The story of Chez Bruce and the Michelin star

It seems like I have been having so much fun that I forgot to write…  I now have a backlog of wonderful foodie experiences which I will share with you all over the next few weeks.  Being in the UK and particularly London, means that I have so many options at my finger tips.  After asking my lovely Sis for a restaurant recommendation, she came up with Chez Bruce.

Chez Bruce has been ticking away successfully since 1995 in a discreet corner of Wandsworth Common.  As we walk through the front door, out of the January chill, we are whisked upstairs to our table.  The room we are seated in is small and quite well stocked with customers already.  It is reminiscent of your friend’s dining room, only with more than one dining table.  We are quickly offered menu’s, mine has been specially adapted by Bruce himself to be Coeliac friendly.  My eating companions are offered a selection of freshly baked bread and at this stage I start getting life envy.  I never really ate bread much anyway but no-one likes to be left out, I said to my friends that I was surprised they didn’t have anything for me and then as if by magic, a bowl of almonds appeared for me.  I am not sure whether I was overheard or whether it was all part of the grand plan but I was grateful for the sustenance.  They had been duly warned that I was nutritionally challenged and my sis is temporarily nutritionally challenged, so we definitely fell into the annoying table category.

My starter was Barbary Duck Breast with parsnip puree, sherry vinegar, parsnip crisps and spelt.  Duck is one of those menu items that I can’t go past, I like Duck in all its guises, they even look quite pretty swimming across lakes.  However, tonight it was swimming across my plate in a little puddle of rich parsnip puree.  Moist slices of duck were bed fellows with a little braised duck, this was a delicious element, it was perfectly savoury and tasted so much of itself.  It seems silly to say that it tasted of itself but I think that is the ultimate goal as a chef.  To make food taste like the absolute essence of itself, concentrated but not overpowering, natural but embellished.  Each component was necessary and effective.  There was no messing around on this plate.  Bruce clearly meant business.  All of this was washed down with a charming 2008 Pouilly Fuisse.

By the time the main courses arrived, we all had great expectations.  Once again, we were not disappointed.  I had chosen the loin and hache of venison with creamed brussel sprout tops, bacon and chestnuts.  Now I am a die hard Brussel sprout girl, so it was the sprouts that won me over this time.  The venison was meltingly tender, I had to forgo the hache as it was not gluten free but Mr T kindly ate it on my behalf.  He’s so selfless.  Brussel sprouts were creamy and packed full of flavour, the bacon although delicious was a little overwhelming.  It was very smoky and the flavour of the smoke dominated the dish.  That is not to say it was not delicious but it could have been pared back a little.  Mr T had plaice with Dorset cockles and beurre blanc and he was more than satisfied.

It was dessert time, which is generally a rather sad time for me as my options are usually horribly limited now that I’m gluten-free.  I asked if they could possibly make me a concoction of their non gluten-free items.  Not long after, a plate of icy things arrived before me.  They had gone to the trouble of making me a sugar basket which was filled with a medley of champagne granita, passionfruit sorbet and roast pineapple.  Now, this was unfortunately the low point of the meal.  The sorbet was very icy, not smooth as it should be and it was dangerously tart.  All in all, a bit of a nothingy dessert.  However, I did appreciate the effort.

We rounded off the meal with some cheeses from the fabulous cheeseboard.  Which was rather comical being that a certain member of my family has a pathological hatred for all things cheesy.  The waiter had kindly placed the very ripe and stinky cheeses right next to my cheese phobic relative.  Once we all finished laughing, we tucked into some Caerphilly and a superb Morbier, amongst others.  Generally by this point in the evening, my memory starts to fade, the combination of good food, good wine and good friends, tends to make my brain a little furry.

As a whole, the experience was very enjoyable and the food was of a very high standard, apart from a couple of minor glitches where they missed the mark slightly.  The service was effortless, a knowledgable but down to earth sommelier made the wine selection easy.  Our waitress was efficient and warmed to us as the evening went on, I did tell you we were the annoying table.  I was treated to a tour of the kitchen by the sous chef, it was full of men, as usual, but men who clearly knew their stuff.

Chez Bruce is a great restaurant, serving great food.  Was it the best meal of my life? No.  Was it edgy?  No.  But what it was, was honest.  It was taking ingredients, treating them with respect and elevating them to another level.  A level where each hit of flavour was like a friendly kick in the cheeks, it was food that brought a smile.  I hate to use the word but it was bloody yummy.  They obviously gained their Michelin star through consistency and integrity and their innate ability to get the most out of food.

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