger on the mains). Against that back drop then, the trends in cooking, demand and recognition seem to spring coherently into life, and Michelin star or no, this is a sexy menu: the only difficult thing is deciding.
For the starters we chose Winter salmon tartare with grilled sourdough bread, and, as noted, the guinea fowl boudin blanc with pumpkin barley. The boudin blanc was excellent. Super silky smooth but packed with flavour. Had Heston delivered the same but made it round and coated it in orange (see Dinner), you'd be lucky to hear the end of it from critics or bloggers alike. The salmon tartare was delicious but unusual. With cous cous, North African spices and burst of pomegranate seeds, this was truly a winter tartare, but also a highly original take on the dish.
The oxtail, like Koffmann's beef cheeks, are full on with the addition in both cases of an endlessly dark rich sauce (as if the oxtail itself could ever possibly fall short). The rabbit was also hugely rich, comfort food in many ways but with a French heritage touch. Indeed, these are not complex dishes in any way but they are satisfying and in that sense, with friendly wait staff, a Clerkenwell location and a boutique hotel (The Zetter), it fits the space perfectly and delivers a great meal at an affordable price.
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