The train brought me down to London on Thursday and we arrived earlier than normal. Dining choices normally become more local the later the train brings me in, but a warm spring evening meant we could wander a bit further. We took a look first at The Fish Shop at St Johns Street, but the menu was a little unadventurous. Looking at the menu I could pick a starter easily enough but the mains were rather work-a-dayish. Haddock, Cod, no Halibut or Turbot. We decided to move on down St John Street.
Next stop The Peasant. We often eat at The Well which is a gastropub a little further down, but towards the end of the week these places become absolutely packed and with low ceilings you just feel that you are in the middle of a fish market. We kept going. We were going to try The Modern Pantry in St Johns Square but thought we’d chance a very full looking Bistro Bruno Loubet. We’d heard great things about it and A A Gill actually liked the place which is rare. I don’t think I’ve seen one bad review of the place.
We asked about the chance of a table for two. The maitre d’ furrowed his brow and started looking through table booking plans. He felt that something would be ready in 20 minutes. We took a seat at the bar.
The staff in BBL are all wonderful. Warm, attentive and extremely professional. The concentration on our barman’s face whilst making cocktails was gripping. Incidentally, I had a Grey Goose classic martini while my companion had a rather camp looking Brazillian (the drink not the trim!)
Twenty minutes later we were at the table, unfortunately next to some city boys out for the evening. Swearing loudly, with no acknowledgment that they were sharing the space with other people, I could see this spoiling the meal. Fortunately the waiter took pity and smoothly moved us to another table near the window. Later two other parties asked to be moved away from the toxic table next to them, but they only shut up when a middle aged woman had a word with them. My hero! Perhaps the staff should have said something. Perhaps I should have. Oh well.
I ordered the Revised Lyonnaise salad and Beaujolais dressing. Rich had Skate terrine in parsley jelly, bean salad, gribiche sauce. My salad was amazingly constructed. frisee leaves adorned with bacon, a poached egg and two towering croquettes of boned, skinned pigs trotter. It was unctuously delicious. Only the egg slightly disappointed as under seasoned but that was soon remedied. The skate terrine was quite a picture, delicately and quite complexly flavoured. Great Start.
Next up mains. I had the confit lamb shoulder and Rich the pan fried wood pigeon. Both excellent mains. The lamb shoulder was rich and lamby and the harissa added complex heat to the dish. Brilliantly thought out. The wood pigeon was cooked medium and was garnished with micro shavings of cauliflower like confetti. Outstanding.
Sadly we really couldn’t manage a dessert even though there were tempting choices on the menu.
Wines are available by the glass, or small/large carafe which is a great idea and allowed us to have white with the starter and red with the main without being too squiffy.
It is amazingly good value and deservedly popular. A little disappointed that they leave the credit card open for a tip even though service has been included. A little underhand perhaps, so bearing that in mind I will drop it half a point.
9.5/10The Zetter St John’s Square 86-88 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1M 5RJ
U.K. Hotel: +44 (0)20 7324 4444 Restaurant: +44 (0)20 7324 4455