Bruno Loubet, the French chef who helped lay the foundation for London’s now-vibrant restaurant scene in the 1990s has returned – as chef-owner of Bistrot Bruno Loubet.
After stints with the legendary Pierre Koffman at La Tante Claire and Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Loubet took over as head chef at the Four Seasons in Mayfair, quickly gaining a Michelin star at the beginning of the 1990s.
In 1992, he set up his own restaurant, the acclaimed Bistrot Bruno, in Soho, followed by L’Odeon in Regent Street – an ambitious venture which required 55 cooks.
At the end of the 1990s he decided to move to Australia. ‘I had invested a lot of myself in my restaurants. I’m always in the kitchen: I’m a chef, not an administrator. I like to cook, do the prep, bone the rabbits, all that. I thought it was time to step back, to reset the clock.’
He moved to Brisbane then Noosa on Australia’s Gold Coast, bought a house with some land where he could keep chickens, guinea fowl, even a goat, opened a small restaurant, and wrote a cookery column for the local newspaper.
The move back was a family decision—his wife and daughters missed London and easy access to France.
Loubet thought he would open a gastropub (‘a dream life for a chef’) but was called by Pierre Koffman, who asked Loubet to help with his pop-up restaurant on the roof of Selfridge’s department store, and Raymond Blanc.
Then the owners of the Zetter, a boutique hotel whose kitchen had never really taken off, offered him a partnership.
He still cooks, and his rustic-elegant style is firmly in place: ‘No fusion or Asian, that would be too far to go.’
Exemplars of that style are a dense onion and cider soup topped by an upside-down Emmenthal cheese soufflé, a ‘revised’ Lyonnaise salad made with crisp ‘chips’ of fried pig’s ears and a Beaujolias dressing, and a rich hare royale on pumpkin and mandarin orange puree, crowned by an onion raviolo.
There is also a ‘sharing menu’ every day: three courses served family-style for a whole table.
The wine list is ‘a work in progress.’ The previous incarnation of the restaurant was ‘modern Mediterranean,’ with an eclectic selection of wines, but now he’s phasing in more robust choices, to match his cooking.
The list will be about 50% French, especially from the south west, and keenly priced. Markups are reasonable, with just over half the current list under £35, and a cash markup on top-end wines: selections by the glass are also available in two carafe sizes.
Bistrot Bruno Loubet, Zetter Hotel, 86-88 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1M 5RJ. Phone +44 (0020 7324 4455; www.bistrotbruno.com. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week.
Written by Brian St Pierre