By the time you’ve shuffled a ring onto a fourth finger and hitched wistful photos onto the wall of a lovely day in a white dress, is there any point celebrating that other date?
Unless you were very quick off the mark, it’s probably a more impressive number. Yet somehow it felt greedy. So since our wedding four years ago I gave the slip to the sixth of June.
When it rolled around this year, it felt harder to let it sneak past. Maybe because it’s date that totals nine years (making up all of our twenties). Or maybe it’s just because there’s a small part of me who wanted to shine a light back on the mad enthusiasm of a night in Sydney when I met a blonde tall drink of water at a lesbian bar, and promptly fell off my chair.
To mark the milestone I’d mooted a small dinner at home; a glass of cava and possibly a rustic chicken dish for dinner (like this one). We’ve been on the road quite a bit lately. It’s not like we haven’t been getting out and about.
Yet The Hungry One had other ideas. ‘Let’s go out. That way nobody has to do the washing up’.
The man possesses a logic that’s hard to argue with.
A quick cast around the ‘to do list’ of London restaurants revealed a sneaky gem; Bistrot Bruno Loubet.
For those interested in efficiency Bistrot Bruno has the following things going for it;
– It’s in that triangular gem of London between Farringdon and Barbican that includes St John, The Modern Pantry, Vinoteca and Workshop Coffee (formerly St Ali).
– It’s buzzy, without being loud.
-It’s special, without being stiff.
-The man at the helm can really cook.
Beyond being the first Head Chef at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Bruno also spent many years in Australia including time at the brilliant Berado’s at Noosa.
The room is flooded with light care of large windows that overlook St John’s Square. It’s the picture of a modern French bistro; dark chairs, white napped tables and stout wine glasses.
Here are some other things I like about it. The wine list is extensive, with a good selection both by the glass and in carafes of varying sizes. Any place with two roses from the South of France by the glass is a friend of mine.
Similarly, The Hungry One is thrilled to find Mean Time pale ales listed and a fresh face in the Laverstock Park English organic larger.
Prices on the remainder of the menu are sound, particularly when portion sizes are taken into account. Starters are around £7. Mains traverse from £16.50 – £20.
And waitstaff are considerate enough when listing the specials to let you know their price point (a bug bear of mine).
The guinea fowl boudin blanc, petit pois a la Francaise (£8.50) is a stalwart on the menu. It’s a cloud-soft mousse of game bird, poached and crisped into a sausage and bedded down with a Gallic combination of peas, cured pig, stock and braised lettuce.
It’s light but rich and deceptively filling. One starter portion would possibly serve as a main for many with slighter appetites. Beneath the sausage the braised shredded leaf is enough to make you want to leap up in a battle cry; ‘why, why aren’t more lettuces treated in this fashion’? I’ve been easily recruited to the cause. Roast chicken, you’ve been warned.
Meanwhile across the table The Hungry One is being very silent about how good the Mauricette snails and meatballs and royale de champignon sauvage is.
Service is swift and thoughtful. The Hungry One is guided towards the boned and rolled rabbit saddle, crushed roast pumpkin, wild garlic, peas by the story of how the meat is rolled around the liver and kidneys and gently cooked. This raises one of the other true benefits of going out to somewhere like this to eat; not only will someone else do the washing up, but someone else will bone the bunny.
Yet the true highlight for me is the BBL bouillabaisse with rouille and croutons.
A great bouillabaisse is hard to find and impossible to forget. The fact that this one is made from sustainable fish like gurnard, cuddling up to scored squid, prawn, mussels, broth stained potatoes and a pliable wedge of fennel is just gilding for the lily.
It’s a dish that requires a hectic display of cutlery- knives, forks and a spoon to rescue the last drops of complex broth, but is well worth it.
We end the meal with a shared portion of balsamic strawberries, green peppercorn ice cream and a white chocolate sponge. While the combination of pepper and strawberries is a delight, dessert proves the one mild disappointment; the ice cream powdery and the steamingly hot sponge dry.
Yet the novelty of a chocolate inscribed congratulatory plate still left a sweet taste in our mouths.
This is a delight of a place built for relaxed date nights, dinners with the in laws, celebrations and those eves when you crave great food without the mess.
And as far as anniversaries go – trust me when I say it doesn’t get much better than this.
Bistro Bruno Loubet
86-88 Clerkenwell Rd, London EC1
020 7324 4455