Category Archives: Local

The Joys of a ‘Neighbourhood’ Restaurant – mine’s Chez Bruce

The definition of  a neighbourhood restaurant really depends on where you live I suppose. If you live in the country the chances are that to get to your choice of restaurant you’ll have to either jump in the car or get a cab. In London, you may be lucky enough to be able to walk to it just go a couple of tube stops. Well I can walk to Chez Bruce, so that is my neighbourhood restaurant. There are obviously restaurants closer to my house, but I’m not that keen on Chicken  Cottage (although my brother took a girl there on their first date. They’re now married. So you know.), but CB is special for our family and it’s not just to do with the food.

I should clarify at this point that this is not, and is not intended to be, a restaurant review.  Many other people have done a far better job of that, and anyway, I’m a ‘sure thing’. I have a deep and undying love for CB.  Mr Poole could serve up fish fingers, chips and beans and I would relish it as I would the finest gourmet meal (because let’s face it probably would be the finest gourmet meal). However the connection for me is as emotional as geographic. This was my mother’s favourite restaurant, one that she generously took me to one more than one occasion, and where we always celebrated her birthday.

After she died we (well Dad actually) decided that we would not remember the sad  times, and that we would remember, and celebrate the good times.  Henceforth, on her birthday or thereabouts we have a family lunch at Chez Bruce. A win-win situation I think you’ll agree?

So on Thursday 2 April we converged on Wandsworth Common…..trying not to drool in anticipation.  We kicked off with a glass of champagne whilst deliberating the menu.  The service is unobtrusive, yet attentive (this is the place where, suffering from a heavy cold, a box of tissues, appeared at my elbow, as if by magic), and they don’t stick their noses in every five minutes.

Always the hardest part for me. What to choose? And will I get food envy (inevitably yes, regardless of how delicious my own choice is). I, after much deliberation, went for:

Poached lamb’s tongue with breast St Meinhold, crushed jersey royals and morels

Lamb's tongue with breast St Meinhold

Silence of the Lambs’, quite literally…..

I was slightly off put by my brother going ‘baa’ softly in my ear  but other than that minor distraction I managed to polish it off. Lots of different textures from the soft lamb’s tongue to the crispy brick of lamb breast. I think I may have had to get extra bread, you know, just to mop up some of the sticky, unctuous sauce as well. Yum.

My second course was Anjou pigeon with stuffed onion, pearl barley, sauce poivrade and foie gras.

Pigeon with foie gras, stuffed onion and pearl barley

Pigeon with foie gras, stuffed onion and pearl barley

Unfortunately is looks very brown here and this doesn’t do it any justice at all.  The pigeon was perfectly pink, the pearl barley filled the onion. Posh  comfort food.

And for pudding…….please note, that honeycomb do not come from bees (as my brother thought. He’s 43).

Chocolate ice cream with honeycombe

Chocolate ice cream with honeycomb

And they gave us these:

Chocolate truffles from Chez Bruce

For my nieces, the chocolate truffles. How kind!

*Ahem*. Here I make a public apology to Olivia and Isabella – sorry, James and Poppa ate them. Not me. Honest.

Despite the obvious deliciousness of the food, we come to CB each year to remember with joy the good times past (as well as creating some new ones too). And they never fail to deliver. Thank you Mr Poole.

It’s all about Tooting (this week….)

Thought I’d keep it a bit local this week and there seems to be lots going on!

I volunteered for Foodcycle in Tooting a couple weeks ago, it’s one of their newer branches, and I just wanted to highlight what a great project this is. The local Sainsbury’s and local greengrocers donate food that would otherwise be chucked away and local businesses/restaurants donate their facilities (i.e. kitchens) and volunteers (i.e. you and me) donate their time. a three course extravaganza is then prepared (given what’s available!), this is then offered (for free, although donations are obviously welcome) to whoever wants it. They target the disadvantaged and the socially vulnerable, those who otherwise might not get a hot meal; those in sheltered housing or hostels.

We whipped up courgette and tomato soup with croutons, stuffed peppers au gratin, baked chow chow (we had to google it too) and banana milkshake and fruit, oh and some mini doughnuts too. As you can tell, there a surfeit of bread!

They are always looking for volunteers, either in the kitchen or Front of House (meeting and greeting and getting people in off the street – literally!) and it happens twice a week on a Friday and Saturday, all the details are here.  Lovely people too. There are also other Foodcycles around London and the UK so spread the word!

I bought this cushion last week from E A Wates in Tooting, I saw it on Twitter and a friend also sent me the pic. I had to have it. They were commissioned specially so you won’t find them elsewhere, and there are others saying ‘Fabulous Furzedown’ and ‘Tooting Popular Front’, I’m getting that one next!

My new pride and joy from @eawates

A post shared by Joanna (@tootingwurzel) on

And finally, I found this – Tribe Tooting.  Running from 7-28th August (and hopefully onwards), you can book your kids (age 7-12 years old) for outdoor adventures. They can forage, build dens, make totem poles….the list seems to be endless. I just think it’s such a great idea. If this had been around when I was young I would have LOVED it. Also, the weather’s great at the moment. And it’ll wear them out. They’re on Twitter too @TribeTooting

Park Run maybe coming to Tooting!! The council have marked 1, 3 and 5km routes around the park, find the map here.

Oh, and how could I forget, Honest Burgers is finally open opposite Sainsbury’s at Tooting Broadway.

And finally, I managed to get myself into The Imperial Durbar for one of their goldfish bowls of G&T. With around 10 different gins and as many mixers, it’s worth getting  involved.  They also do cracking tea, coffee, cakes and all with free wifi. What’s not to love?

Well I think that’s quite enough to keep you busy for now….

Tooting Wurzel – doing Boot Camp – so you don’t have to….

Last night I went outside. Literally and figuratively.  Out of my comfort zone and outside. I went to Bootcamp. Mostly because it was free, (I am unable to resist the lure of something for nothing). I mean why not give it a go? The other reason was more obviously that I needed to do some kind of exercise as I have sat on my increasingly middle-aged arse for the best part of a year. What could possibly go wrong?

It’s safe to say I didn’t really think it through.  It’s mid-October, of course it’s going to be dark – but I underestimated just how dark it would be –  very.

Trainer: Right. Sprint to that big tree over there and then run back.

Me: It’s dark and we’re in a park. WHICH TREE!

You see my problem.

In fact we were lucky there were no collisions although the up side was that I could hide behind people easily and the fitness instructor couldn’t see me if I stopped mid-burpee (that’s a bunny hop to you and me) and fell flat on my face, which happened with alarming frequency (I told you I was unfit).

It had also been raining – ergo it was wet, muddy and very slippery. So it was no surprise that all the people there last night, along with me had not done it before – all the regulars had wised up and knew the filth bath that awaited us.

Trainer: Now do press ups.

Yes, press ups. Now I know this is Tooting Bec, hell it’s practically BALHAM and that these people probably *do* pick up after their dogs, but there was the ever present threat, in my mind at least, of dipping my nose in a turd. Every press up was a lottery, every sit up a challenge and not in the way intended. Every time I put my hand down I gave it a surreptitious sniff – just to check like.

Having said that it was nice to be outside the fresh air, rather than pounding away on a boring treadmill watching adverts for insurance with the sound turned down – but I don’t like lying down in mud, so maybe – one day – in the Summer (ever the optimist!). So tomorrow I’m trying Pilates. Inside.