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Posts Tagged ‘bistros in London’

Bistro Bruno Loubet dining room

Last week, I met Gourmet Chick and Londonelicious for dinner at Bistrot Bruno Loubet in Clerkenwell.  I’d been there once before, back in March, soon after the bistro had opened in the Zetter hotel, and that time, the food had been very good.  Clerkenwell is perfectly located between work and home for me, so I was glad to pay it a return visit when the three of us were debating where to eat.  (The beauty of dining out with other food bloggers is that choosing the venue is half the fun).

bread served in a flowerpot - a super charming touch

Things got off to a bumpy start when the day of our reservation arrived.  The bistrot called to confirm, and in classic passive-aggressive fashion, they asked if it’d be “OK” that they’d need the table back after two hours.  I asked if I really had a choice and added that it would have been nice to know this policy in advance (for example, when I was making the booking originally).  The restaurant’s response was that it was hard for them to know in advance that they’d need the table back at a certain time, which is kind of crap.  How do other restaurants – who don’t limit the amount of time you can have the table – estimate turnover times?

Anyway, to make a long story short, at the two-hour mark, we were asked to pay our bill or  move to the hotel bar.  I was supremely non-plussed and felt like I was getting booted out.  The first time I ate at Bruno Loubet, I enjoyed a leisurely and delicious meal with family friends, and this second time around, I left feeling kind of cranky, which is too bad, because our server that evening was attentive and helpful and generally everything you want in a server, really.

revised Lyonnaise salad (£7)

On to the food – like Gourmet Chick, I chose the revised Lyonnaise salad for a starter, and although I remember loving it the first time I ate at Bruno Loubet (poached egg and bacon on greens – what’s not to love?), this time around, I thought the greens-to-toppings ratio could’ve been a lot higher.  The generous amounts of crispy, salty bacon overwhelmed the frisee, and the egg was overcooked and not runny.   Sad.

Guinea fowl boudin blanc with leek fondue and chervil sauce (£7)

Guinea fowl boudin blanc (white sausage) was both impossibly light and heavy.  The texture was memorably fluffy, but halfway through, the salt got to me, and I had trouble finishing the boudin.  Good thing my dining companions wanted to try some, because otherwise, I would’ve been embarrassed that I hadn’t finished a meal comprised of a mere two starters.

lamb shoulder confit (£16)

Confit lamb shoulder was served in an unappetizing ball shape.  And disappointingly, the lamb was dry and underseasoned, so I’m 100% in agreement with Gourmet Chick there.

wood pigeon breast, cauliflower, almond, quinoa and giblet sauce (£15.50)

Gourmet Chick’s pan-fried breast of wood pigeon was a winner, though the presentation was pretty hideous.  Pigeon is too often served tough, but at Bruno Loubet, it was juicy, rare and had the richness that only offal can provide.  If I weren’t so annoyed about the service, I’d say I’d return to BBL just to order this dish for myself next time.

Things being what they are, though, it’d take a lot to get me to return to Bistrot Bruno Loubet.  Bar Boulud, where I’ve also been twice, delivers better service than BBL does; prices are similar, and Bar Boulud’s chop chop salad with lobster is still calling out to me.  So, as handy as Clerkenwell is for me, Knightsbridge will be my destination the next time I’m looking for a casual bistro meal.

With a £30 bottle of wine and glasses of dessert wine, we paid £50 a person for dinner at BBL.

Bistrot Bruno Loubet, Zetter Hotel, 86-88 Clerkenwell Road, EC1M 5RJ; 0207 324 4455; closest Tube station: Farringdon
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dining room at Galvin Bistro de Luxe

dining room at Galvin Bistro de Luxe

Normalement, I make up my own mind and hate being a follower. But when Thomas Keller says he likes a place, I’m not ashamed to follow in his footsteps. Plus, I’m a francophile. Throw in the title of French Restaurant of the Year, and really, why did it take me so long to visit Galvin Bistro de Luxe?

Jon and I met friends at Galvin Bistro de Luxe last weekend, and when we arrived, the place was packed. And not with just anyone. No, packed with French speakers! While not a must-have for a bistro in London, it was a nice sign.

crab "lasagna" at Galvin Bistro de Luxe

crab "lasagna" at Galvin Bistro de Luxe

Starters included some not-obviously French items like crab “lasagna.” It didn’t look the way you’d expect, but sure enough, there was firm, al dente pasta in there layered with a rich, seafood crab meat. Tasty.

entrecote with pommes anna

entrecote with pommes anna

Honestly, I was shocked by how big the portion sizes are. The plat du jour, an entrecote (aka rib eye) served medium rare (at £18.50, one of the pricier menu items), included a generous slice of buttery pommes anna, buttery string beans, buttery bearnaise, and some totally token watercress. Butter really does make it better, no?

cheese tray at Galvin Bistro

cheese tray at Galvin Bistro

Well, no self-respecting French Restaurant of the Year could fail to have a cheese tray full of interesting and delish cheeses, served with a dollop of generosity. I hogged a few slices of cheese from my friend’s cheese platter, and then moved onto my dessert: a blackberry souffle.

blackberry souffle at Galvin Bistro

blackberry souffle at Galvin Bistro

I’d seen a couple of these souffles flying around the room, and it looked too good to resist. When it arrived, it was hot and airy, but after digging inside, I found the souffle so undercooked as to still constitute batter. And it was a bit too sugary. How disappointing. I wanted so much to love thee, blackberry souffle.

pear tarte tatin at Galvin Bistro

pear tarte tatin at Galvin Bistro

Cue the beautifully-crisped, buttery-crusted, caramelized pear tarte tatin. It was the crowning glory to a butter-filled wonder of a meal.

Galvin Bistro de Luxe is where you go for a long, convivial dinner. The restaurant really was a slice of Paris on an otherwise-charmless Baker Street.

For starters, mains, desserts and wine for all, our tab was £60 a person, including service. Not cheap, but good value for attentive service, a buzzy room, and large portions of tasty bistro classics. (And a steal compared to a trip on the Eurostar).

Galvin Bistro de Luxe, 66 Baker Street, W1U 7DJ, 0207 933 4007; closest tube station: Baker Street
Galvin Bistrot de Luxe on Urbanspoon

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