Category Archives: Menus
On a recent Sunday, as the sun cast a gentle glow over the lazy autumn day, a group of us walked to Chez Bruce, the Michelin-starred restaurant on Bellevue Road by London’s lush Wandsworth Common. Now that we’re domiciled in the Sarf London ‘hood, it was time to check out this south-western stalwart of the cuisine scene, established in 1995 by the restaurant’s namesake, Bruce Poole, and Nigel Platts- Martin.
Monsieur had been a little bemused by a call and e-mail to check that we were still on track for our reservation, presumably to assure restaurant management that we weren’t going to do a runner, leaving a coveted, yet empty table on their hands. They needn’t have worried; we’d been eager to visit Chez Bruce since moving into the general area at the end of the summer (and before). Besides, I’d already printed a sample menu and drooled lovinglyover the delectable descriptions of Chez Bruce creations. Once I’ve done the drooling, there’s no turning back.
The initial impression of the dining room is that of self-assurance: clean lines, a calming neutral shade on the walls and the careful placement of contemporary tableaux about the place (some quite diverse, but enough space between them to create more of a gallery feel than a clash of the artworks), all creating a quietly confident ambience. The floors and furniture are no-nonsense dark wood, the tables all shrouded in crisp white linens, the glassware sparkling in its simplicity, the overall look completely unpretentious, yet elegant and somehow moneyed at the same time. It takes quite a knack to pull off this genre of presentation – a bit like the no-make-up-make-up-look.
The menu arrived, positively bulging with seasonal produce, from butternut squash to game – it was fit for the season. Our waitress proffered first a round of spiced cheese crackers, then the bread basket. I chose a cube of focaccia that was so fresh it was like eating a little cloud of Italian bread.
The yellow circle of butter sat on a streaky slab of granite – creating a subtly artistic table statement with geometry and contrasting textures on the otherwise blank canvas. Shortly after carafes of red and white wine hit the table, our starters arrived. Monsieur’s came just before mine: a bright little red casserole dish of venison dotted with home-made spaetzle and my favourite-ever fungus – the girolle.
I have quite a thing for mushrooms, so my starter of choice was the wild mushroom and parmesan custard with fennel salad and truffled polenta chips.
The mushrooms hid in the savoury custard at the bottom of the dish, whilst dice of braised fennel and courgette sat atop the eggy mix. The custard was rich, so rich that it demanded the coolness of the vegetable ‘salad’ to balance it out. The earthy mushroom, pungent parmesan and soft aniseed of fennel complemented each other in both flavour and texture: strong to fresh, soft to crisp. The polenta chips were also a delight – creamy within their delicate, crisp, golden exterior. I thanked the angels for only sending me four, thus saving my already ample hips from further curvature. As for the quantity of the dish, it was well-gauged; I couldn’t have eaten another bite, but a mouthful less would have left me begging for more.
The game on the menu almost lured me in, but in the end it wass the skate that caught me. Light, with a zig-zag of deep orange butternut squash purée, fresh mussels echoing the amber hue, and sage leaves so crispy that they were a treat in their own right.
It was time for dessert. Confusion set in. Should I indulge in the warming poached pear or satisfy my inner cheeselover with a plate of England’s finest? I deferred to the wisdom of our waitress, Fran.
“The hot chocolate pudding’s a signature dish here,” she told me and, with her knowing look and nod of encouragement, three out of four of our party were persuaded in this gooey direction. It was really quite exquisite, with a refreshing scoop of praline parfait melting into marbled magnificence about the warm chocolate base, but once more I was impressed by how well the chefs had judged quantity. With such intense sweetness, no matter how well counterbalanced by its creamy partner, the chocolate pudding could easily have pushed one over the gastronomic edge, had it been even one dessertspoonful larger.
As it was, we could all still move after our Sunday afternoon feast at Chez Bruce, happily walking the long way home, with detours in the interest of regional familiarisation. The food had happily exceeded our (high) expectations, yet hadn’t swamped our digestive system to the point of regret. The staff were psychic – predicting exactly when we might need them and disappearing when we didn’t. At one point in conversation, I swear I didn’t see our wine glasses being filled, yet miraculously they had been. This was a disconcerting show of extraordinary stewardship for the woman who prides herself on her observational skills, prompting me to wonder if the Chez Bruce staff uniform might include invisibility cloaks. It’s not easy to deliver top service without making a patron feel smothered and at Chez Bruce they do it so effortlessly that they should could open a school for aspiring members of the hospitality fraternity, teaching this very art.
So, in summary – Chez Bruce has it all: a Michelin star, beautifully-appointed dining room, leafy outlook, fine food in elegant quantities and highly-practised staff. With such a delicious neighbour, we’re sure to be back for more.
Chez Bruce, 2 Bellevue Road, London, SW17 7EG
Telephone: 020 8672 0114
Tags: Art in restaurants, Bruce Poole, Chez Bruce, England, Epicurienne, Excellent restaurant service in London, Excellent restaurants in London, Fluffy focaccia, food, Interior design in restaurants, London, London food, Michelin restaurant guide, Michelin starred restaurants, Nigel Platts-Martin, Paintings in restaurants, Restaurant art, Restaurant decor, restaurants, Spiced cheese crackers, SW17, The art of excellent service, travel, UK, UK food, Venison with spaetzle and girolles, Wandsworth Common, Wandsworth restaurants
High Tea is a quintessentially English tradition, introduced by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, to maintain one’s aristocratic blood sugar levels between an early luncheon and dinner served late into the evening. The tradition caught on rapidly, developed with the Earl of Sandwich’s then-revolutionary idea to place fillings between slices of bread, and is now firmly entrenched in the country’s culinary identity. Travel anywhere in England and you’re sure to find somewhere at which to take a high tea. Slight regional variations cast welcome individuality across teas throughout the land, from Land’s End to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, although I’m fairly certain that the afternoon tea currently en vogue at Le Méridien Piccadilly is peerless for its particular take on the conventional.
The food component of Le Méridien’s high tea follows the usual format with a mixture of savoury and sweet:
- A selection of finger sandwiches, filled with cucumber and cream cheese, honey roast ham and mustard, Scottish smoked salmon, egg and cress
- Warm homemade scones with strawberry jam and Cornish clotted cream
- A selection of pastries
- Some wicked petits fours (in our case to include macarons and a custard tart)
So far, so straightforward. Straightforward, that is, until we get to the tea. Forget chamomile, lapsang souchong and Earl Grey. At Le Méridien you’ll find your teapot filled with a gin-based infusion, giving a whole new meaning to G&T(ea). If that isn’t unusual enough, the gin flavour is then enhanced by the addition of fragrant ingredients, so, on the afternoon tea menu you might see:
- A choice of herbal or fruit infused gin and tonic syrup
- Monkey 47 Gin infused with lavender
- Bulldog Gin with fresh lychee fruit
- Cucumber infused Hendrick’s Gin
- Vanilla and chilli infused Sloane’s
- Sweet Basil infused Gin Mare stirred with rosemary
- Japanese green tea infused with Beefeater 24
The infusion is served in a clear glass tonic reduction teapot, with a small glass jug of tonic water with which to adjust the G n Tea to the desired strength. Naturally, to try all six of the suggested brews might leave one somewhat wobbly on one’s pins, so we restricted our intake to just a couple. The lavender-flavoured Monkey 47 Gin surprised me with the strength of its aroma – so much so that I didn’t feel the need to drink it, but I did have a few sips of the cucumber-infused Hendrick’s gin. This was a curiously warm yet cooling combination. On another occasion I’d be tempted to swig the lot. Alas, the day was not yet over by a long shot so it was time to exercise restraint. Next stop? The pool in Le Méridien’s basement for a preprandial dip.
The G&T Afternoon Tea at Le Méridien Piccadilly is served in The Terrace Grill and Bar from 12pm to 6pm. Cost: £32.00 per person.
If gin isn’t your tipple, fret not! There are other afternoon teas on offer:
The Terrace Afternoon Tea – served with finger sandwiches, scones, pastries and your choice from the extensive selection of teas and coffees. £25.00 per person.
The Light Afternoon Tea – served with finger sandwiches and scones and your choice of tea or coffee. £18.00 per person.
The Champagne Afternoon Tea – served with a flute of champagne, finger sandwiches, scones and pastries, tea or coffee. £35.00 per person.
Tags: Afternoon tea, afternoon tea in London, Afternoon tea with G&T, Anna Seventh Duchess of Bedford, Beefeater 24 Gin, Bulldog Gin, Champagne afternoon tea, Devonshire Tea, Earl of sandwich, eating out in London, England, Epicurienne, Finger sandwiches, Gin, Gin and tonic, Gin Mare, Glass tonic reduction teapot, Hendrick's Gin, High tea, Invention of afternoon tea, Invention of the sandwich, Le Meridien, Le Meridien Piccadilly, Light afternoon tea, London, Monkey 47 Gin, Petits fours, Restaurants in London, Scones with jam and clotted cream, Sloane's Gin, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Terrace afternoon tea, The Terrace Bar and Grill Piccadilly, travel, UK, Unusual afternoon teas
Having spent the better part of this year looking for a house, finding one, moving and carrying out any number of related activities, Monsieur and I have finally been able to introduce our new home to family and friends. At last we have our own little garden and room for a barbecue, so Monsieur has been honing his barbie skills, and the number of people invited to be his guinea pigs has gradually risen to the point where we felt confident to have a small housewarming.
The kind folk at Courvoisier contributed to our evening by sending over everything necessary for a Courvoisier punch: bottles of cognac, lemonade, bitters, fruit, even the punch bowl and ladle. It made a delicious cocktail with which to welcome our guests and is a doddle to make:
250ml Courvoisier cognac
20 dashes of Angostura bitters
slices of fruit
combine all in punch bowl
(if you don’t have a punch bowl, use a large salad bowl and soup ladle instead)
Anchoïade and a french onion dip served with crudités
Smoked salmon and dill cream pastry cups
Duck and Sauternes mini-toasts
Meats from M Moen & Sons, barbecued by Monsieur:
chipolata, merguez and Cumberland sausages
chicken breasts in a smoky paprika marinade from the Weber
spicy chicken and chorizo skewers
and some Epic creations:
vegetarian kebabs with peppers, onions, mushrooms and halloumi
field mushrooms stuffed with Boursin and sprinkled with grated Parmesan
prawn skewers in teriyaki sauce
courgette ribbons in teriyaki sauce
potato salad laced with wholegrain mustard
classic lemon cream linguine
red berries soaked in Courvoisier with warm fudge sauce and vanilla ice cream
We had a wonderful time with the friends who could make it. For all those who couldn’t, rest assured we’ll be doing it again. And again. And again and again and again.
Special thanks to Holly Saich and Courvoisier UK for so kindly helping our housewarming to get off to a tasty start. And a special mention for Monsieur, who just might become the next barbecue expert on the block. I’m really quite impressed by his fast-developing barbie skills. At the rate he stokes those flames, we just might have to rename him Lucifer.
Tags: Anchoiade, Barbecue, Chicken and chorizo skewers, Chipolata, Classic lemon cream linguine, Cognac, Cognac cocktails, Courvoisier, Courvoisier cognac, Courvoisier punch, Courvoisier-soaked red berries with warm fudge sauce and vanilla ice cream, Crudites, Cumberland sausages, Duck and Sauternes parfait toasts, Epicurienne, Field mushrooms stuffed with boursin, French Onion dip, Housewarming, M Moen & Sons, Merguez sausages, Moving house, Smoked salmon and dill cream pastry cups, Smoky paprika marinade for chicken, Teriyaki courgette ribbons, Teriyaki prawn skewers, Top London butchers, Vegetable and halloumi skewers, Weber barbecues, Wholegrain mustard potato salad