Bistro Bruno Loubet

Zetter Hotel, St Johns Square, 86 Clerkenwell Road, London, England, EC1M 5RJ, United Kingdom

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Editors's note: this restaurant closed in 2015.

After my initial disappointing meal soon after opening it seemed only fair to give Bistro Bruno Loubet another chance once the kitchen had settled down.  Salt cod with potato crisps and piquillo pepper and almond sauce was attractively presented and was quite good, the dots of sauce having good intensity of flavour, even if the salt cod was very salty (12/20). I preferred this to a deep-fried duck egg presented with a salad of potatoes and pickled gorilles. The egg was fine, but the pickled the girolles were too astringent, the sourness dominating the dish (11/20). As an aside, what would have been a nice presentation was spoilt by the waiter managing to nudge the egg, which was intended to be the centrepiece of the dish, on to the side of the plate. Although a minor thing, it did raise a couple of issues. Firstly, the kitchen would surely have been better to use something to fix the egg in position on the plate so it did not so easily fall over, and surely the waiter should have briefly removed the plate and re-presented it, given that this is a restaurant rather than a canteen.

My wood pigeon was better, cooked accurately and served with cassava chips, stir-fried Brussels sprouts and green peppercorn sauce. The sprouts were properly cooked, though the cassava chips were a little tasteless and I would have welcomed more of the sauce (13/20). The best dish was the sea bream, pan-fried with a Provencal-style garnish. The fish was accurately cooked and the vegetables went well with the fish (easily 14/20). Green vegetables on the side (an extra £3.80) were nicely cooked, as was some mash (14/20).

For dessert, a pear and ginger financier was moist but the ginger flavour was missing in action, though the goat milk ice cream on the side was fine (12/20). A slice of bitter chocolate cake was enjoyably rich, and the coffee sabayon tasted of coffee (comfortably 14/20). Service was well-meaning but rather casual. I really don’t mind topping up my own wine in a restaurant if they leave it within reach, as it would be in a casual setting like a pub. Here the wine was taken off the table but as it happened was just about within arm’s length. Since topping up was distinctly sporadic this came in handy, and this aspect of service seemed to me sloppy given that at the off-peak time we dined there were as many waiting staff as customers, so they were not exactly stretched.

We drank Mas de Daumas Gassac Blanc 2008, which was a relative bargain on the list at £54 for a wine that retails at £25.  The bill came to £77 a head for three courses and coffee. Overall, this meal was a big improvement over my previous one, but although food presentation was nice I struggle with the value for money factor here.  The food cost for three courses was perilously close to that of restaurants of a clearly higher level (e.g. my local La Trompette), and the service was pretty sloppy for a place at this price point. 

Further reviews: 01st Feb 2010

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User comments

  • Vic

    Hmmm... I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought the bread-in-flower-pot was a bit peculiar, perhaps to reflect the quirky decor but perhaps a victim of being funky-for-funky-sake. It appears to be baked in the terracotta pot itself. Anyway, I also found it well under-seasoned, and the garlic in it not at all balanced. The Bruno Loubet of a decade ago was well before my time (I was still a student) so I didn't really share the excitement and hype in the media about his return. Still, a new opening in EC1 means a potential neighbourhood favourite for me (Eastside Inn is still my local top dog). But the sharing/set meal there was uninspiring... the chicken & egg broth was just some noodles and spring onion away from being a Cantonese egg drop soup. Shocking. But a return visit rewarded with a more enjoyable wood pigeon dish, with the giblet sauce adding richness. The cauliflower and nuts were nice touches to bring texture and balance but the bird, while young & tender, could have been more pink. Agree that the chocolate tart was probably the high point but the salted butter ice-cream didn't work. My personal choice would have been a tarter ice-cream or sorbet. Oh my... is pork lard and raw tuna a good idea together??