Tag Archives: Bruce Poole

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.

The Three Day Boeuf Bourguignon

Chez Bruce is my local restaurant.  It is also my favourite restaurant and was my mother’s favourite restaurant, so when I was given his eponymous cook book for my birthday I was overjoyed.   I couldn’t wait to use it.  But I needed a suitable occasion and recipients who would appreciate it – or at least put up with my wittering on about how amazing it would, hopefully, be.  Last week the perfect opportunity arose – dinner for some dear friends, no slouches in the kitchen themselves.

The whole book is full of recipes you want to try, but the boeuf bourguignon looked the most ‘do-able’ recipe –  a classic that I had cooked before, albeit not using this recipe.  It  looked relatively simple, merely, as the name suggests, time consuming.

A three-day concoction sounded rather impressive – rather ‘cheffy’ if you will – and the list of ingredients neither looked too long, nor too expensive.  Bingo.  Perfect.  Now all I had to do was find ox cheeks.

Cheeks  seem to have become a very fashionable cut of meat, one of the ‘forgotten cuts’ (see also cods’ and pigs’) – much like old-fashioned children’s names such as Ethel are now de rigeur – I’m looking at you Lily Allen – cheeks are turning up on menus again.  I found pigs’ cheeks whilst drooling over the menu at Ben’s Canteen.  Definitely worth a visit I think.

Anyway back to those ox cheeks.  One local butcher said they didn’t stock them and that I was in fact the first person to ask for ox cheeks in twenty years.   Chadwick’s in Balham,  could order them – but they were the most expensive at over £12 per kg.  Moen’s in Clapham were very reasonable, but I couldn’t get there in time.   So far, so faffy.

Mmmm, meat!

Of all the places, I found the cheapest meat in John Lewis’ Food Hall, just round the corner from work.  So far, so convenient.  All that was left to do was buy the ingredients for the marinade.   But did I have a big enough container to put it all in?

In my case?  No.  Or not, unless you count a washing up bowl.  Bruce specified ‘roomy’.  Who knew that some carrots, leeks and celery could take up so much space?

This roomy enough for you Bruce?

Day 2

After a night resting in the fridge, I hot-footed it home from work – mainly because the casserole would take 3-4 hours.   That’s after the reducing of the marinade and fannying around with the vegetables and ‘aromatics’ – that’s herbs to you and me.  It was going to be a long night.  As it was I managed to get it in the oven at just after 7.45pm.  So at least it looked like I’d make it into bed by midnight.  Phew.  And more importantly – it smelled fantastic.

Day 3

Having cooled in the broth, I refrigerated the beef and reduced the sauce by half.   ‘Reducing’ just seemed to me to mean ‘boil the bejaysus out of it’, but I have to say once I had ‘reduced’ it (see, I’m even speaking like a chef now) I could see why.  I now had a rich, deep sauce.  Delicious.

To finish off this three day extravaganza the final ingredients (pancetta lardons, button mushrooms and button onions had to be cooked separately and added as the beef and sauce was slowly reheated on the hob.

Dinner takes shape......

In the meantime I ‘whipped up’ a parsnip puree (the parsnips sauted in butter, cooked in milk then blended).  I could easily have eaten a bowl of it on its own.

Finally, the marathon session was nearly over.  Unfortunately in my haste to get it to the table, I forgot to take a picture of the final plateful.  I’m pleased to report that there weren’t any leftovers to take a picture of either.

So I’m afraid you’ll just have to buy Bruce’s book and cook it yourselves.  It’s worth it.  I am compiling a list of future culinary challenges from it – see I haven’t been scared by the beautiful photography and neither should you!