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My wife and I don’t quite see eye to eye when it comes to French bistro style cooking. I love it; she isn’t quite so enamoured. I like many things about this style of cooking: that it seems so genuine and welcoming; that the cooking focusses on simplicity, rather than theatre; that the portion sizes are usually very generous; that you tend to find interesting ingredients on the menu. This was certainly the case when I crossed another restaurant off my “List” recently – Bistrot Bruno Loubet. I had been looking forward to crossing this one-off for quite some time – and I’m very glad that I did as it is about to shut down to make way for a new venture from Chef Loubet. Fortunate timing indeed!
For my starter I was torn, there were so many interesting things on the menu to choose from: snails, rabbit and mackerel were all tempting me. I decided, however, to go for the Crispy Pig’s Trotters served with Sauce Gribiche, Herbs and a Frisee Salad. You can’t get more French Bistro then some trotters! The trotters had been slow cooked and were shaped into a rectangle, breaded and then delicately fried. They had a lovely, rich flavour and a very nice texture. I particularly liked the Sauce Gibriche, a mayonnaise-like sauce with a pleasing smattering of herbs through it, which lifted the trotter nicely.
On to the main course now and again there were plenty of options that piqued my interest. In the end I decided to opt for the Daube de Boeuf “Forestiere” served with Wild Mushroom and Mash. It was a slow-cooked, flavoursome stew with some beautifully tender beef. I’m not sure exactly what cut this was (I think it was cheek), but it absolutely melted in the mouth. This is exactly the kind of dish that I like to cook on the weekend, the slow cooking intensifies the flavours and the rich, fatty meat is transformed into something glorious. The accompanying mushrooms were pretty beefy too, with a decent bite to them. The mash was that truly comforting, and slightly decadent, type of mash where you feel that there must be at least half a pack of butter mixed in. Heavenly.
To go with the food I was tempted to go Northern Rhone and go for a nice spicy Syrah, but I was a worried that it may get overwhelmed. I was then drawn to one of their Bin Ends, a 2011 Lagvinari ‘Gvino’ (Kakheti, Georgian Republic) made from 100% Saperavi – a native Georgian grape. I am progressing towards acceptance to the Wine Century Club and need to collect all the new grapes that I can, so I couldn’t turn this one down! On the nose it had a really intriguing character: Kirsch cherries and blackcurrants were the fruits, accompanied by perfume of roses and sweet spices (cloves and cinnamon). On the mouth it was full of blackcurrant and with a touch of mint. This was a very poised and elegant wine, which reminded me of a decent quality Cabernet Sauvignon. Quality: 7.5; Value: 7.0.
By this point in the evening the hearty portions and the rich flavours meant that we weren’t able to face pudding – or cheeses (sacrebleu!), instead we took what remained of our wine and sat in a very comfortable pair of armchairs in a nice lounge just off the restaurant. A very pleasant way to end a very pleasant evening.
I’m glad that I got a chance to visit Bistrot Bruno Loubet before it closed (you can too if you book a table before 6 April!), but I wish Chef Loubet and all the team luck with their new venture – Grain Store Unleashed, which looks to take the concept that they use in the Grain Store (where they make the vegetables the stars of the menu) even further.
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