It’s high time I put up another post… As much as you all seem to love the Hairy Bikers’ recipe (and I’ll be posting some more of my own recipes soon…) I thought I’d take the opportunity to post a restaurant review I wrote a couple of months ago for The London Word. Due to unforeseen circumstances (explained at the end of this post), they were unable to publish it – so I thought I would share it with you instead.
Le Bouchon Breton, Spitalfields
Since the redevelopment of Old Spitalfields market over the last ten years or so, the atmosphere has transformed. Upmarket brands have set up shop, and a whole spate of chain restaurants have moved in – Las Iguanas, Wagamama and The Real Greek, to name but a few. While Le Bouchon Breton is not technically a chain, it was launched in 2008 on the back of the success of its sister restaurant, Le Bouchon Bordelais in Battersea. Both attempt to convey the atmosphere and style of a traditional French brasserie – Le Bouchon Breton has black and white tiled floors, a long pewter bar, and what felt like an entirely French-speaking staff.
The menu is similarly inspired, focusing on simple French food – snails and frogs legs to start, mussels or steak frites as a main. However, it is their new Plateau de St Maxim that really offers excellent value for money.
Served on a raised platter, the sharing dish consists of a whole crab, several large prawns, a good helping of clams and mussels, calamari and a small fillet of Gunard and cod. It is served with a basket of freshly-baked brown bread and butter, a 500ml carafe of Chateau St Margerite Rose Cru Classe de Provence and comes in at a reasonable £45 for two.
There’s even a bit of theatre thrown in: upon arrival, the waiter flambées the entire platter with a shot of vodka. While probably not entirely necessary for a dish where the majority of the vodka ends up on the shells, it’s a nice gesture. Unfortunately the food came lukewarm, but the crab was succulent and sweet, and the accompanying sauce vierge brought out the best in the fish and shellfish. The paired wine was rather dry, but was still light and refreshing and complemented the dish well.
Le Bouchon Breton have also recently opened their terrace, large enough to seat about thirty. It’s a lovely addition to the restaurant, but feels a little bittersweet. It would be stunning to sit outside on a long summer’s evening, catching the last of the sun’s rays over your meal – if you closed your eyes, you could almost be in Britanny – but alas, the terrace remains firmly indoors, overlooking the central area of the market. That said, given the summer we’ve been having so far, it might not be such a bad idea after all – there aren’t many places where you can eat al fresco and not have to run for cover the moment the heavens open.
Plateau de St Maxim is available until the end of August.
Well, it would be if the restaurant were still open. Sadly just a week after my visit, Le Bouchon Breton closed its doors. Apparently, despite the packed terrace on my visit, they just weren’t covering their costs – so either they were making a serious loss on the Plateau de St Maxim and had sold thousands, or (more likely) they just weren’t getting in enough crowds to justify the rental Old Spitalfields market probably demand.
You can still visit and support their sister restaurant, Le Bouchon Bordelais in Battersea, to stop it from heading the same way, but if you’re looking for top-notch French bistro-style dining, I’ve heard Zedel is the place to be. It’s on my Hit List.