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
Tel: 020 8672 0114