2 Bellevue Road, Wandsworth Common, SW17 7EG, +44 208 672 0114 website
Background: I originally hail from New York and for us Zagat is God. I have also introduced Pascal to Zagat, and therefore, it should not be a surprise that when choosing a restaurant for my birthday this is where he would turn. A 29 for food is absolutely shocking. There are only two in London with this rating; the other one is twice as expensive. And fair enough, neither of us knew where Wandsworth was before we ventured out to the restaurant, but still. Not sure how we even got a reservation but hey Tuesday isn't exactly date night. But the location is beautiful, just off the common, and surrounded by cute little shops selling French linens and stuff; so far so good. Now I had read on Cheese and Biscuits and gen.u.ine.ness that the room can be cramped and loud, so I was expecting that. Pascal, however, had some inside tips and booked a table upstairs in a smaller room which had ample space and wasn’t the slightest bit noisy. Once we were seated, Pascal notices a far better table by the window overlooking Wandsworth common, we ask and are given this table, a nice little upgrade.
The Starters: Pascal, not unexpectedly, orders the Foie gras and chicken liver parfait with toasted brioche and I have the Wild garlic risotto with English Asparagus and parmesan. I usually get a little nervous when asparagus goes into risotto as it has a tendency to overpower the dish, but I had been meaning to pick up some wild garlic since it started sprouting and hadn’t had the opportunity, so I couldn’t resist. Happily the risotto was a lovely and gentle dish with the wild garlic doing its fair share of the talking.
The foie gras was exceptional. It’s a whipped creamy goodness served in a crock. We learned later that is one of their signature dishes. Now I appreciate having chosen well but when we were asking what to order, this would have been great advance knowledge. Even so, the foie gras is served with a nice big piece of brioche that we quickly plowed through. Pascal requested another piece and our wish was granted. We think it’s a two brioche dish; apparently “normal people” don’t usually finish it because it’s so rich. Maybe that is because they only get one brioche and don’t want to ask for more; maybe not, but just a thought.
The Mains: Following our server Brad’s, advice (we got along quite well by the end), I opted for the Pot au feu of duck with ravioli, stuffed cabbage and tarragon, Pascal went with the Roast rib eye of beef with hand cut chips and béarnaise sauce. Now the Pot au feu was not exactly a Pot au feu in traditional terms, for which I am quite grateful. Pot au feu, French for “pot on the fire”, usually ends up looking more like a stew and everything is boiled beyond recognition, this one was more of a trois façons. There was the duck breast, the confit and a cabbage roll filled with a mousse de canard (sounds way better than duck mousse). Fantastic.
The rib eye was also good and the chips, apparently fried three times, were great; a very crunchy exterior without losing the actual potato inside. The steak itself was well cooked and very good, but it was still not the American-style steak we are seeking, it came with its own glaze making it clear that the béarnaise, not the best out there, was best used with the chips.
Dessert and Cheese: While I had room for dessert, Pascal did not (given his above choices would you?), so he went with the cheese course instead. Looking back, as you will see, it is clear that the dessert is by far the lighter course. Still in an effort at lighter fare, I went for the Passion fruit soufflé with coconut sorbet and mango. It was a beautiful thing. If you have made a soufflé and it has fallen you also know what a beautiful thing soufflé can be. It was accompanied by a passion fruit sauce as well as the coconut sorbet and mango. The sauce was probably overkill as the soufflé itself was so much already the embodiment of passion fruit that I needed the coconut sorbet just to cut the flavor.
The cheeses, however, were great. There was a huge selection and it was clear that a lot of thought and care had been put into their selection. We were allotted six ample portions. I was excited. I will spare you details of each cheese, unless you ask for it, but let’s just say it was a good mix.
Closing thoughts: I really enjoyed myself. The service was great, not intrusive yet effective and well-timed. The sommelier was extremely knowledgeable and didn’t automatically shoot for the bottom of the page. The upstairs room was great and, as I mentioned, didn’t offer any of the inconveniences of downstairs, but if your reservation is on the late side, as ours was (9pm), then you might feel as if you are closing down the place by the time you are done. The value for money is exceptional and even the champagne by the glass is good and reasonable. The cab ride back to where ever you came from is certainly a bummer (unless you are a local, in which case lucky you) but if given another opportunity I will happily dine Chez Bruce again.
Silverware: Heavy, scalloped, with a bevelled knife. The sauce spoon did not go unnoticed.
Damage: £40 / person prix fixe for three courses