Bistrot Bruno Loubet at The Zetter Hotel

The Zetter Hotel, 86-88 Clerkenwell Road , London, EC1M 5RJ

Bistrot Bruno Loubet

SquareMeal Review of Bistrot Bruno Loubet at The Zetter Hotel

BISTRO BRUNO LOUBET AT THE ZETTER HOTEL CLOSED PERMANENTLY IN 2015

With its gregarious vibe, speedy “top-notch” service, funky recycled furniture and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking St John’s Square, Bruno Loubet’s eatery at The Zetter is a far cry from the soulless environment of many hotel restaurants. Similarly, the menu avoids the usual clichés in favour of a zesty pan-Mediterranean style with earthy Provençal overtones – a formula that appeals to Clerkenwell’s creatives and architects, who keep the place animated during the week. Braised octopus Niçoise is a subtle update of the brasserie stalwart, beef bourguignon is “excellent” and confit lamb shoulder is pepped up with preserved lemon purée and green harissa. Good-value wines explore France’s lesser-known regions, while a short list of original aperitifs provides a refreshing start – try the aromatic Provence (vermouth with Bruno’s homemade infusion of lemon, orange, lavender and rosemary).

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7.7

Food & Drink: 8.1

Service: 7.9

Atmosphere: 8.1

Value: 7.1

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 3.0

Aymeric V. bronze reviewer 14 February 2014

Thursday night, pretty busy but not too much. I love the cocktail Madame Clerkenwell. Starters were really nice (snails and salmon). The quenelles (not Anelka) were also savoury and the Boeuf bourguignon was excellent. We were eating at the bar so service was fast, and we could try the wines so that was good (not too expensive). It is not cheap but I would definitely recommend it.

Food & Drink: 3.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 1.0

David B. 06 August 2013

Good points first. The staff were courteous and the food was good in the main. My main of herb-stuffed rabbit leg was succulent and just as it should be. My starter of Provençal artichoke and ricotta salad was less of a success. The artichokes were bright orange and I worked out they had been infused in saffron. Two flavours at war and neither able to show to advantage. Nor is ricotta a good salad ‘dressing’. My fellow diners had a soup starter, which was praised, and duck pastrami, which needed to come with a magnifying glass. No desserts. After apéritifs (white wine for my fellow diners and a Campari soda for me) we drank a so-so bottle of Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueuil that was, I think, greedily priced at £31.50. That leads me to the bill, an excessive £154 including service. It included £7 for two bottles of water. This was water brought to the table without a by-your-leave in an unbranded swivel-stoppered bottle and simply poured. In other words it appeared to be complimentary. The second bottle was also brought without being requested and we only drank a thimbleful from it. Was it mineral water, I asked the waitress, when I saw the bill. It was from their own borehole, she said. That's a first. We were also charged for a second bread basket – less venal, but it should have been signalled. Such a charge is not usual. My Campari, which I recalled had appeared on the drinks list for £3.50, weighed in at £6. I decided not to make an issue of this, thinking I might have misread the list – but an online check when I got home showed I was right. Nor was the extra £2.50 the price of the soda water. That appeared separately. Even the wine was 50p more than the price on the list.

Food & Drink: 5.0

Service: 5.0

Atmosphere: 5.0

Value: 5.0

Robin W. 05 August 2013

Bruno Loubet at The Zetter Hotel is a brilliant Bistro and a real addition to the London scene. The flavour combinations and choice of ingredients are brilliant, just like they used to be all those years ago before he went “down under”. Service is excellent and a good choice of wines. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone looking for somewhere just that bit better than the competition. The Beetroot Ravioli, which I understand is a best seller, is a stroke of genius. The pea pancake with poached eggs and a lemony salad is a wonderful dish. Brunch of the Beetroot ravioli followed by the pea pancake as well as a Negroni or a Bloody Mary is as good as you could get anywhere. Perfect brunch. Please open a branch in West London ROBERT

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 3.0

Tim P. bronze reviewer 25 October 2012

I had dinner at Bistrot Bruno Loubet with a friend on Wednesday 24 October. As others have commented, the food is gutsy and flavoursome. I ordered the snails and meatballs as a starter, and fillet of cod as a main course, both of which I enjoyed very much. I asked the sommelier to recommend a white wine and he suggested the Côtes du Roussillon Blanc ''Cuvée Centenaire'' (£33.25), which was the perfect accompaniment to the meal. The restaurant was busy and buzzy. I would not hesitate to recommend this restaurant based on my experience.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 4.0

Eelko-Jan G. 11 June 2012

My favourite restaurant in London for several reasons: - gutsy food full of huge flavours - plates look amazing but focus is on big flavours not how the plate is dressed - excellent wine list, not focused on the big hitting wallet draining Bordeauxs but loads of excellent value wines from other French regions (Vacqueyras, Madiran, Cahors, Crozes Hermitage etc) – starters under £10, mains under £20 and the portions are decent size - relaxed atmosphere - in a great area of Clerkenwell

Food & Drink: 3.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 4.0

Tanya B. bronze reviewer 27 November 2011

I very quickly glossed through other diner reviews (just to look at the scores), and noticed that most people think the food in this place is very good. Perhaps I ordered the wrong things, or I have simple tastes or else I have different taste buds from everyone else, but I was totally underwhelmed by the food in this admittedly atmospheric restaurant. I was there for a friend's birthday and most of my friends really seemed to enjoy their food, but I really really didn't. There wasn't really anything I could say I found revolting (I ate everything on my plate – I have a healthy appetite!) or that wasn't skilfully cooked. It just really wasn't my cup of tea at all. Starter – Guinea fowl boudin blanc on Jerusalem artichoke and cep – flavourful, but I won't be trying this again. It was the first time I had tried boudin blanc so perhaps that was why I didn't enjoy it? Thought it was just a bit slimy really and wished I'd ordered something else. Not the most appetising thing to look at on a plate either. Looked rather insipid on the plate. Main – Hare royale à la Bistrot Bruno Loubet. Apparently a signature dish? I just didn't get the fuss to be perfectly honest. I didn't enjoy the mix of textures in the dish, but then I really am not a fan of terrine either, which is what it reminded me of – it was like a hot terrine without the jelly plus a lot of very dark treacly looking sauce (placed on a bed of mashed potato). Very rich – too rich for some. That's all I can say really. Dessert – Bizarrely there was nothing actually on the dessert menu which I really wanted to try. This amazed my friends who were struggling to choose. Clearly we just have different tastes. When I found out that the Poached rhubarb, strawberry & balsamic jam conversation was similar to a mille feuille I decided that that was the dessert for me. Disappointingly the jam was just far too sweet for my liking. I'll stick to the real deal thanks, and limit it to something I have with a cup of tea or coffee in the middle of the day. One of my friends sitting next to me did seem to fare better on the food front claiming all three courses she tried were delicious – I wish I had ordered what she did! : couscous with king prawns (on the specials) for starters; pan fried sea bream, cauliflower and parsley purée, squid ink stew for her main; and orange and cardamom crème brulée, orange blossom sorbet for dessert. I can vouch for the dessert which surprisingly (I don't like orange in my desserts) good – very subtle flavouring. Another friend tried the Mauricette snails and meatballs, royale de champignons sauvages for starters (which I tried – pretty nice, but again I personally wasn't wowed by it). She also had the Pear and ginger financier cake, goat's milk ice cream, vincotto for dessert which I also tried. The ice cream was surprisingly pleasant (I don't like goat's milk..or so I thought, but all tasted just fine to me). The let down was the pear and ginger financier cake though – couldn't taste any ginger in it at all. Look at me..the moaning minnie! As I said, everyone else in my group (including the most important person that evening – the birthday girl) seemed to really enjoy their food, but I'll be doing my best to come up with excuses not to return.

Food & Drink: 3.0

Service: 2.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 3.0

Junglefresh. gold reviewer 19 November 2011

Just wanted to update my earlier review of lunch in September, went there for breakfast this week. A very simple order of coffee and poached egg on hash took 45 minutes to be delivered when the place was 75% empty. Awkward though friendly waitress with no excuse except the kitchen was “slow today as we are short-staffed”. Oh dear, mediocre in September, poor in November. And I used to be a fan. Apart from the zany pieces of furniture dotted about, I can't see that Mr Loubet has had much effect on the place since the re-badging. I was always happy to go to the old Zetter and I'm now happy to go to the “new one” too. The food is much the same, modern, honest, tasty with ok portions. Good people serving, friendly not servile. Bright room, filtered well-water… Decent enough place to go to for lunch – but nothing to set the pulse racing, which is what a new 'patron" should bring and in my view is what is needed to elevate this review to a 9. I have read Richard's review but can't really match his level of enthusiasm for my experience, though I would have liked to.. We did not kmow BL – so did not get the friends' frills, “only” what Joe Public gets.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 4.0

Richard E. platinum reviewer 03 June 2011

To misquote ex Galactic President Beeblebrox, this place is so hip it has difficulty seeing over its own pelvis; so cool you could keep a side of meat in it for a month. Just the place for three middle age suits to hang out, pretending not to gawp at the local attractions, tottering in their Jimmies and Loubs. I’m old enough to remember when this part of Clerkenwell was a desert, grub- and watering- wise, which isn’t that old. Then His Royal Highness, King Fergus, opened St Johns, the Jerusalem Tavern followed a few years later, then Match. Now you can’t swing a cat without hitting a restaurant, bar or feeding-/watering- hole of some sort. None is so cool as Bruno’s Bistro. The room is nothing special, although you can enter through the sub-zero entrance that is the Zetter Hotel, so as to prepare yourself for the wafting jazz-funk that envelopes the room. The kitchen is small and open, so that you can see BL at work, with his small brigade, and the large windows mean that the whole place feels light and airy, even when pretty full. Starters were standard bistro style, with boudin blanc with peas and lettuce being especially good: a light, sausage shaped chicken mousse, offset by the richness of the peas upon which it perched. One of our number knows BL, so we got a nice little in between course, a pre-main if you will: soft duck egg with parmesan. Heavenly. What with amuse bouches and pre-deserts, I really hope the idea of a pre-main doesn't catch on in more Michelin aspirational places. The mains too were terrific, with the quail and broad beans and bunny wrapped in bacon, smeared with carrot puree, standing out. I am pretty sure that the waitress had told us that the special pasta was lamb’s sweetbreads, but the dish came with artichoke. No real matter, it was excellent anyway. I am not usually a desert man, but I was told that the chocolate with caramel was excellent, and so it proved. Honestly, however, the salty chocolate caramel truffles at Magdalen are a step above. No mind, an honourable mention to BL for his marriage of chocolate, caramel and salt. Overall, very good indeed: bistro food done to a high standard, in a jazz-funk cooled environment.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 4.0

James J. silver reviewer 03 April 2011

We entered Bistrot Bruno Loubet behind a woman in spectacularly high Christian Loubetins, and the sight of her teetering to her table was almost enough to distract us from appreciating the under-stated style of the room. It curves round the ground floor of the Zetter hotel, overlooking one of Clerkenwell’s loveliest squares, history closing in on it from every side. Bruno Loubet’s return to London after a spell in Oz (lucky Brisbanians) is to be welcomed by all who remember his cooking from the previous Bistrot Bruno in Soho (where Arbutus now is, if I remember rightly) and from L’Odéon on Regent Street. Loubet is a true artist in the kitchen: reinventing, re-invigorating, re-imagining and coaxing stunning marriages of French tradition with British produce at its best. One of our main courses perfectly encapsulated the Loubet Style. It was announced on the menu simply as ‘Roast Rabbit with “forgotten” root vegetables’ but in reality was a fabulous celebration of rabbit in a seasonally-derived and perfectly harmonious clothing. The rabbit was de-boned and wrapped in pancetta and then in a light almond crust – it looked slightly like a fishcake – and the taste was amazing, the sweetness of the bunny set off by the salty complexity of the cured pork. Rustic and sophisticated at the same time – divine! And I won’t quickly forget the forgotten roots (Jerusalem artichoke, salsify, beetroot and carrot). My partner had a fillet of sea bream sitting on a purée of cauliflower (with a touch of fennel?) surrounded by a sea of squid ink stew and an intensely flavoured purée of parsley sitting on top, providing a powerful, comforting top note. And the starters were a joy too: a plate of antipasti, beautifully arranged on the plate, offering a constellation of individual flavours – roasted cherry tomatoes, aubergine, black olives, blood orange, fig, chicory and the softest fromage frais, lightly infused with onion or garlic. It was a perfect way to kick-start the taste buds. My partner opted for a boudin blanc of guinea fowl on a squash barley base – it was smooth and soft, and the risotto-esque foundation had the same comforting quality of a first-rate rice pudding, and some of the same sweetness and depth. Puddings didn’t disappoint either: a very thin apple tart on the crispest of puff pastries, with a crème fraiche and cinnamon ice-cream – a French classic, and beautifully executed – and a chocolate Marquise with a salted caramel ice-cream, again done with great finesse and terrific mis-en-scène. The service was perfect as only a largely French crew can deliver – young, attentive, charming, quietly efficient and friendly: nothing was forced, nothing was lax! (Why can’t we Brits offer that kind of effortless attention?) Add in a bottle of robust Vin de Pays du Var and a couple of glasses of Jurançon and the bill, with service, came to £128 (which would probably pay for the red lacquer under a single Loubetin shoe!). It was worth every penny. A memorable meal, and a perfect end to a tough week.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 3.0

Ian C. 30 March 2011

Really imaginative food, beautifully presented. Proper bistro feel to it. Great for offal and unusual cuts. Attentive and professional service and very popular (deservedly so). Reasonable value and good for the quality

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