Tuesday, 1 February 2011

A second helping at Bistrot Bruno Loubet

There is always a risk that, when you return to a restaurant within a short time of first experiencing it, that return can lack quite the edge of excitement of the first visit.

Just to start with, there isn't the same surprise element.

So it was with trepidation – albeit a miniscule amount – that I had booked for Bistrot Bruno Loubet for yesterday evening, for The Other Half's birthday.

Since we were both at work and since the staff bar isn't open on a Monday, I'd opted for 6.30pm. Not too long to twiddle the thumbs before dining; not straight after walking out of the office either.

We were, unsurprisingly, the first through the door for evening service. But the bar and the cocktail menu provided ample pleasures before we sat down to eat.

A charming barman made me a French 75 (which, he explained, is named after a WWI French cannon) and is made of Tanqueray gin, lemon and sugar, and Champagne. He added a maraschino cherry – they're back in fashion, apparently. Very nice it was too; very refreshing.

There are other Champagne cocktails named after French cannons of the same era – one replaces the gin with brandy, the other with vodka.

The Other Half had a 22nd July, which was made up of Four Roses Single Barrel bourbon, Kings ginger, Evan Williams
honey and pressed apple juice. Served short over cubes, it was garnished with a fan of green-skinned apple.

And so it was to dinner.

This time, I started with the guinea fowl boudin blanc on cassoulet beans. A light-as-a-feather, mousse-like confection, cooked until its casing was just caramelised. Sweet and luxurious – as were the beans. But everything was lightened by the tomato that was cooked with the beans, which added freshness, and the parsley, which gave it a bitter layer. Wonderful.

My main was from the dishes of the day – how tempting was the veal liver? – and was fillet of stone bass, served with new potatoes and a hint of lime. Charred on the skin side, this was a big hit of meaty fish – given a real zing by the lime.

For dessert, I opted for the rhubarb, orange and vanilla Clerkenwell mess. Never mind being a "mess" – what a surprise! The perfectly cooked and sweetened rhubarb was delightful – but the punchline was discovering that the orange was the tart flavour instead. That put such a delighted smile on my face: what a twist!

The Other Half opted for mauricette snails and meatballs, with mushrooms: the snails were tiny (as were the meatballs) and were served already out of the shells. It was the first time he'd ever eaten snails and apparently enjoyed them.

That, he followed with the beef daube bourguignon and mashed potato, and single scoops of chocolate ice cream and pear sorbet to finish.

Around half way through our meal, colleagues walked through on the way to a birthday reservation themselves. Since it was essentially on the basis of my ravings, I felt a twinge of nerves.

But an email this morning eased these: they had a wonderful time too.

And as before, the service was excellent. Friendly and warm, but without ever making you feel that someone was hovering behind you or rushing you.

Not one iota of disappointment, then.

Now when's the next birthday?

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