“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”― Oscar Wilde
I found myself breaking bread at Chez Bruce on Wednesday. It sounds remarkably like a pretentious Australian wine bar but it is actually a delectable Michelin starred restaurant in the heart of leafy Wandsworth in south London. The previous incumbent was Marco Pierre White and his mighty Harvey’s restaurant.
It would be easy to be cowed by the ghost of London’s finest ever eateries; however Chez Bruce is an absolute joy and has extinguished any memories of Marco during his 20 years in situ.
The Wandsworth train was full of the usual commuter hustle bustle, so stepping off it and walking along the sun soaked common was like entering empyrean – well a grassy heaven with a thunderous game of Ozzie Rules and a large group of women doing taekwondo. Life became even finer when I discovered a pub next to the establishment, so I wet my whistle on a Doombar.
Enough waffle about my journey and more about my supper! In spite of finding entry rather confusing with many purple doors and almost attempting a window approach, I managed to enter the restaurant. It is classically designed with white tablecloths et al but the formal setting was twinned with a splendidly relaxed vibe. The ambience was further enhanced by the slews of natural light from a large window looking onto the common.
Chez Bruce’s website proclaims; “We are not particularly into gadgets and tricks in the kitchen and there are doubtless some who view our food as slightly old fashioned in this regard. We take this as a compliment!”
This is right up my street! The menu is interesting because it is exclusively prix fixe at a very agreeable £47.50. I thought this was a splendid idea as one is purely focused on balancing starters and mains as opposed to balancing the check.
The menu is modern French and Spanish and full of fascinating gourmet offerings such as crab and scallop with stuffed courgette; Roast Dorset lamb with beetroot pickle; Red mullet with aubergine caviar; and a warm salad of baby squid. I asked my waiter to guide me with recommendations which I followed.
After a bot of fizz we ordered the regular line up of one red one white (you can spend a fortune on wine if you wish but there are plenty of good reasonably priced options).
My starter was a duck salad with soy, orange, ginger and tarragon. It rather confused me having meat to start then a fish dish as a main – red with meat or white to start? My gastronomic mind was doing cartwheels, so after a serious deliberation I poured a glass of white to go with my salad. The perfectly rare duck breast was combined with a host of flavours and differing delicate textures.
On to the main and my assault on the red was to begin! The main course was a sumptuous piece of John Dory cooked to perfection with a couple of huge succulent scallops and crispy pancetta a top. The proteins were complimented with minted peas, a block of colcannon, seasonal asparagus, and pea purée with a hint of wasabi running through it. I sat back, replete, and caught my reflection in the large mirrored walls slurping red and looking rather satisfied with myself.
Dessert is never my most anticipated course because I don’t have a sweet tooth. However on Wednesday I felt compelled to have one. I opted to have a Coconut panna cotta which really hit the spot – it had an unexpected lightness with the coconut milk and an immaculate wobble to it. The pineapple, chilli, and mint which surrounded the plate gave the dish more freshness – but pieces of gingerbread were a bit peculiar for me.
Chez Bruce may be slightly old fashioned and safe but the food is of outstanding quality and the relaxed atmosphere is really special. There are some restaurants that one wants to eat then leave and there are some, like Chez Bruce, that one is sad to leave – this comes only from impeccable attention to detail from the patrons and ultimately the brilliant staff who did their upmost to make all of us feel at home.