I admit i have felt somewhat short of inspiration of late and when asked to booked somewhere exciting for lunch with a friend, i found it to be a struggle to say the least. Browsing through choices, i came across a French restaurant in Spittalfields and being lured by its promise of Charolais and Limousin beef, i made a last minute booking.
Le Bouchon Breton is a tucked away on the first floor of Spittalfields market in the City district of London. On arrival, we were sat on the lovely terrace area, which although not terribly busy, suited my mood perfectly. The staff are immaculately attired in classic black jacket, tie and crisp white shirt combination, a sight that for me personally, seems to have very much disappeared from the modern-day restaurant scene. A quick look at the menu and i decided to throw caution to the wind and treat myself to a starter of summer time classics... A whole lobster, giant prawns and homemade mayonnaise. And so appeared our mini seafood banquet on raised platters resting on a bed of ice... Gloriously decadent, juicy lobster with giant prawns bursting with a meaty sweet texture (none of those flabby watery tiger prawns)... simply dipped in unctuous mayonnaise, expertly whipped up. Perfection. Greedily i chose a salad of Dandelion and walnut with a warm Saint Marcelin cheese croute. Deliciously bitter dandelion leaves, reminiscent of a young chicory leaf, with a heady punch of rich and strong St Marcelin cheese, enrobed in a perfect vinaigrette. Just the ticket to kick-start a meal with the desired level of fabulousness.
The main course was a simple enough decision for us.... Cote du boeuf... or Rib of beef. Nothing (but nothing) could persuade me to choose anything else. As the restaurant themselves say "OUR BEEF IS A CROSS OF SCOTTISH BLACK ANGUS, CHAROLAIS OR LIMOUSIN BREEDS FROM A SINGLE HERD. FED SOLELY ON LUSCIOUS LANCASHIRE GRASS AND HUNG ON THE BONE FOR NO LESS THAN 28 DAYS" When something is put so beautifully as that, is there really any reason to seek alternatives? I think not.
The staff are incredibly friendly and attentive... a rareity in most other French restaurants the world over. We felt very well taken care of, but not overly observed or harassed or smothered. The table next us to were all French (always a good sign!) and all the staff, including waiters and Chefs, took their turn to spend a great deal of time talking with these diners. This is such a similar experience to France itself, as the French like to take their time to enjoy life's little pleasure and if that includes leaving the kitchen to speak to valued diners for 15 minutes, then why ever not? It endeared them to me greatly and reminded me of being in the South of France in the summer, where after lunch the staff would sit and chat endlessly with us over a few glasses of wine.
As the terrace grew busier with diners, a large group's main courses arrived, beef tartare, expertly made at the table by the head waiter with perfectly chopped fillet of beef dressed with the usual raw egg yolk, mustard, capers, shallots and what not. Like having your own personal culinary theatre at your table. The theatrics continue as the trolley is wheeled forward "Cote du boeuf!! Cote du boeuf!!" bellows the waiter. The beautiful piece of beef paraded as the magnificent beast it is, carved into juicy thick slices and served on a wooden board at your table with a simple accompaniment of a superbly made Bearnaise sauce, that is so good it should have its own billing on the menu and a deliciously rich, gravy-like peppercorn sauce as a second alternative. Classic, thinly cut French fries or 'Frites' and a simply mixed salad are also served. The whole experience was simple in content, but with an incredible impact, the likes of which i havent felt for the longest of times. "Vraiment delicieux!"
Only a fool would be able to eat another bite after such a banquet of seafood and a beast of a Cote du boeuf, as we'd had... But i, my friends, am such a fool. I prefer to be labelled a fool having satisfied the devil in me, rather than be sensible and end the meal without dessert. I literally could not help myself from ordering something sweet to round off my wonderful meal... I opted for the Mousse au Chocolat et Langue de chat, which translated is Chocolate Mousse with Cats Tongue. Ok they dont really eat cat's tongues in France... It is merely a term for a delicate little biscuit that is long in length with a delicate curvature at each end, reminiscent of a cat's tongue. I must admit, their was nothing 'Moussey' about this Mousse. It was a very dense and heavy dessert, but for chocolate lovers like myself, it was absolutely heavenly... I spread the chocolate dessert onto the little biscuits and devoured them at the speed of light. Who said i didnt have room for dessert?
You know, i really needed a pick-me-up... Faced with a 17 hour working day on Sunday, i wanted to enjoy every single second of my freedom on the Saturday... I arrived in Spittalfields but dined in France! With the best food, the greatest of service and a feeling that i could only liken to the freedom that only comes when you are on holiday... and the kind of holiday where you can leave your watch behind, because time is of no consequence! Overall it was a surprisingly good find and a truly outstanding experience. Very much the culinary lift and inspiration that i needed to get me through the weekend and more importantly get me writing again! And dont be surprised by the excellence of this restaurant, because on careful studying of their website, i discovered it is the brain child of one multi-Michelin starred Chef, none other than the heir of the Roux family empire, Chef Michel Roux Jnr or Le Gavroche. So if you want a slice of Roux culinary excellence, at a fraction of the price then visit Le Bouchon Breton or Le Bouchon Bordelais (in Clapham). Their website is: http://www.lebouchon.co.uk/ Vive La France!