I get the feeling that Londoners are divided into those who have been to Chez Bruce (and absolutely love it), and those who haven’t been to Chez Bruce. Of all the people I know who have been to this Wandsworth institution before, not a single person has had a bad thing to say about it. And what’s not to like? The service is warm and spot-on attentive from start the finish. The Modern European food which draws its influence across France, Italy and Spain is inventive, full of flavour and cooked to clinical perfection. And if you ever have a day off work to spare, TopTable often does a 3 course £20 mid-week lunch deal that makes this quite simply the most value-for-money 1 Michelin star food you are going to find anywhere in the capital.
I usually don’t rave much about wine in my posts but I feel compelled to say a few words to pay tribute to the sommelier here. Not only did she go through the trouble of hearing the exact detail of the fish courses we had ordered that day, she also took the time to understand the varietal of wines we like most and what we were willing to pay without the slightest bit of pretense. She recommended a carafe of Austrian Grüner Veltliner – a wine that will be completely up your street if you are partial to crisp, minerally whites such as good Riesling or Italian Gavi di Gavi. Needless to say, it washed down the food quite sublimely. Now onto the food…
My Mackerel and Herb Tartare starter was flawlessly executed. The tartare was as fresh as Japanese A-grade-sushi while the smoked mackerel fillets were deliciously rich and savoury. A spoonful of Horseradish cream gave the dish a nice kick of heat while the crisp match-sticks of fresh Apple, Apple jelly and Cucumber provided a calming sweetness to clean the palate. No problems with Jo’s Spiced Oxtail dish either. The melt in the mouth flakes of ox meat had bag-loads of flavour from hours of slow-cooking. Beautifully complemented and lifted to comfort food supreme status by the luxuriously smooth Polenta mash, crispy Pancetta slices and braised Cavolo Nero.
You will be hard-pressed to find another place in town that can cook a piece of fish as well as they do here. Roast Cod with Grilled Squid, Baby artichokes and Piquillo peppers was Spain on a plate and my favourite dish of the day. The chunks of flaky, succulent Cod fish, juicy squid, tangy artichokes and sweet heat from the Piquillo peppers when eaten altogether is something else. Absolutely dee-licious. Jo’s seabass, though a simpler dish relative to the Cod was cooked yet again to crispy perfection. Served with a fresh zingy gremolata and smooth olive mash, it was an understated dish which really goes to show how far carefully executed food can go.
Desserts here range from French classics such as Baba au Rum and Creme Brulee to other more exotic options such as Honey and stem ginger ice-cream with mango-lime sorbet. I opted for their Orange and Almond Cake with pink grapefruit sorbet and Cirtrus fruit salad. An elegant, clean dessert that will cleanse your palate more than it will blow your socks off. Jo’s Rum Baba was as you would expect of any good Rum Baba… buttery and moist, doused generously in rum and served with a good dollop of whipped cream. The roasted pineapple and pineapple puree it was served with gave this classic a nice exotic twist.
All in all, this was easily one of the best lunch experiences I’ve ever had in London and as the year draws to a close, one of my top meals of 2010. Yes, Wandsworth is a little out of the way if you don’t live in the South-West. But this is one place I guarantee is worth the trek, and dare I say it, worth taking one of those precious vacation days off work when the £20 Toptable lunch deal is on.
2 Bellevue Rd, Wandsworth SW17 | www.chezbruce.co.uk | lunched Mon 22nd Nov ’10