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|Address:||The Zetter Hotel, 86-88 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1M 5RJ|
|Tel:||020 3463 0298|
|Price: £43.00||Wine: £15.95||Champagne: £49.95|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sun 7-10.30am 12N-2.30pm 6-10.30pm|
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Musical chairs at Bistro Bruno Loubet
Bistro Bruno Loubet has been hailed as the restaurant opening of the year so far, as we see Monsieur Loubet return from down under to cook for us. If Mr Loubet’s name rings a bell it is because in the Nineties, Bruno Loubet was all the rage, first at Bistrot Bruno, then at L’Odeon on Regent Street. He has now returned east to the Zetter Hotel, a rather trendy boutique hotel in Clerkenwell. The restaurant dominates the ground floor of the building and its décor reminds me of somewhere Carrie Bradshaw would be seen eating.
However, for some reason, we decided to take the circle line to get to Bistro Bruno Loubet and this helped build up our appetite as we ended up half an hour late for our reservation. If God created earth while by travelling on the Circle line, we would still be in darkness. Stepping in to the restaurant, we were greeted by a lovely sound of people enjoying their evening and we were promptly seated by an ‘Andi Peter’ lookalike maitre’d to a lovely table in the back right corner of the room with a view of both the kitchen and St John’s Square.
Just as we had got comfortable and started to admire the menu, Mr Peters came over and asked us to move seat. A little bemused, I asked why and we were informed that this table was actually for a group of four who had cancelled but now wanted to dine again. I reluctantly agreed to see the other table we were being deported to but the waiter would have needed a passport to serve us as it was basically in the lobby of the hotel so I refused to move. The manager, seeing this fricassee in the middle of his dining room, came over; asked what was happening; was told; he apologised; allowed us to stay at our table; bollocked Andy and then brought over two glasses of champagne to say sorry.
Resettled and debating what to have for dinner, the metaphorical musical chairs music tape started up again and it stopped with Andi asking us to move once again! I was half expecting Edd the Duck, Mr Peter’s TV sidekick to pop out and reveal this was all a joke. Unfortunately, this was not the case and we moved, although to be fair, it was to a better table. Our second complimentary glass of fizz arrived and by now we would move our chairs to sit anywhere as long as we were allowed to order and eat. At least the food made up for the earlier fiasco.
To start with we had Pea soup a la Francaise and Mauricette snails and meatballs with royale de champignons. The soup was a bright Spring green and the smell transformed you to a small leafy village in rural France where you can imagine farmers stopping for lunch on their tractors mopping up the soup with large chunks of baguette. The meatballs had been recommended by many of the well known food critics so I decided to order these. I sometimes find that snails can be overpowered by the garlic sauce they are so normally served in but this was not the case here as garlic did not really feature in this dish. This dish has to be one of the best dishes that I have had in a long time. The texture and taste of the snails worked so well with meatballs in the tomato sauce. This dish made me remember what taste is all about. Imagine you had lost your taste buds and suddenly found them again in this dish. Mouthful after mouthful was like discovering a new primary colour.
To follow, we had the confit lamb shoulder, white bean and preserved lemon puree with green harissa and the pan fried breast of wood pigeon, cauliflower, almond with quinoa and giblet sauce. The lamb was tender and actually tasted of lamb. The white bean and preserved lemon puree with green harissa added a Mediterranean touch to the dish that made a nice difference to the French themed menu. The pan fried breast of wood pigeon was served beautifully medium rare. I often find pigeon can be rich but this pigeon did not overpower and was silkily soft. The plate arrived with very thin slices of cauliflower scattered over the slices of pigeon breast that covered every inch of the plate. I do not know if this was intentional play on the dish but it reminded me of the Italian dish beef tagliata with rocket and parmesan. The almonds added that lovely little crunch to the dish. Almonds and pigeon, shouldn’t really work, but like Dave Cameron and Nick Clegg’s double act, it somehow does.
The wine list was very approachable with a large number of wines under the 30 quid mark. Again, a nice sign that this is trying to be a bistro as one should be able to walk in, have a main course and bottle of wine without having to have the end result of a bank account representing that of Sarah Ferguson.
The total bill was just over £80 including service charge for two starters, two mains and a good bottle of wine. If you are going to dine out once this year, please consider Bistro Bruno Loubet; although be prepared to change seats at least twice during your meal.