For those not familiar with Bruno Loubet, he is the chef patron of Bistrot Bruno Loubet, the restaurant within the lovely Zetter Hotel in Clerkenwell. We first ate there last year and enjoyed mains of Roast rabbit, and Braised oxtail stuffed with cabbage, and concluded our blog post of that event by saying we were 'smitten' by the wonderful charm of the Bistrot and the full on flavour of the food.
We clearly aren't the only ones to feel that way as Bistrot Bruno Loubet came third in the National Restaurant Awards 2010 trailing only The Ledbury and The Fat Duck. And following Bruno's years in Australia, Giles Coren in The Times remarked on visiting the Bistrot that 'Bruno Loubet's return to Britain is the most exciting comeback since Jesus appeared on the road to Emmaus just hours after the Crucifixion'.
Ahead of the meal, the kitchen remained a sea of calm with Bruno ably assisted by Tim Mckirdy and Alvidas Kovas. Meanwhile, in the front of house, the Bistrot's wonderful Restaurant Manager Edgard Halle assisted by Adrien Kholi made our dining table look simply stunning with gas lamps from the family home in Bordeaux, vine cuttings from vines that grow outside of his restaurant and his Opinel knives.
It follows too that we should aim for the drink to be in keeping with the food and so on arrival, an aperitif of Vin de Buisson, Chambord and soda water was served, a beautifully refreshing drink that made a nice change to champagne though Kir Royale was also available for the thirsty. And then the food started to arrive. Parmesan shortbread with Parmesan mousse, and Roquefort Feuillete with bacon were in abundance and abundantly consumed, more so than we really should have ahead of a feast but too hard to stop. But these early canapes were swiftly followed by Duck heart and Devil sauce, and Mauricette snails (his mother's recipe). For one of our guests at least, it was her first time trying snails, she loved them.
This is very much what I have personally come to expect from Bruno, a fantastic dish with huge bold flavours, hearty texture, satisfying to the core and a wonderful use of a popular ingredient to produce a differentiated and special dish. There was no one round the table I believe who didn't absolutely adore this dish. And the sauce, langoustine and cognac; heaven of course.
So here it is together, Roasted salt cod, gratin dauphinois sauce, sautéed ceps. The gratin dauphinois has been crushed and is deliberately loose such that it is both a garnish and a sauce (and utterly yum). The cod meanwhile had a magnificently firm yet succulent texture, pulling apart in big meaty pieces with the truffle adding but not over powering. This was a tremendous dish and if you see anything like it on the menu at the Bistrot, it comes highly recommended.
Keeping in the Bordeaux tradition, the cod is paired fantastically well with a Lynch Bages Blanc 2007.
On top is Gray Shallots, a strong shallot, a real French chef's choice. There's some crushed marrowbone here too. The sauce is a Sauce Bordelaise. It's all perfect, people around the table are cooing. My choice on the wine this time, a Haut Brion 2004, a part of Bordeaux life for so long, and as Tom reminds us, featuring in the diary of Samuel Pepys: Friday 10th April 1663 'here drank a sort of French wine Ho Bryan, that hath a good and most particular taste that I never met with'. Had Bruno Loubet's beef been put in front of Pepys, we're sure that that too would have been immortalised in lierary history, it is wonderfully good. Again, back to what Bruno does fantastically well, it can't be faulted.
The dessert was fantastic and later that night, when everyone had gone home and I ventured back in the kitchen, I discovered a more of the Verveine meringue lids, boxed up, surplus to requirements, and left for our later delight. I wont tell you how many more I ate that night but I simply adored the light pastry crumble and the sweet meringue top crunch and I just couldn't restrain myself.
And of course, being a night in Bordeaux, we ended with a lovely Cognac (sorry George, no Glenfarclas tonight).
It's possible that night that we ate the best meal in France right here in London. What an honour for us all to be allowed to share family Loubet's culinary heritage (together with Bruno's contemporary touch). As we said at the start of this post, we simply ask chefs to cook from the heart, and that's exactly what Bruno did, to spectacular effect.
Guests attending the dinner kindly made donations to Action Against Hunger
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