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Chez Bruce Review

Katy Harrington knows what's posh and what's not – and Chez Bruce is up there with the best of them

Written by . Published on November 17th 2011.

Chez Bruce Review

ON a scale of one to ten, how posh do you think you are? (One being ‘I eat cold baked beans out of a can and my sister is my wife’ and ten being ‘Dah-ling, you absolutely MUST come to lunch on Tarquin and Binky’s yacht this summer… in St Barts’). Well, I reckon I’m about a four and a half. That means I don’t have ‘help’ or own any real fur, but my wardrobe isn’t entirely made up of grey tracksuit bottoms from Primark either. When it comes to eating out, I’m not exactly a chicken snackbox followed by a McFlurry kinda gal, but nor am I one who likes silver service, stiff linen table cloths and stuff with truffle shavings on top.

My date found a small piece of shot in the pigeon, which I’m sure isn’t good, but really I have little sympathy. If you shoot a damn bird then you can’t moan that it has shot in it, that’s like kicking someone in the shin and then complaining you have a sore toe.

Chez Bruce is well posh. Situated on Bellvue Road in SW17, I imagine this is the kind of place Binky and Tarquin would bring Mummy for Sunday lunch. Bruce Poole set up here in 1995 with his business partner Nigel Platts-Martin with the intention of serving the best of classical French food in a relaxed setting. I don’t know about relaxed, but the dining room is immaculate, simply decorated and trés chic.

The dinner menu (which changes daily) costs £45 for three courses (coffee and mineral water not included). Our list of starters included veal salad, rabbit terrine and raw scallops, with a vegetarian tart and a soup option for the less carnivorous among us, while the mains favoured meat eaters even more with choices of coquelet, cote be boeuf, grouse and three fish dishes.

We went for buckwheat pappardelle with wood pigeon, braised hare, wild mushrooms and pancetta (eh…would you like some meat with your meat?) which was overwhelmingly brown and quelle surprise…meaty. It’s a posh dish, the kind of thing you can boast to your friends about having eaten, but not necessarily one you’d want to eat again.

One unpleasantness – my date found a small piece of shot in the pigeon, which I’m sure isn’t good, but really I have little sympathy. If you shoot a damn bird then you can’t moan that it has shot in it, that’s like kicking someone in the shin and then complaining you have a sore toe.

Img_1463This is, in fact, not the Roast cod, but the Chickpea Pastilla

Anyhoo, with the pescatarian options limited I asked if I could have the delicious sounding spiced chickpea pastilla with bulgar wheat, aubergine pickle, greek yogurt and mint main course for my starter and they happily obliged. It was a good call and the best dish of the evening by far. Gorgeous light parcels filled with spicy veg, perfect for dipping in the mouthwatering aubergine pickle and yogurt.  

The wine list at Chez Bruce is a tome; 30 pages of wines divided by region. You could spend hours deciding but I get bored easily so opted for the first bottle I could afford on the top of page six, otherwise know as Muscadet-Sèvre-et-Maine sur lie, Domaine de la Quilla (£26).

Chez Bruce Interior Hres 

It came with a little ceremony, as you would expect in a good French restaurant, and was poured by the wine waiter (not to be confused with the regular waiter or the maître d’), which really adds to the occasion. And being Irish, I happen to find great comfort in the fact that when I go out to eat there is a man whose sole job is to make sure I order the right booze.

The roast cod with olive oil mash, provencale tomato and gremolate is a regular dish at Chez Bruce and you can see why it’s popular. The mash was so perfect and smooth it made every other spoonful of mash I have ever eaten (there have been many) seem like chewing pebbles. Faultless, cleanly presented, with a good size piece of soft fresh fish sitting on the aforementioned heavenly mash. It was, and I hate myself for using terms I heard on Masterchef, ‘perfectly balanced’.

The warm duck salade paysanne with shallot purée, red wine, bacon and lentils was described by the maître d’ as “a salad in the loosest of terms” and he was right. When you hear Gwyneth Paltrow whingeing about keeping her body looking so great by eating salads, this is NOT what she is referring to. She’s on about chomping mung beans, but this salad is all man… or rather, all duck. Whatever your definition of salad, this one was a big hit with my date.  

Img_1483-1Almond tart

For dessert, pear and almond tart with clotted cream, and a decadent hot chocolate pudding with praline parfait were equally dreamy. The fruity tart with its perfectly baked pastry, (not too thick, not too thin and beautifully buttery) was superb, but outshone by its super-calorific, super-chocolatey rival. The hot chocolate pudding should be shared between two people, unless you want to go home in a wheelbarrow, and yes, it tastes every bit as good as it sounds.

If you have not recently had a gastric band fitted then I would highly recommend the impressive cheese board, which costs an extra £5, but looks worth every penny. I say ‘looks’ as we didn’t actually have it as we are too poor, but our neighbouring diners did (they were a seven on the posh scale) while we gazed longingly as they chose from a huge selection of 30+ yummy but nightmare inducing cheeses.  

You’ve got to hand it to team Bruce, this is one slick operation, and even though on the poshness scale it could-be intimidating, the place isn’t stuffy. The service is flawless, you are treated like royalty, the food is exceptional and in case you haven’t got the drift already, it’s posh… but posh in a friendly, Pippa Middleton-type way.

With an after dinner drink (a glass of Touraine Chenin, Cuvée Henri, Domaine de l’Aumonier for me, £8.25, for me, and a Connemara whiskey, £7, for him) and some mineral water, the bill came to £157.16, with service included. Not cheap, but not so pricey you’d have to consider selling a kidney on the black market to cover it. The next day it was back to beans on toast, but hey, it’s good to see how the other half lives.


Chez Bruce
2 Bellevue Road
London, SW17 7EG

Rating:         17/20
Breakdown:    8/10 food
                     5/5 service
                     4/5 ambience

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Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1 – 5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6 – 9 get a DVD, 10 – 11 if you must, 12 – 13 if you’re passing, 14 – 15 worth a trip, 16 –17 very good, 17 – 18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: We get carried away.

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Mark GarnerNovember 19th 2011.

I think that picture is the chickpea, not the roast cod... Chez bruce would be 16/20 for me, but good review I think.

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