I’ve been preparing a kind of personal guide to eating out in London which sounds rather presumptuous, but it’s not. It’s really a ready-made answer for the many friends and others who ask me where they might go for a bite to eat in that vast and culinarily diverse city. It will be the product of years of selfish pursuit of pleasure, never on expenses, and it will come straight from the heart. With a bit of luck, I hope to have it online some time in August 2016.
As part of my selfless dedication to helping readers find the right kind of food in London, I went and had lunch in an old favourite for the first time in probably a decade: Chez Bruce in Wandsworth, where Marco Pierre White once rattled the pans and where Bruce Poole has been in charge for donkeys’ years at this stage.
It’s a lovely, brightrestaurant just on the Common (and very handy for Wandsworth station, a twenty minute walk from Clapham South tube) and it serves what I suppose you would call pretty eclectic food. I had, inter alia, a rather lovely (and hugely generous) starter of arista Toscana, very thinly sliced pork, cooked pink, with fennel and filaments of crackling, gazpacho of cucumber with tiny toasted sandwiches of wild salmon and a very classic veal Provençale. Staff were charming, the wine list is good, the selection by the glass adequate rather than brilliant.
The fact that I returned for lunch next day tells you that I liked the place. A lot. And I think it deserves its one Michelin star – if you’re bothered about such things. It performs very much as a one star restaurant does in the south of England.
But Chez Bruce, delightful as it is, cannot hold a candle to somewhere else where I have been eating of late: Chapter One in Dublin which, mirabile dictu, has just one Michelin star. The cooking at Chapter One, the wine selection, the service, the whole experience at Chapter One is on a far superior level.
Which just goes to show that Michelin is now so notoriously inconsistent that restaurants in Dublin have to try much harder than those in London to achieve stars. It’s a mystery to me why Michelin lost the plot but I have a feeling that it has much to do with density of population. At least, this may be the kindest interpretation.
In any case, this recent experience serves to underline that you really can’t rely on Michelin for anything much more than a very basic and frankly elastic definition of what to expect when eating out. Or to put it bluntly, Michelin stars are rapidly becoming a silly irrelevance.