Chez Bruce, Wandsworth

American Express have started a restaurant reward scheme called ‘Top Treats’ and the gist of it is that if you book through Top Table and pay with Amex, you can earn reward points and special deals at some smart restaurants. Chez Bruce is one of those restaurants. I’ve wanted to go for years despite Wandsworth being such an absolute arse to get to from Peckham. What is it with the South-East-South-West connections? Or lack of. The fastest way, no joke, is to go in to Victoria and then back out to Wandsworth. So I weaved along with the tangled web of TFL.

It’s a sweet little building really – filigrees and topiary line the front. Inside, it has a touch of the living room going on and when I arrived, it was empty but cosy. My mate was running late so they offered me a paper, which was thoughtful. It has a Michelin star, so I expected to be looked after but the gesture pleasantly surprised me. I settled in with a glass of bubbly and waited for my mate to arrive.

I started with the crab raviolo, razor clams and brown shrimps which came in an intense shellfish bisque-style sauce speckled with the allium twang of chives. A scallop was perfectly seared although without roe, which initially disappointed me until I wondered if they’d incorporated it into the sauce – in the end I didn’t feel I’d missed out on the flavour. Razor clams are so much more lovely when chopped into little pieces (I appreciate them more when I don’t have to consider their unnervingly weird shape) and brown shrimps should be used in everything where possible – end of. A brilliant little festival of shelled seafood and a really promising start to the meal.

I’m on a seafood binge at the moment so it had to be pan-fried fillet of cod with grilled (baby) squid, a piquillo pepper chutney (I suppose it was like a chutney, they probably called it something different) and salsa verde. The cod was delicious. Are we still allowed to eat cod from anywhere? Baby squid aren’t exactly encouraged either, are they? I eat both regularly because I am a bad person. Really nice though, if not hugely exciting. Everything was perfectly cooked and tasty, it just didn’t have that spark. I’d rather have sacked off the sweet piquillo pepper and had more punch from the salsa verde.

Cheese seemed like a good idea. We pounced on a fluffy and mellow goat cheese; a soft, brie-style cheese with a brilliant mushroomy rind; a classic salty crystallised Roquefort and two hard cheeses. I remember the names of none of them. Look, I’d had 2 glasses of champagne before I started and at this point was down a kir royale and a bottle of Albarino. I can tell you that they were all delicious and very well kept. What more do you want?

For dessert, a rum baba, mainly because I’d never got around to having one. It was very boozy, which pleased me,  as did a piece of sticky roasted pineapple which managed to be wintry and comforting.

The thing about Chez Bruce is that everything is really very nice – well cooked and delicious. I can see why it has a Michelin star. What I always want from my food though, is to be surprised – not necessarily challenged but, I want to have fun. It’s a real cliché now to call food ‘witty’ a la  Prue Leith on Masterchef, but to be playful with ingredients, to make guests’  hearts leap with excitement is the holy grail and I’m not just talking about fancy restaurants. Consider the excitement about street food right now. People want something personal and interactive, where they can get closer to the person behind the food. Be it watching your pimped-up burger cook whilst having a chat with the guy who’s making it, or feeling the chef’s personality come through on a Michelin-starred plate.

Chez Bruce is really a very good restaurant. No, really. It’s just a shame it didn’t give me the thrills.

The dinner menu costs £45 for 3 courses, which is excellent value.
I was a guest of Chez Bruce and Amex Top Treats

2 Bellevue Rd
SW17 7EG
Tel: 020 8672 0114

Chez Bruce on Urbanspoon

Category: Restaurant Reviews | Tags: , , , , , 21 comments »

21 Responses to “Chez Bruce, Wandsworth”

  1. Chris

    I’ve been twice, and had one meal a bit like the above – never less than pleasant but never exciting, and one rather good one where I had an incredible boned and stuffed quail which must have taken some poor bastard hours to prepare. I’d go back though.

  2. Joshua

    Brown shrimp are damn special aren’t they. I used to buy bags of them to munch on whilst at Islington farmers market.

  3. Rabidbarfly

    Great restaurant. I have been there a few times and they always seem to go out of their way to make the experience great.
    Took my wife there on our first ever date and well….she’s my wife now!
    I also know Bruce and him and his team have done a superb job there. Definately going back a couple of times next year!

  4. Sharmila

    Chez Bruce was one of the first “posh” meals I had in London, about five years ago. I remember really enjoying it – especially the desserts and cheese.

    I can see what you mean about the lack of fireworks, but I do think there was something very classy and classic about Chez Bruce that really appealed.

    However, it was a while ago – maybe things have changed.

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  6. Greedy Diva

    I really, really like Chez Bruce – and I LOVE the cheese trolley – but I can’t remember what I had there a few years ago so perhaps I’m with you on the “excitement” factor of the food. What I do remember is spending a whole afternoon there having a really enjoyable long lunch eating lovely food, drinking lots of wine and feeling very relaxed despite the Michelin star food and service. I like that.

  7. Nordic Nibbler

    I love Chez Bruce! I used to live nearby and fondly recall their wonderful cooking. It’s not a place I’d make a special trip to go to, but as a local restaurant it was fantastic.

    As far as cod goes, it’s the Atlantic stuff that’s endagered. Cod from the Barents Sea is thriving.

  8. Lizzie

    AN HOUR AND A HALF LATE. I’ve never done that before – I still feel bad.

    I totally agree with you, while it was very tasty it’s not one of those meals that in a month’s time I’ll still remember the intricacies of the dish I had.

  9. WalshyMK

    Oh yum, I do love Chez Bruce! It is a great “special occasion” restaurant – you know the restaurant will vastly enhance the occasion, but it’s not the point of the day.

    Also, totally agree re SW -> SE London – which is why as a SW-Londoner I visit Scotland more often than going a few miles east…

  10. Phil Letts

    I’m not sure what all the Chez Bruce fuss is about really. I went just over a year ago, and had some lovely grouse for main, though the rest of the meal was unspectacular. My overriding impression of the restaurant was one of supreme competence, but without anything to raise it above just that: a nice meal, competently cooked. I’m surprised it has a Michelin star – it’s not in the same league as some others that do (St John is an obvious example) and it’s no better than several that don’t. Worth a look if you’re in the area, but then, really, who is ever in the area?

  11. shona

    I like Chez Bruce. Had a wonderful birthday meal there a few years ago. All was brilliant until trying to leave the restaurant I got my high heeled shoe stuck in the grating outside their building and had my husband and the sommelier at one point, trying to pull me out. The shame…

  12. gastrogeek

    Great write up, you’ve captured that feeling of nothing being particularly wrong with the food, but not feeling compelled to ever return to a place really well. Also, you’ve reminded me of the time I bought some razor clams that started writhing away in the bag on the way home. I thought I’d blocked that one from my memory forever. Urghhhhh!

  13. An American in London

    I haven’t made it to chez bruce yet, but actually, very pleasant, very good food, very well presented sounds about right for a 1-star, assuming they do it consistently.

    I wouldn’t expect too many fireworks/”aha” moments until I hit a 2-Michelin-star. This isn’t to say a restaurant shouldn’t always try for those moments, but just that I wouldn’t be diappointed if a 1-star failed to deliver on those.

  14. Ben Hopkins

    I think you just defined the michelin criterion for a restaurant with one star. “A very good restaurant in its category”. Not until 2 stars is it worth “making a detour”.

    You can get far worse for your 45 quid, but I’m sure there’s places you can get better. The sommelier and front of house are excellent, the wine list deep and broad.

    When I first went, 3 courses were 27.50. If they were 35 now, I think people would be falling over themselves to get a table.

  15. Helen

    Hi Ben – yes, you’re quite right, but then think of the 1 starred Harwood Arms. Inventive, fun, exciting…

  16. Ben Hopkins

    Ah, Brett of ledbury fame is behind that place isn’t he? The arrival of second child has put a damper on restaurant going for a while, but harwood is on the list.

    I no longer go to Chez Bruce, as I would rather pay the extra 20 quid and head up the district line to Notting Hill to the ledbury if I’m pushing the boat out.

    I really enjoy your writing Helen.

  17. Helen

    yeah it’s Brett. I just ate there last week in fact – I’ll post it up soon so you can see what we ate. Fantastic meal. I totally agree with you on the extra 20 quid and the lunch deal at £33.50 for 3 courses is amazing value too. Thanks very much for the compliment :)

  18. Gourmet Chick

    Hi Helen. I had a really bizzare meal at Chez Bruce last year, the food was very good (although as you say no fireworks) but I think the actual restaurant is a little too formal and lacking in atmosphere – plus we had one very weird fellow patron there which made our whole experience a little strange!

  19. ellroy smith

    i went on me dads birthday, front of house were excellent, thought food was ok but very over rated and over salted, all the others i went with thought it was great

  20. Anonymous CDP

    I work in the kitchen at Chez Bruce and have ended up reading this as the author works with one of my best friends. There is in fact a fairly high chance that I cooked at least part of this dinner for you.

    Firstly, thanks for the generally positive review. You are correct in that people coming to eat at Chez Bruce are unlikely to be surprised or eat ‘witty’ food, and if I understand my employers philosophy/desires for his restaurant correctly, that’s kind of what he’s aiming for. Whilst Bruce certainly has no wish to serve boring food, he is a lover of simply cooked classic food that remains true to it’s regional origins (whether it be Provence, Gascony, Tuscany or elsewhere) and this is reflected in the menu. I’ve certainly learnt a lot about the value of simple, honest and generous cooking since I have been working for him. He is a true gourmet and it shows in what he has achieved.

    Oh, and we don’t use the scallop roes. I know this is a point of contention and people tend to either love or hate them, but I think that from experience Bruce and his head chef Matt have come to the decision that most people don’t really go for them. They wouldn’t have been used in the sauce either, it is made of reduced bisque from the crab shells and cream.

    Glad you enjoyed!

  21. Helen

    Thanks very much for your comment. I did enjoy my meal at Chez Bruce, I think it had been juxtaposed with a couple of other meals that made me try to fit it into a category in which it doesn’t belong. Thanks also for the info about the sauce!

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