This review is a few years out of date. However it’s still relevant to today as Chez Bruce continues to be a favourite of locals and critics alike in South West London. This restaurant holds particular significance for me because it’s the first ever Michelin starred establishment that I had a the pleasure to dine in. The start of things to come you might say.
So why Chez Bruce all the way out in Wandsworth? Well, blame Marco Pierre White for that one. Marco of course made his name on the very site that the restaurant stands at today. Of course back then it was named ‘Harveys’ and went on to achieve two Michelin stars before White moved to The Oak Room at The Hyde Park Hotel and became the youngest chef in the world, at that time, to win the maximum of three stars.
Sentiment was one reason but pricing and quality was another. £29 ($37.46 US) for three courses on a Saturday lunchtime seemed like a brilliant deal plus the menu was actually varied and interesting stacked with attractive dishes. The chef and owner Bruce Poole brought out a book not long after our visit and it’s one of my most prized. Please Please click on the picture and purchase it – you’ll thank me!
Momentary panic struck as we got delayed on the southbound northern line and arrived at nearby Clapham South with around five minutes to walk a distance of a mile to the restaurant – we were pushing it to the wire. A phone call ahead to reassure the place that we were going to be there a couple of minutes late and not to charge a cancellation was well received. In fact they couldn’t have been friendlier.
It’s a nice area this. Proper suburban London. Wandsworth Common, where Chez Bruce sits alongside is also home to Gordon Ramsay and Marcus Wareing. Joggers, people playing football, rugby and dog walkers are a recurring sight here. It’s a pleasure to escape the hustle and bustle of the city from time to time.
As we walked into Chez Bruce our coats were taken and we entered the dining room. There’s almost a bistro-like feel to this place. More of a neighbourhood favourite than an upscale stiff fine-dining establishment. Menu’s were presented but no amuse bouche, strange for a restaurant with one Michelin star. We did however get some top notch fresh bread which was still warm and tasted fantastic.
We opted for the pork and pistachio terrine with marinated prune (in armagnac) served with toasted brioche and a venison meatball with game chips and roasted carrot. In Bruce’s book he mentions that when he see’s pork terrine on a menu he just has to order it. Well I can see why, this was delicious. The prune just adds that burst of sweetness and alcoholic kick to the rich terrine and huge slab of brioche. A great starter. The meatball also was far better than it sounds. Slathered in a red wine sauce it was superb.
Just prior to the starter we had our first encounter with a sommelier who kindly helped us choose an Argentine white served in a carafe – more or less a half bottle for around £20 ($25.83 US). The restaurant began to slowly fill up with families, couples and children which was nice to see.
We both chose the same main course, how could we not? Duck breast, served beautifully pink with a salad of dauphinoise croquettes – kind of a take on salad paysanne with roasted vegetables and confit duck in amongst the jumble of salad leaves. Such an amazing dish. We were beginning to enjoy fine-dining.
Pudding was where things got tricky. As we saw the cheeseboard being hauled around – a huge mountain of some of the best cheeses around – we edged in the direction of sweet. Our waitress came over with a smile and had clearly seen our intense discussion about what to have. We settled on the hot chocolate pudding with nougat and a pear tart with clotted cream and butterscotch sauce.
Even now, many restaurants and meals down the line, I haven’t forgotten the amazing flavour of that pear tart. Perfectly made pastry and stacked inside with thin slices of pear with probably the two best things you can put with pears, other than red wine of course. It was a knockout dish. The chocolate was so rich I could only nick a mouthful but again, such an indulgence.
No petit fours sadly on this occasion but we didn’t care. Stuffed to the gills and high on our achievement of Michelin star restaurant number one and Marco’s old gaff ticked off the bucket list. The bill shocked me as it came to a modest £105 ($135.65 US) which was around £10-20 more than we pay at an average place back in the midlands.
What Chez Bruce do so well is the simplicity of the food they serve. Much like a Pierre Koffmann or the Roux brothers even your high-end Parisian bistro, it’s food you want to keep coming back for. This is without doubt a popular place in the local area but relatively unknown to many who prefer to eat more centrally. While it stays a relative secret, that’s fine by me.
Opening times: Monday – Friday 1200-1430
1830-2200 (2230 Friday)
Nearest Railway station: Wandsworth Common
Nearest Tube station: Clapham South