If there is a secret formula for what makes a good restaurant then Chez Bruce mastered it years ago. We have eaten lunch here numerious times, it’s surprisingly good value (currently £35 for 3 courses). Definitely one of London’s best Michelin Restaurant deals.
On this visit I started with some stunning fish cakes with just a hint of saffron and my companion had a Spanish chilled Tomato soup called Salmorejo, this was so beautifully spiced he felt that it had spoilt him for other soups. For main course I chose the Confit Rabbit with coco beans, pepper relish, cherry tomatoes and Provençal sauce, a nice rustic dish of comfort food and he went for the Wild Brill with Roast Scallops, both dishes were of the usual high standard. Then we had an extra cheese course prior to our dessert – The Chez Bruce Cheese boards are not to be missed. The dessert, which we hardly had room for after this feast, was an Apricot and Almond Tart and a Bramley Apple and Blackberry Crumble. I would also recommend asking the friendly Sommelier to select glasses of wine to match your dishes as they have a good range by the glass (most for less than £10.00). Another nice touch here is the lovely home made shortbread that comes with the surprisingly reasonable bill. We are already looking forward to our next visit 😉
Anyone who has read our blog knows how much we appreciate Chez Bruce and the other restaurants in the Nigel Platts-Martin stable. The Medlar in Chelsea although not directly connected with that group of restaurants, is certainly influenced by them. The head chef Joe Mercer Nairne used to work at Chez Bruce and his business partner David O’Connor also managed front of house at Chez Bruce, The Ledbury and The Square. So it was no surprise that we found that the menu and the service style was reminiscent of these restaurants.
I started with a lovely dish, Crab raviolo with samphire, brown shrimps, fondue of leeks and bisque sauce. This was matched with a glass of Domaine des Baumard Savennières Clos St Yves 2007, a beautifully smooth fresh tasting wine that I could so easily have consumed by the bottle. My companion was not so enamored by the Lambs Tongue and Lentil salad which was rather dominated by the lentils, he did however very much enjoy the matching wine, a glass of Egri Bikaver, Bolyki a smooth light red wine from Hungary.
For main course I had Cornish brill with Jerusalem artichoke purée, braised chicken wings, crisp pancetta and salsify, which was another good choice, this was matched with a Marlborough Pinor Noir. My companion also had a rather nice fish dish. The Roast cod with a ragoût of mussels, pieds de mouton and charlotte potatoes. It went well with a glass of Chardonnay, Kooyong “Clonale”.
The wines were selected by Clement Robert the UK young sommelier of the year 2010 and were uniformly excellent.
We knew we could not manage to squeeze in a cheese course, so went straight to dessert instead. I had a rather good Chocolate tart with pistachio ice cream and my companion had the Almond panna cotta with PX, poached pear and ricciarelli. He really liked the panna cotta part of the dessert, but did not feel that it particularly went with the other elements.
The dress code here is fairly casual, although we did spot one chap who I am sure is on a fashion police wanted poster (there is a certain shade of pink that should only be worn by 5 year old girls). The customers are very much the Chelsea set. We would not have been at all surprised to see the crew from that dire show “Made in Chelsea” swanning in.
The food at the Medlar is good, we enjoyed everything we ate, although the wine did rather eclipse a couple of the dishes. It’s not going to replace Chez Bruce as a favourite, but it’s pretty good for Chelsea.
I made our reservation at Chez Bruce at fairly short notice, so our table was probably one of the worst ones in the room. However I was just glad to have a table as even at Monday lunch time Chez Bruce was close to full.
Yet again they did not put a foot wrong on the service front or with the food. All through the meal we could hear ourselves continually making “mmm” noises, which says it all. The food is seriously good, well balanced complex dishes that look beautiful and taste wonderful.
My raw, cooked and pickled vegetable tartlet with aubergine and tapenade, was amazing – it was so light and the mixture of textures and flavours worked so well. My companion also really enjoyed his Pork Belly with Summer Bean Salad, Chorizo and Salsa Verde.
For main course I had the Plaice with creme fraiche and basil sauce, smoked salmon, pancakes and cucumber – the pancakes especially were really moreish. My companion had the Seabass with prawn tempura, oriental squid and bok choy salad and was really impressed by the flavour of the fish and its distinctive sweet and sour pork crust.
We then moved on to share a cheese plate – the cheese boards in the Nigel Platts-Martins stable of restaurants are too good to miss. We then finished with the Vanilla, Almond and Raspberry tartlet and the Warm Poached Peach and Financier with Pannacotta and Ameretto, along with a couple of glasses of matching dessert wines. Leaving just enough room for a piece of the home made shortbread provided at the end of the meal.
We had a conversation with one of the waiters about Chez Bruces sibling restaurant The Ledbury, which he thought was on the way to its third Michelin Star and if that’s the case, Chez Bruce is well on its way to a second one, as the gap between them is not huge.
Chez Bruce is not just a destination restaurant, it’s a restaurant that makes you want to move to the area. Although in actual fact it’s not that hard to get to, as it’s just 2 minutes walk from Wandsworth Common train station, and there are frequent trains from Victoria with a journey time of 11 minutes.
Christmas holidays of course. This is the time of year where it’s often difficult to find that special meal. Either the restaurant you want is fully booked, or it’s just doing a boring and overpriced Christmas Menu or it’s closed for the holidays. However over the last few years we have found that if you look carefully and book with enough advance notice you can still find some gems around the Christmas season.
This year we have chosen two very different but highly acclaimed restaurants that we have not visited yet :-
Made a return visit after a gap of a couple of years to La Trompette in Chiswick. The area was livelier than I remembered, lots more interesting shops and restaurants.
The weather was good so the full length windows were open to effectively extend the restaurant into the outside space.
We had a very relaxing meal, with good food and friendly service in very pleasant surroundings. This is very much the sort of place where you can enjoy indulging in the wine list and taking your time over the cheese board.
Out of all the Nigel Platts-Martins restaurants we have been too, this one is actually our least favorite, not that there is anything wrong with it. It is still a very good restaurant, it’s just that The Glasshouse, Chez Bruce and The Ledbury are better. So if you are in the area this would be a real treat, but I still prefer to make the trip out to Wandsworth for Chez Bruce or Notting Hill for The Ledbury.
Marks out of 10
UPDATE: April 2013 – La Trompette has been refurbished since our last visit, it now has a more spacious dining room, private dining facilities and a new kitchen. There is also a new Head Chef – Rob Weston.
Trinity – A first time vist to this Clapham Restaurant, its has been on the wish list for a while.
NEW SOUTH WALES – AUSTRALIA
Rick Stein at Bannisters – Our Australian correspondent visited Ricks restaurant in Cornwall a couple of years ago so should be in a good position to see how the Australian outpost compares. Apparently it’s a tad warmer there than Padstow.
I have to admit it did not have the WOW factor of The Ledbury or The Square or even Chez Bruce, but it was a very pleasant way to spend a Sunday lunch time. The set Sunday lunch at £25 a head is not particularly adventurous, but what they do, they do well. My Whitebait starter had maybe a bit too much batter for some tastes, but was fresh, tasty and not in the least bit greasy. The potted pork rillette was a bit ordinary but fine for a set lunch. The mains were well received. The mash served with my well cooked haddock was particularly good.
The Bitter chocolate pudding matched with PX sherry was a triumph (I should have photographed the empty plates!)
All in all, it was a perfectly pleasant way to spend a Sunday lunch time.
They were also pushing an excellent BYOB deal (no corkage fee on a Sunday evening), something that I do hope more and more fine dining restaurants take up, see Guardian article covering this trend.
We finally got around to trying out Chez Bruce in Wandsworth. So many people had raved about it over the years. In fact it was first recommended to me about 15 years ago when I lived in the area. Isn’t it annoying when other people are right, I really wish I had listened and started eating there then. I might have better fitted into the age group of the clientele too, who are typically 30 somethings.
The food which is often described as Modern British, actually has lots of different influences, French, Italian and Nordic.
To start my companion had the Gravadlax and beetroot club sandwich with herring salade lyonaise and horseradish, which was sublime. It definitely gets his vote for best starter of the year. I had the middle white pork terrine with warm potato salad and sauce gribiche which was also excellent. We accompanied these dishes with a carafe of rather stunning Pouilly Fuisse wine.
For main course my companion had the beautifully moist and tender venison loin with potato rosti and squash puree. A wonderful dish.
My Shetland salmon and scallops with Jerusalem artichoke puree, gnocchi, prosciutto and chaterelles, worked well combining fish and meat flavours beautifully.
As you can tell from all the superlatives I have used so far we really rated this place. It became our post Christmas treat, actually eclipsing Koffmanns, which is saying something.
Chez Bruce is very relaxing and not somewhere you would want to rush, so we extended our meal by having a cheese course matched with a lovely glass of chilled Rasteau 2007, Domaine De Trapadis, before “resting” and continuing on to dessert. For dessert we focused on the lighter dishes. The beautiful poached pear with honey and stem ginger ice cream and the prune and armagnac ice cream, accompanied by a refreshing glass of Muscat d’Asti.
We had no room for coffee and truffles, but did manage to squeeze in a small piece of shortbread, offered at the end of meal. Best shortbread I have ever had, with a hint of caramel, it was quite lovely.
We then asked for the bill, expecting it to be excessive as we had rather indulged ourselves. We were pleasantly surprised at how reasonable it was.
Chez Bruce is a part of Nigel Platts-Martins stable of restaurants. Holding its own against it’s sibling restaurants which include The Square, The Ledbury, La Trompette and The Glasshouse. Nothing jars here (not even the bread), the food, the service levels and the atmosphere seem just right. I certainly won’t be waiting another 15 years to return.
Now that we have got Christmas out of the way, we are looking forward to starting the real celebrations with a post Christmas restaurant binge. Over the course of the next two weeks we will be dining at two of our absolute favorite restaurants Chez Bruce and The Ledbury. We also have lunch plans at two locations that could not be more different The Ritz and The Modern Pantry.
We will also be announcing our best and worst restaurants of the year. Watch this space.
What’s coming next in the lead up to Christmas?
It is always a bit more difficult at this time of year – a bit harder to get bookings if you want to avoid the Christmas rip off menus and holiday shut downs.
So despite the seasonal difficulties we have posts coming up for a couple of really hot top London destination restaurants:-
The Ledbury – which just seems to be winning more and more awards and acclaim this year.
We are also going to Chez Bruce, a restaurant that has been top of our wish list for a while now.
Then we are starting off the New Year on a high note (hopefully), at Apsleys in the Lanesborough Hotel. It was awarded a Michelin star earlier this year. It is a Heinz Becks Restaurant, the first one outside Italy, where he has 3 Michelin stars for La Pergola in Rome.
No Expert Annual Awards
The No Expert Best and Worst Restaurant for 2010 will be announced at the end of year.