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Chez Bruce

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Gary, I think it's an illusion that the Ivy is expensive, a illusion driven by the tabloid press who keep touting it as one of London's most expensive and exclusive restaurants. I was only commenting yesterday that it is actually one of the better value restaurants in London.

and it can't be that exclusive if i can get in :biggrin:


you don't win friends with salad

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After a two and a half year hiatus from London’s “favourite” restaurant due to a run of disappointments we decided to pay a visit just before Christmas. Well actually it was always going to take something a little out of the ordinary to tempt me to return but a neighbour’s £150 gift voucher purchased for £100 did the trick; perhaps I should’ve been a Spurs fan.

Food was average to poor to actively nasty. The best dish, a starter of Ceviche of tuna with king prawn tempura, lime, coriander and pine nuts was nicely done with a lovely light, crispy tempura batter. Hot duck, potato and bacon terrine with poached egg and red wine was competent if ultimately one dimensional.

Roast Anjou pigeon with sweet and sour vegetables, peanuts and foie gras carried a £4 supp. I presume for the small piece of overcooked liver. The pigeon lacked flavour and was overpowered by the Oriental nature of the dish. I was left craving a bag of prawn crackers. Rump of lamb with braised savoy cabbage, dauphinois croquettes and rosemary included a decent chunk of meat; unfortunately the whole dish was overwhelmed by the harsh smell and taste of raw garlic that obviously hadn’t been cooked out correctly in the braised cabbage or in the jus. As a result a high percentage of the dish was inedible.

Almond panacotta with crisp date cigars and pedro ximinez sherry was a travesty. The panacotta was overset in half a martini glass with a pour of sherry over the top. The cream had no discernable flavour and the raw sherry was harsh and alcoholic, unlike any PX I’ve tasted before. And there was me imagining a wobbly panacotta in the centre of a plate surrounded by a sweet, sticky sherry syrup. Valrhona chocolate tart with pecan brittle ice cream was fine if slightly dry.

The majority of servers are of eastern European origin making communication more awkward than need be. Among numerous niggles our complaint about the lamb dish was never satisfied from the kitchen and the hostess just wore a bemused smile and a shrug of the shoulders as we raised some issues with her.

The only real highlight was the bottle of 1999 Jamet Cote Rotie we drank which deserved a far better restaurant to show itself off in.

So even with our £50 credit we spent £126, very poor value for such disappointing food; thank god it wasn’t the full £176. Absolutely no reason to return ever again.

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I had a meal at Chez Bruce in Wandsworth last week. I found it to be very pleasant and enjoyable. What are your experiences of the restaurant?

My report is below:

Chez Bruce

Location: 2 Bellevue Rd.

London, SW17

020-8672 0114

Underground: Rail: Wandsworth Common

Cuisine: French

Chef: Bruce Poole

Food Rating: 15/20

Price: £99 (Price I paid, wine was £88.00)

Link: www.chezbruce.co.uk

Chez Bruce is built on the site where Harveys (Marco Pierre White’s legendary restaurant and the site of one of the finest meals I have had in the UK) used to be located. The chef is Bruce Poole, formerly head chef of the Michelin starred Chez Max. Poole describes his cooking as “refined brasserie” and is a big fan of punchy and robust flavours with dishes such as “Seafood Paella with Chorizo and Marinated Grilled Quail” on the menu.

The ambience is pleasant enough. The tables are “tightly packed” (or crowded, depending on your terminology) and the restaurant, based on this experience as well as my previous visits, is nearly always busy.

I began with “Rare Grilled Tuna with Prawn Tempura, Tomato Salsa, Avocado and Coriander” and this was a wise choice. The tuna was correctly timed and the zingy salsa complimented it well adding a real freshness to the dish with a cleansing effect on the palate. The dish was however let down by the slightly soggy tempura prawns (14/20). Katherine began her meal with “Rabbit Schnitzel with Fried Quail’s Eggs, Anchovies and Capers”. The schnitzel was well cooked and the robustness of the rabbit and the fried egg were tempered well with the salty notes of the anchovies and the capers (15/20).

I opted for a main course of “Confit Pork Belly with Caramelised Scallops, Parsley Purée, Potato Gnocchi and Baby Beetroot” as I happen to be a fan of surf and turf. The rich, unctuous and meltingly tender pork belly was a divine combination with the sweet sea scallops and this was without doubt the dish of the night (17/20). Katherine elected for “Herb Crusted Fillet of Halibut with a Fricassée of Broad Beans, Peas, Gem Lettuce and Shrimps”. This was once more assured cooking, the halibut well cooked and the vegetables of good quality (15/20).

We each paid a six pound supplement to have an additional course of cheese. The cheese, sourced from Neals Yard, was in good condition (15/20). The desserts were also good; a “Rum Baba with Exotic Fruit Salad, Coconut Sorbet and Mint” (15/20) for me and a “Crème Brûlée” (14/20) for Katherine.

Service is efficient without being overbearing and the waiters are always happy to assist you in anyway possible. The wine list is of great variety from relatively inexpensive New World wines to highly valuable vintages and sommelier Terry Threlfall is of great help when you are choosing your wine.

Overall Chez Bruce is not the spectacle nor the theatre that Harveys was but it is solid Michelin starred cooking with dishes that are well thought out and well executed. The overall rating of 15/20 tells you that this is in the middle ground of where a one star Michelin restaurant should be and I would recommend Chez Bruce to most because of its value for money (from experience the lunch menu is particularly good). There are no frills or fireworks here just sensible, honest and delicious food.


Edited by Patrick Foley (log)

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Haven't been for a while, but word on the street it isn't what it once was (recently sneaked onto a list of UKs most overrated restaurants by an alternative guide). My experiences in the past have ranged from the solid to the good, but not necessarily overwhelming. As you allude, Bruce's style of cooking doesn't lend itself to the fireworks of the old Harveys.

Having said that I suspect Chez Bruce still retains the dubious distinction of "Best Restaurant South of the River" (especially with the departures of Glas and Putney Bridge), although Magdalen may be pushing it close.

I wonder if we will ever see a two star south of the thames but north of the M25 ever again?

J


Edited by Jon Tseng (log)

More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!

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i went last night but my report would be slightly biased, obviously a restaurant close to my heart and in my humble opinion still one of a handful of restaurants in the uk that offers the complete experience.


Matt Christmas.

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"correctly timed" please, what on earth does this mean people, that it arrived on time in the same way that a train would? how on earth do you not "correctly time" rare grilled tuna? oonly if the chef goes out to have a fag and leaves it on the grill and then chooses to serve it.


Matt Christmas.

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still one of a handful of restaurants in the uk that offers the complete experience.

What do you mean by "complete experience" and what are the other restaurants in your handful?

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Blimey- since when did we all give scores on the doors.! (Sorry don't mean to be rude, but it sounds like a guide book review rather then a personal one)

No offence meant.


http://www.allium.uk.net

http://alliumfood.wordpress.com/ the alliumfood blog

"Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, champagne in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming - Whey hey what a ride!!!, "

Sarah Poli, Firenze, Kibworth Beauchamp

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Blimey- since when did we all give scores on the doors.! (Sorry don't mean to be rude, but it sounds like a guide book review rather then a personal one)

No offence meant.

Not any guide book you'd actually buy though!

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still one of a handful of restaurants in the uk that offers the complete experience.

What do you mean by "complete experience" and what are the other restaurants in your handful?

oh i don't know, just sounded right at the time. i have tried to formulate arguments but you will find more holes in them than a holey thing with holes in it. it has something to do with equal effort spent on service and food without either dictating how the other should be. i think this stems from it being a restaurant without an ego, it is always trying to be better than it already is. anyway, don't really want to get into it as i am biased and i only reply because you asked!


Matt Christmas.

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Hi,

I had lunch here yesterday. If you can find the time, they do a full lunchtime menu for £20 for 2 courses (£25 for 3).

I've been here a few times and can never find fault with it. It is a perfect neighbourhood restaurant. The standout elements for me is how multiple gutsy ingredients are combined with subtlety which never overpowers the diner.

For example, I had:

Starter - lamb tongue & sweetbreads with potato salad and a nicoise sauce

Main - veal cheeks with risotto milanese and seared artichokes.

The cooking has real flair and obvious skill, especially when incorporating summer flavours.

I think some people have great expectations of fancy dining, especially when cost of dinner is £40. You don't get any extras just 3 really well cooked dishes.

regards

Fergal

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Is the lunch menu very similar to the dinner menu ? At the sister restaurants, Glasshouse and Trompette, the menus are almost the same and there are no extras.

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Is the lunch menu very similar to the dinner menu ?  At the sister restaurants, Glasshouse and Trompette, the menus are almost the same and there are no extras.

Pretty similar - they may omit one or two more luxe ingredients [e.g. a plate of duck for dinner would contain some foie gras which is omitted in the (cheaper) lunch menu] or 'upgrading' the dish using a more expensive cut of meat.

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I wish I had a quid for everytime that I have thought of dining at Chez Bruce. Or a quid for every time my friends or others have praised the food here. I must have spent countless hours reading the menus over the years. I wish I had a tenner for every failed attempt to get a weekend table here also but finally,,,,

"12 or 2.30"

"What about 1"

"Sorry nothing at that time"

"Any other times apart from 12 or 2.30?"

"No, I'm afraid not"

Were staying in West London, I'm driving my wifes little rocket, easy parking, nippy as hell, but no sat nav, just a map and a printed google maps journey plan which gives a journey time of 38 minutes. Sod 38 minutes I allow 50 and it takes an hour and a quarter plus parking.

Now I have phoned to say we will be late as the traffic is bad (only good manners) I can't understand as I have been assured that the London Marathon is no where near here.

We get to the table at just after 12.30 and guess what the place is only a third full. After about thirty minutes another table arrives then another, but the place is no where near heaving, and this is the pattern until we leave about two forty five. It really narks me to be offered slots that suit turning the tables, perhaps the traffic will habitually become bad in future :wink:

We found the table to be too small and the chairs uncomfortable and as I gazed around the room distant memories flooded back of our previous visit here, many years ago, then it was Harveys, Marco Pierre White,s restaurant, he who completely dominated the London dining scene at that time. This was where it all happened. I still remember what I ate (which is very unusual for me).

The amuse if you can call it that was a parmesan crisp, which was tasty but screamed out for something to dip it into.

Bread was made on the premises and was, White Sourdough, Granary, and Focaccia and very good indeed it was, especially the Granary.

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Starters were, Crisp fishcake with beurre blanc, smoked haddock, poached egg, shrimps and samphire, and Lambs tongue and breast, with braised peas, bacon, jersey royals and mint.

My medley of Lamb satisfied my craving that I had held all week, the fishcake was declared "OK, not as good as yesterday"

Slow Roast Belly Pork with caramelised apple, creamed potatoes, mustard sauce and crackling was really what this place is about. A stonking plate of food, bursting with Porky flavour, beautiful crackling, melt in the mouth. The unannounced caramelised shallot added a sweet note. The whole lot was devoured like it was my last meal on this earth.

Less sucessfull was the Roast Rib eye with fondant potatoes, green beans, horseradish cream and roasting jus.

Yes it did look the part, but sadly the flavour was not all that. I had a taste and found the beef a bit disappointing taste wise, the horseradish cream had been prepared for wimps, in as much as it had no real umph. A shame in a way but still,,,

By this time our table was annoying us a bit, we were seated in front of a screen which we had not initially noticed was the entrance to the kitchen. As service became busier there was a blur of activity all around us which made me feel quite giddy. Our French waiter struggled with his English a bit when I asked him who was in charge of the Kitchen. In the end I gave up having established that "Matt Christmas was not in today".

Our sommelier was so engrossed in thinking about the Marathon that she poured our wine without asking if I would like to taste it. In a way I felt that summed the service up, it felt like the morning after the night before (Saturday).

Desserts were, Bramley Apple crumble with some nice vanilla flecked custard plus( if you wanted) a dolop of Ice cream. This was pretty bog standard stuff befitting a good neighbourhood restaurant, not really inventive enough for Michelin imo.

I did not try the Hot chocolate pudding with praline parfait, but it was declared "very nice"

We were offered some wonderful shortcake, which my wife declined but I asked if we could take them home with us and they thoughtfully bagged them for us.

Looking back at the menu most of Sundays lunch dishes are on todays website, siting a sample dinner menu from Thurs (I think) so perhaps the real value here is the weekday lunch at £25.50, as opposed to the weekend price of £32.50(lunch) £42.50.(dinner).

We did enjoy it here, in the main, perhaps we eat out too much to really appreciate whats on offer. Therein perhaps lies part of the problem always having comparisons to make.

A weekend lunch for two with a bottle of wine, coffees (which we did not have) service and a bottle of water about £100.

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Hmmm. This was on my list to try next time I have the misfortune to be in South London. But what I think you are describing David is a kind of studied indifference in the service, usually associated with restaurants which have been popular for a long time. Being a long-term regular presumably takes the edge off this. That kind of thing really bugs me so I think I might give it a miss. And the food doesn't look that special either, rather ugly plating with portions too mean to be called "rustic". :)

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