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Feb 23, 2010 04:56 PM

Bistrot Bruno Loubet, Clerkenwell, London

Came across this place on the Bloomberg website.

Warm bread (a small bun served in a flowerpot) with a beautiful crust, crackling over the soft interior of even sized bubbles and a toasty wheat flavour.

Meatballs (smallish, tender and lightly meaty, fairly fine mince) and snails (nice solid bites, with some heft and chew to it, might have been better with a clean snap and rip in the texture) are arrayed around a round base of royale de champignons (a creamy puree of mushrooms). A fruity and fairly concentrated tomato sauce with chunks of tomato was well calibrated, and despite the intensity of the fruit, managed somehow to maintain a sense of balance. The items worked fairly well together -- acidity, sweetness, fruit in the sauce against the creamy mushroom puree and brightening up the meatballs (veal or pork?), although the sauce might have slightly overpowered the snails.

A perfectly al dente onion raviolo sits on top of a hare royale. Hare, with very fine and slightly ropey fibres, stuffed with pork (bacon? belly?), foie gras, and possibly other morsels of innards, coming together with beautifully flavours (reminded me of the lovely Hunan smoked meats at Golden Day)-- a moderately gamey background, dark livery notes, a background of lusty smokiness -- yet no rough edges in the flavours despite the meaty intensity, possibly because it was rounded off by the sweetness of the pumpkin puree (the sweetness subtly enhanced with mandarin orange) and the sauce -- richly textured (beneath it a long reduced stock with lots of bone? or was it a judicious application of the hare's blood as in the traditional rendition of this dish? - I certainly didn't catch any prominent metallic notes), dark red and shiny, tightly integrated, smooth on the palate, and perhaps adding its own caramel like qualities. Together the parts of the dish evoked complex, deep demiglace based sauces and a savoury sweetness that reminded me occasionally of gochujang.

For those interested, here's one of many threads about hare/lievre à la royale:

Just as rustic as everything else was a mille feuile of apple and quince, soft fruit with still a bit of bite, separated by thin slabs of layered pastry that shattered in a moment's crunch. A cloud of creamy sabayon, perfumedy with orange blossom for a contrasting fruity angle.

Honest, big hearted but unpretentious food that is backed by skilled technique and labour-intensive cooking (imagine putting together the parts of the hare royale). Sauces might be bosomy and big (and perhaps not for those who lean towards dainty flavours), but are also intricate and well put together. Pitch perfect classical bistrot food that is immensely satisfying in a visceral way.

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  1. Interesting to see 'bosomy' and 'visceral' in the same paragraph... unlikely choice of words fo describe food. I'll have to think about what a bosomy sauce entails.

    Did they have cassoulet on the menu... it's a long time since I've had a good one.

    1 Reply
    1. re: zuriga1

      Sorry, didn't seem to have any cassoulet on the menu.

    2. Is this the same Bruno Loubet who was in Brisbane (Australia) for a fair bit?

      2 Replies
      1. re: mr_gimlet

        It is. He returned for the Koffman pop-up in Selfridges last year and then decided to head back to London permanently. He has a pretty fine pedigree including head chef at Le Manoir Quat'Saison under exec chef Blanc.

        1. re: PhilD

          Nice - must try that out. I liked his place in Toowong although the service got bad when it got busy...

      2. Good to see him back - his place in Soho more than ten years ago now was supposed to be very good but I didn't earn enough to eat there at the time!

        6 Replies
        1. re: greedygirl

          Indeed, GG. Ten years back I didnt earn enough to travel to London for meals. Now I'm retired and have much less, I spend much more.

          The doshermanos blog also carries a review - the two brothers recall his original place and compare, very favourably, the new.

          1. re: Harters

            Life is short, John - and you won't take it with you. Enjoy the food now!

            From what I remember of the brothers' blog, the meal wasn't inexpensive.

            1. re: zuriga1

              Pricing seemed very reasonable, June. I recall Loubet's name from back then as being an "upcoming star".

              And, no, you can't take it with you. Off to darkest Lancashire tonight - dark satanic mills and all that. Online, I note a starter of tempura of Chadwicks black pudding. Oh yeah, I'm 'aving some of that. And none left t'take home for t'whippets.

              1. re: zuriga1

                Here's a link to the restaurant's website where you can download a menu:

                Food prices roughly in the gastropub range. Wines by the glass were probably ok, if not a bargain.

                1. re: limster

                  Agreed, on reading the menu, the prices aren't bad at all. I didn't realize that Simon had included service, wine etc. in his total. If the food is excellent, it's fine.

                  The menu reminds me a bit of a place I loved years ago in the town of Irvington, NY. The chef was French, and the dinners were always sublime.

                  1. re: limster

                    Woops, typo - meant to say that the wines by the glass were ok, but not much of a bargain.

            2. Had a mixed experience here last Saturday night - great food, awful service.

              We arrived just before our 9pm booking and were told that our table was still being used, they were just finishing off dessert and would we mind having a drink in the car, which was fine with us. So we went through to the bar and then waited 10 minutes for someone to take our drink order (we weren't alone - there was two other couples also waiting). When it was finally taken, it then took 15 minutes to actually receive our drinks. 40 minutes later (and again drinkless by then!) we finally got taken through to the restaurant. In this time, not once had anyone come over to tell us how much longer we would have to wait, or even apologise for the wait. I caught the eye of the maitre'd a couple of times but he just ignored us. I wouldn't have minded having a drink or two waiting for the table - we weren't in a hurry, but I would expect at the very least an apology or at least an update on how long we would have to wait!

              However once we were seated, the food was excellent - I had the snails and meatballs for starter and the hare royale for main, to which the waiter exclaimed 'no lady has ever finished both those dishes' - wasn't sure if this was an insult or a challenge (which I took up readily!). My boyfriend had the salad Lyonnaise which was good, although the bit I tried had a sharp piece of bone in the it. His lamb was also delicious. All dishes were good sized portions, and very rich and unctuous. I really couldn't fault the food, shame the service was so shoddy.

              1. Was very disappointed. Tried Bistrot for lunch and while it has the potential to be good, the execution in the food is just not there. The dishes our table had ranged from great, to just bad, and most of them lacked proper seasoning. The Pigeon was the only dish that was quite good, interestingly paired with sliced raw cauliflower. Service was truly lacking as well. If you needed something you spent 5 minutes trying to get the attention of the staff, and god forbid asking for the bill. While I'll try it again (always give a place 2 chances!) it looks like this one is simply resting on the past laurels of the chef--who for his sake let’s hope wasn't there.

                1 Reply
                1. re: pcltlon

                  A couple of weeks ago I had an excellent lunch at Bruno Loubet's. Deep flavours and very rich and delicious bistro fare. The only down is quite how busy the place is, my table was cramped and the waiters were busier than is helpful. The wine list is fine but knowledge and recommendations were not forthcoming from the waiter which is a shame.

                  Round the corner at Eastside Inn there is a new menu and, eating there the week after BL, I left very, very impressed. For a first course it does not get more exciting than morel mushrooms on toast, with a raw egg yolk, (that had been injected with chicken stock), served on a separate plate, for dipping.

                  A shared rib of beef was as good as I have ever eaten and oh, so rare. It was served with herby, thin chips and a very real bearnaise sauce - a rarity in my exp[erience, I am sure that 9/10 are from catering packs.

                  For pudding, a perfect lemon and lime souffle with Earl Grey ice cream. It works.

                  The wine list is great fun with an enthusiastic showing of biodynamic wines as well as some very seroius stuff. My first taste of a sauvignon gris.

                  Strange place, everything tasted of what it was but just a little more so! And, from reading the menu you get the feeling that this is intentional.