You may recall from my last post that I keep a “List” of restaurants that I intend to visit and am continually looking for excuses to go to. You don’t get many better excuses than your wedding anniversary and luckily for me, this opportunity presented itself to me this week.
I had heard many good things about Chez Bruce in Wandsworth and had booked a table in their smaller, upstairs room – which can seat about twenty people. The restaurant state that they pride themselves on offering a simple menu with classical food, presented attractively but not pretentiously. Promising signs.
For starters, my wife and I had two very different, but very pleasing dishes.
I ordered a Carpaccio of scallops with prawns, fennel, chilli and capers. This was a dish that I was exceedingly excited about as my wife does not like fennel or capers and as such I don’t get to eat them very often! The chilli in the salad, coupled with the acidity from the capers, contrasted the raw scallops and prawns very nicely. As you can see from the photo, they did not attempt to present this dish in an overtly extravagant manner; however, I felt that this did not detract from it and was certainly very pleased with my choice.
My wife’s choice for starter was a crisp lamb breast with oriental salad, chilli, soy, sesame and mint. The lamb was cooked very well and tender, which matched the oriental-style flavours of the side salad. You can also see from the picture another aspect of food at Chez Bruce, which is that the portion sizes are certainly generous; a welcome tonic to some of the micro-portions that you can get in some restaurants.
For main course we both went for the same choice – a Parmesan-crusted Pollock with spätzle, button mushrooms, pancetta and truffle. The Pollock was, as would be expected, the star of this dish; it was a beautifully cooked chunk of flaky, fishy goodness with the Parmesan crust holding the fish together. Spätzle are a German noodle very prevalent in southern Germany and were cooked very nicely in this dish, providing a robust accompaniment, along with the mushrooms, pancetta and truffle, to the Pollock.
Now, I can’t write up my experience at Chez Bruce without lavishing praise on its extremely thorough wine list. A lot of thought has clearly been put into this wine list and the selection is fabulous. However, I must also praise the knowledge and expertise of the restaurant’s Sommelier. I asked her to recommend a half-bottle of wine to accompany the Pollock, after I had stated I was considering a white Burgundy. Her recommendation took me by surprise, as she said that instead of a white wine, a light red would potentially stand up to the strong flavours in the dish a little better. We looked at first at some of the Pinot Noirs, but in the end settled on a carafe of 2009 Nebbiolo (Coste della Sesia Rosso, Uvaggio, Propertia Sperino, Piedmont). The wine had a very strong perfumey flavour on the nose, smelling a little sharp at first, perhaps; but it had a beautifully ethereal ruby hue to it. As it sat in the decanter it proceeded to open up a little and present cherry flavours with a hint of earthy truffle. As promised, this was an excellent accompaniment to the main course and I was very pleased with this selection.
On a side note, I was fascinated when a gentleman on one of the tables in the room ordered a 1946 Vouvray Sec (Le Haut-Lieu, Domaine S. A. Huët, Loire). I looked over longingly to their table in the hope that they would pity the poor urchin who couldn’t afford a wine of this calibre and offer him a small sample. Alas, they didn’t and selfishly drank it all themselves. Some people…
For the desert course, my wife had a roasted peach, which was served with a honey and thyme parfait, lemon and almonds. The inclusion of the thyme in the parfait was a master-stroke – giving it a unique, and unusually perfumed, taste. The peach itself was succulent and juicy – simply fabulous.
Again, anyone who’s been following these posts will know that I cannot resist a good cheese-board and I don’t think I’ve ever been presented with a better selection of cheeses then at Chez Bruce. The waiter took me through the selection starting at soft cows’, goats’ and sheeps’ cheeses, moving onto the harder cheeses and lastly the blue cheeses. Ones that stood out for me were the Waterloo Brie, a wonderfully nutty Comte and a rich and creamy Shropshire Blue. Once more I must praise the waiter who presented the selection, who answered my every enquiry with precision and an impressive amount of knowledge. I accompanied the cheeses with a glass of non-vintage Quinta de Romaneira 10 year old Tawny Port – I just couldn’t resist.
In summary, Chez Bruce was a wonderful experience; generous portions of well-cooked and well thought out food, without the air of pretension that you can sometimes get in starred restaurants. Add to this, a wine list and cheese selection worthy of the finest of fine dining and you have a very attractive proposition.