Those who follow me on twitter or Facebook will know that I went to London last month for my 30th birthday. And what a birthday trip it was! I have always wanted to go to a Michelin starred restaurant, even more so when I spotted Chez Bruce on a previous visit. We spent our first two nights in Wandsworth with friends and my birthday was a good excuse to go to Chez Bruce for a decadent Sunday lunch.
They change their menu all the time so I was eagerly checking it every few days in anticipation. I couldn’t even decide then what I’d have so it was not a quick process on the day. We arrived at noon and were seated at a table at the back of the restaurant. This helps me in social situations – my hearing aids don’t pick up background noise so I can hear who I want to hear better. After being presented with the menu and much chatter about what to eat we all picked the same main course. A bit of a cop out maybe but I had read so much about the chateaubriand that we couldn’t not.
We ordered food and a full bodied white to go with our fish starters. At some point before ordering we were given a little hors d’oeuvre or nibble that I can only describe as a cheesy biscuit. This massively downplays it because it was the best cheesy biscuit I’ve ever had the delight of sampling. It was melt in the mouth, buttery and strong with cheese but in a soothing way. It did exactly what it was meant to – left us wanting more.
Then they gave us a bread basket that had (if I remember correctly) focaccia, sourdough and a nut bread. When Mr S enquired about nuts in the bread and told them of his allergy they came over with a nut-free bread basket just for him & a nut-free version of the menu. Excellent service. They could have just given him the focaccia because he raved about it, as did the rest of us. By this point we were laughing about how many ‘this is the best (insert food here) I’ve ever had’ sentences were going to be said during the meal.
A starter of turbot fillet, black rice, squid, chorizo, aioli & basil oil did nothing to quash our enthusiasm. Saltiness from the squid & chorizo blended with the freshness of the fish with ease. The table was happily silent.
Sticking with fishy starters, the normally drab cod was brought to life with an anchovy hollandaise, samphire and roasted garlic. Such a rich dish but perfectly so. The naturally salty samphire & anchovies, the crunchy garlic slivers bounced off the poached egg and cod with precision.
And then there was beef. A man portion of beef at that, none of this dainty portioning on this dish. Medium rare so it still retained the flavour, or practically still mooing as my (well-done) dad would say. The accompaniments weren’t an afterthought either. The chips were a cut above, the green beans had a crisp bite and the stuffed mushroom could have been served as a meal on its own. A lightly caramelised onion held its own among the peppercorn jus which I barely used because the meat was so juicy. Celeriac provided the last non essential but utterly delicious piece of the puzzle. The meat itself was nothing like I’d ever tasted before – it was ten times better. We were dining with friends who work in wine so we left them to choose what would match. The Chateauneuf De Pape that the sommelier had helped select was wonderful.
Unfortunately I started to feel faint at the end of the main course. A combination of the hot dining room, a busy week & a food and drink extravaganza the day before finally caught up with me. Nothing was going to stop me having dessert. After a breath of fresh air, we carried on like troopers.
Chez Bruce has an array of cheeses that you can see from the window that had been taunting me every time we walked past. A cheese plate was ordered between the four of us & the array was brought to our table. Moments like this are why I am not a waif, and why I smile so much. What struck me is how knowledgable the cheese man was; it was an art and vocation to him, not just a job. Seeing passion like that brings me into the fold & make me feel in safe hands.
We reached dessert. The citrus fad that I’m currently going through was satisfied by the blood orange sorbet. Bitter yet somehow sweet, it was a great palate cleanser to end the meal. I had ordered it on the basis of it being light but it arrived with not one but three accompaniments. There was a citrusy soft Madeleine, a rolled brandy snap and an almond biscuit. It was like they knew what I wanted without me knowing.
A traditionally rich creme brûlée did it’s job – it was unapologetically typically French with no messing about with added extras.
And then there was rhubarb. Stewed rhubarb with citrus notes, an almond cake for texture then silky natural yoghurt sorbet to freshen the dish.
Finally, a chocolate pudding with praline parfait was drenched in shiny chocolate sauce like a present being wrapped.
Even the homemade truffles that arrived with coffee were the best truffles I’ve ever had.
It’s fair to say that I thought Chez Bruce was incredible – the service, the food and the whole experience. I was also struck by how unpretentious it was. So much care and passion went into every aspect. The perfect start to my 30th birthday trip.
Sunday lunch at Chez Bruce is £35 for 3 courses.