For the benefit of anyone who has been off planet or hibernating Bruno Loubet is back in Blighty with a bang after a 10 year self-imposed exile in Brisbane. Now ensconced at the chic but très sympathique Zetter Hotel on Clerkenwell Road, Monsieur Loubet is doing what he does best viz. sensibly-priced bistro classics uplifted by an inspired personal flair. Bruno's great gifts lie in getting the basics right (attentive, well-informed service, good freshly-baked bread (in a flower pot!), generous table spacing, no cynical table turning) and knowing just how far to embellish a dish without overdoing it.
A short, confident menu of 7 starters and 7 mains (see below), plus a couple of specials, left one spoilt for choice and our lunch party of 3 rather greedily invented an absent friend in order to satisfy our curiosity. 'Revised' Lyonnaise salad features batons of de-boned, deep fried pig's trotter (as opposed to ear), grated (then fried) potato, poached egg and pancetta. This is the salad for people (like me) who don't love salad and is sure to become a much demanded mainstay. Mauricette sails (named after Bruno's mother) were also exemplary, as was beetroot ravioli, but the tub-thumping, show-stealing starter was a Guineau fowl boudin blanc with leek fondue and chervil sauce. Delicate of texture, punchy of flavour and beautifully presented this is Michelin star quality cuisine at knock-down prices. A blameless Cai dei Frati Laguna from a modest but soon to be extended wine list met with general approval being mid-weight, oily, unoaked and affordable.
Our mains continued to show blinding form. Quail and pistachio Dodine again illustrated technical expertise and imagination. Beef Daube, in its own cast iron pot, was bien classique and Pan-fried breast of wood pigeon with a quinoa and giblet sauce was also superbly executed. A brooding Côte Rôtie 2001 from Jasmin was very fairly priced at £57 and was a fine match for our meaty main courses. Fully sated we eschewed desserts but the coffee was strong, dark and delicious and promptly served as by this stage we anticipated it would be.
My strong advice is to book a table promptly as queues must build and prices will probably increase accordingly. We'll be back very soon. It doesn't get much better than this at these prices. 9.5/10