Then, at the end of August, Harden's London Restaurants 2012 was published and Chez Bruce again ranked first in the category 'Favourite' restaurant. But the awards didn't stop there, it also ranked equal third for 'Top Gastronomic Experience', tying with The Ledbury (and beaten only by Marcus Wareing and Le Gavroche). This is result is slightly strange though as The Ledbury also won the category best food, in other words, despite The Ledbury offering higher rated food (according to the survey), they offer an equally well thought of gastronomic experience. We're intrigued.
But we are also excited (once we recover from the journey there) at the prospect of finally eating at such a well regarded establishment. Staff greet us pleasantly enough, and remain pleasant throughout the meal, though initially, in a currently empty restaurant, the table we're offered is so small we ask if we can have the better sized table for two next to it, a request to which they willingly obliged. In the Paris style, tables are quite densely packed and towards the end of the meal, when the sommelier was pouring a glass of wine for the adjacent table, his elbow was a mere three inches from MrsCC's cheekbone leading to a moment of heightened excitement as we lay odds on whether he would fully connect on the pull back. He didn't.
Food wise, we started with Veal salad with Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, truffle and hazelnuts, and the Roast turbot with a blanquette of coco beans, bacon and chestnuts (£5 supplement). Both starters were generously proportioned and little would need to be added to the turbot to turn this dish into a main course. The starters, mostly due to the turbot, formed the highlight of the meal. The turbot arrived looking the part, a beautiful topside crust of orange and gold, pulling easily apart in big meaty chunks. Worth the supplement and a starter worthy of the venue's reputation. The veal salad offered good textures and dressing but the veal itself, though cooked well, was ultimately somewhat bland.
Maybe this is where expectations are playing a part but for a restaurant that is said to offer an equivalent gastronomic experience to The Ledbury, the mains were, let's be really honest here, a huge disappointment. We would rate venues like Bistrot Bruno Loubet or Koffmann's as offering a similar style but delivering more satisfaction, and much more taste. The fish course meanwhile was put in the shade by our last meal at The Hand & Flowers where they served an absolutely brilliant (and differentiated) plaice with lardo main. Now that's what we're talking about.
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