Wednesday, 15 September 2010

A Lesson in Superlative Service: Chez Bruce, Wandsworth

Chez Bruce is exquisite. I’ll tell you that now. There are no quites, nor almosts, nor rathers about it. That I should resist penning superlatives when I write about this Sunday lunch is torturous. But I should, else no one will believe me.

The service is only part of the whole lunch, of course, but it is worth dedicating a healthy chunk to this subject. There are simply two tips that I will give should you fancy a Chez Bruce jaunt.

The first, is to trust. Put yourself in their Chez Brucey hands completely. They know what they are doing. We ordered good G&Ts, expecting better-than-most G&Ts, and drank the best G&Ts. We went for Sunday lunch thinking ‘what a nice Sunday lunch we’ll have’ and received a full four hours of worthwhile attention and a spectacular Sunday lunch. We were so looked after that we emerged, blinkered and mole-like in the sunshine very happy indeed.

The second tip is from Must Drink’s Ruth Ford (who gives her general wine tips below). When choosing the wine - ask the sommelier. To quote:

‘Chez Bruce has one of the best* wine lists in, like, the world, and one of the best* sommeliers in the trade... So my recommendation is - ask the sommelier!’

So we did. And Ruth was right. Terry, a talented Canadian with an extraordinary palate, was woefully underused so we would frequently ask what he thought was the best accompaniment to our courses. Armed with a price, and the menu, he delivered wonders by the glass (wonders can be delivered by the carafe too).

The food is predominantly French, a nod to Larousse, with humour and personality. One bite of each dish was a remarkable evocation of both British and French familiarity - caramelised chicory made friends with traditional roast beef and yorkshire pud; shards of very English runner beans added depth to a coating of bisque and mussels. The textures were inspirational.

And so to the food:

Pigs trotter and calf's brain croquettes with sauce gribiche and dressed leaves
Wine: Terlaner Classico 2009, Cantina Terlano, Alto Adige

Affectionately referred to by the staff as ‘the brains’. The brain croquettes had a hot crunchy outside which couched the wibbly inside. This had the beautiful creamy consistency of chinese steamed egg and was slightly gelatinous. The gribiche - sharp with capers - was a great foil to the brains. The trotter croquette, though delicious, paled beside its wibbly cousin.

Tagliatelle of mussels with runner beans, bisque sauce, saffron and chives
Wine: Albariño 2009, Lagar de Costa, Rias Baixas

Simple. Not too rich, which was my fear. The seasonal runner bean - with that lovely gardeny taste - added an unusual freshness to the dish.

Slow roast belly of pork with glazed apple, onion breadcrumbs and cocotte potatoes
Wine: Barbera d’Alba 2009, Ettore Germano, Piemonte

Flecked with curls of crackling, the large slices of belly were meltingly soft. The belly sat on a burnished sweet buttery slice of apple. The onion breadcrumbs were just another layer of glorious texture and bursts of flavour. And the wine was absolutely stunning with this dish.

Roast Beef with Yorkshire pudding, roasties and red wine
Wine: Touriga Nacional/Tinta Roriz 2004, Quinta Lagoalva de Cima, Ribatejano

A classic which failed to disappoint.

Hot Chocolate pudding with praline parfait
The moat of chocolate sauce disappeared through mopping with fingers. The parfait was studded with the sharp crunch of nutty praline, and when scooped up with a wedge of chocolate was the perfect pudding.

From this cheeseboard we chose:

Roquefort - pungent and tangy.
Napoleon -
a hard sheep’s cheese from the Pyranees. Nutty and fruity and my favourite.
Tunworth -
a British Camembert which puddled into liquid. My second favourite.
Robiola delle langhe- from Italy - a mix of goat, cow and sheep

All the cheese, which was either from La Fromagerie, or Neal's Yard Dairy, was washed down with Taylors Tawny Port: 10 years old, and a child of the 90s. Just.

I thought the long afternoon would peak at the pork, but the cheese outsmarted us all. I can happily and unashamedly say this was one of the tastiest, most exquisite meals I’ve had in a very long time.

* Please excuse the superlatives. It can’t be helped.

Sunday Lunch: £35 for three courses, £5 extra for cheese

Chez Bruce
1 Michelin *
2 Bellevue Rd, London SW17 7EG
020 8672 011


Chez Bruce on Urbanspoon

Ruth Ford's Must Drink!
My advice if you are going to a halfway decent restaurant is use the sommelier. It's all part of the service. They know the wine list, and they will be able to help you find a bottle which will suit the food you have ordered, the occasion, and your taste. What's more, they will take pleasure in doing it. Tell them what you are eating and how much you want to spend and leave them to choose the wine - more often than not you will end up with something you would never have thought of trying. Exciting! Even better if your restaurant, like Chez Bruce, has a good list of wines by the glass and you can taste a different wine with every course...

Terlaner Classico 2009, Cantina Terlano, Alto Adige, Italy

Terlaner is a region in Alto Adige in the far North East of Italy. Wine called Terlaner is white, and based mostly on the Pinot Bianco grape, though some producers also use Chardonnay and/or Sauvignon Blanc in the blend. It is a dry, perfumed, fruity wine which can be beautifully soft and full-flavoured (rather like the brains!).

Albariño 2009, Lagar de Costa, Rias Baixas, Spain

A lovely aromatic wine from Galicia in North West Spain (Albariño is the name of the grape that makes the wine; Rias Baixas is the name of the wine-producing region it comes from). Typical flavours are peach and apricot, but the wine is clean and crisp and light, a perfect companion for Galician seafood, and also for the tagliatelle Helena ordered.

Barbera d’Alba 2009, Ettore Germano, Piemonte, Italy

Another wine from Northern Italy, this time the North West. Barbera is the grape and Alba the place the wine is made. (It is also made in Asti). This is Italy’s third most planted red grape and can vary hugely in quality – at the cheap end it is thin and mean and acidic, but if you spend a few more quid you can find a wine full of rich cherry flavours, soft and ripe in the mouth, finishing with a freshness when you swallow that leaves you wanting another sip immediately. Helena’s Barbera was ‘stunning’: full-bodied and rich enough to get along with the pork, without overpowering the dish.

Touriga Nacional/Tinta Roriz 2004, Quinta Lagoalva de Cima, Ribatejano, Portugal

Here’s a perfect example of a wine you might never think to buy for yourself, so it’s great to be able to try it in a restaurant. Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz are two of the grapes that go into making port, that rich, sweet, heady stuff usually consumed at the end of a meal with a stinky blue cheese. However they also make very good dry red wine. Tinta Roriz is the Portuguese name for Tempranillo, the grape that goes into Rioja. The two grapes blended together make a deep-coloured, intense wine tasting of black fruits and with quite a lot of tannin, which causes that drying sensation you get around your gums after drinking some red wines, and stewed tea. Tannins soften when you eat chewy meat, so eating roast beef with this wine is the perfect thing to do – then the intensity of the wine flavour can shine with the tastiness of the beefy meat.


Kavey said...

FABULOUS review, love it. Looks great, MUST go!

Helena Lee said...

thank you K - yes, get yourself down there! x

Annette said...

I so agree with your review. I have been to Chez Bruce on af ew occaisions,and have not been disappointed yet. Hope to try their sister restaurant in Kew soon. Have heard good things about them as well.

Helena Lee said...

Thanks Annette, I'd love to try it too. Let me know if you do!

Post a Comment