Nestled alongside South West London’s Wandsworth Common lies this little oasis of culinary excellence hosted by Bruce Poole and Nigel Platts-Martin. Occupying what used to be Marco Pierre White’s ‘Harvey’s’ (where Gordon Ramsey no less plied his early learning curve, abrasive swearing and all), it retains a touch of class, but never seems to meander into being too snotty.
The clientèle seems varied, with loyal customers who no doubt frequent regularly mixing with the odd celebrity – Mick Hucknall decided to pay a visit when we were there.
The theme of the food is generally French, with complicated and honest British twists added to simple recipes. This approach has led Bruce Poole firmly into the arms of Michelin, who have honoured ‘Chez Bruce’ with a star – and beyond that the annual certainty of the moniker ‘London’s Favourite Restaurant’ issued by Harden’s. So with so much riding on reputation can it deliver a fine meal to this critic?
The tables are well laid out, with the decoration uncluttered, airy and light with the help of mirrors. It feels informal, simple but impressive – a restaurant for special occasions. We were offered some fresh artisan bread and some cheese biscuits, and some champagne to kick things off.
Perusing the menu reveals an added bonus, the price of a mere £27.50pp for a three course lunch (with £45 for dinner) – and alongside a wide leather bound wine list that would simply take hours to read through. Luckily a sommelier is on hand to discuss our food choices and recommend wines that are not outlandish in cost. Reasonable, honest service.
With champagne in hand and wine on the way we didn’t have to wait too long for the starters to arrive in the shape of ‘Foie Gras and chicken liver parfait with smoked duck and walnut salad and toasted brioche’ & ‘Oriental crab salad with scallop sashimi, with coriander and chilli’.
Mouth-watering in concept and in visual quality too – the creaminess of the Foie Gras was brilliant, not overpowering and alongside the smoked duck hit the right notes with the warm soft-toasted brioche. The real triumph was the crab salad and scallop sashimi however. Having never tried raw scallops I was so impressed with the subtlety of the texture and taste. The crab was fluffy and light with a finely sliced garnish of radish, onion and ginger and the whole dish had a clean and refreshing quality.
Having laboured over the starters for a little longer than we should, the mains were nonetheless perfectly timed on their arrival. Another example of how the service was perfectly orchestrated and tailored to the individual tables.
The ‘Glazed cheek and jowl of pork, soft polenta, grilled endive, crisp pancetta and wild mushrooms’ & the ‘Cornish Gurnard with Jerusalem artichokes, mushroom barley, monkfish liver’ looked tantalising – the meals lengthy by name, nonetheless got the juices suitably flowing!
Both meals were commendable, with the Gurnard again being a triumph. The pork cheek and jowl were tender, falling apart with bags of succulent flavour, but alas accompanied by a slightly dry polenta. The wild mushrooms and reduction saved the pork though and it was satisfying to say the least… The monkfish liver in combination with the gurnard ticked every box and was perfectly complemented by the Jerusalem artichoke which was sliced, pureed and crisped in a wonderful range of texture and taste.
To finish, the desserts chosen were ‘Pear and almond tart with butterscotch sauce and clotted cream’ & ‘Malt custard with coffee cream, toasted almond ice cream and chocolate almonds’. Finishing with such desserts is a rare treat; the malt custard dessert knocked our socks off and frankly has to be tried if still on the frequently changing menu. Both desserts were light, creamy, and decadent… although to be fair the clotted cream was not a very good addition to the tart, with perhaps a thinner or an ice cream being a better inclusion.
We went for a lunch on what would seemingly be a very busy Friday after Valentine’s day, but the service was always very good, never being rushed and attentive. To wax lyrical about venues can get tiresome – what is wrong? There must be something… but besides splitting hairs over some very minor elements, this restaurant with its food and service is an excellent choice; totally satisfying.
We walked out with massive grins, full stomach’s and only £120 including drinks and service lighter.
+44 (0)20 8672 0114
2 Bellevue Road, Wandsworth Common, London SW17 7EG