Bistrot Bruno Loubert is at the Zetter hotel in Faringdon. The first time I went was serendipitous; I was asked by turquoisedad where I’d like to go for dinner and said “the new Bruno Loubert place, please”. I was referring to his new(ish) restaurant The Grain Store, up near Kings X but I think he must have googled “Bruno Loubert” and the first restaurant which appeared was his bistro. So that’s where we ended up. The meal was great, although I wouldn’t have chosen my starter again; I had thin slices of aubergine with a tahini flavoured dressing. For me, the crowning glory was the main course of beetroot ravioli: pasta parcels filled with sweet beetroot, creamy ricotta and syrupy but sharp balsamic. These beautiful little gifts were accompanied by fried breadcrumbs, parmesan and rocket. It really was a joy to eat, so much so that when I was asked where I’d like to go for a birthday treat there was no question that it would be BBL for more ravioli.
A table was booked for four for Friday evening. I don’t like a fuss so they weren’t told it was for a celebration. This is a very important point to remember. I arrived, a few minutes late as those who know me are used to (a text I sent to the friend I had lunch with today included the words: “please don’t kill me”). Tables are quite close, but not intrusively so unless you’re next to a group of Hooray Henrys, so I had to shimmy a little to get into my seat. I opened my presents before ordering a Twinkle, which is a champagne cocktail with vodka and elderflower cordial. The light levels are pretty low, so low in fact that our waiter had to take the candle off the table to check the description on the menu when we asked a question about something, but that just adds to the ambiance. Probably not an ideal place for a blind date because you won’t be able to see what your dining companion looks like.
Then it was time to choose the food. I have a great difficulty with menus, I’m very indecisive and often find myself flitting back and forth, then not deciding until right at the last minute, because then it’s too late to change your mind unless you’re prepared to play Chase the Waiter around various obstacles including your fellow restaurant-goers. The beetroot ravioli is an option as a starter or main course. I was debating whether to have it as a starter, main course, or both. As I wasn’t particularly taken with any of the other starters, I opted for the beetroot ravioli followed by the special which was pan fried fillet of black bream, ratte potato, wild mushroom and watercress veloute. I thought ratte potato was a preparation/cooking method however a quick google corrected me and they are in fact a variety of potato which have a “unique nutty flavour and smooth, buttery texture”, I felt they were quite similar to Jerusalem artichoke though others may disagree. The ravioli was as delicious as I remembered and the fish was faultlessly cooked. The only things I would say was that the fish dish was a little over-seasoned for my taste and the combination of soft fish flesh and slightly chewy mushroom was a bit of a surprise when you think you only have fish on your fork…
Everyone’s plates were cleared with no complaints, cleared quickly, then we were asked about dessert. I plumped for a coffee as I was stuffed almost to bursting, but my companions had dessert. I was sitting facing the restaurant and saw a bright light emerging from the dusk. The waiter had clocked my cards and presents and taken matters into his own hands because he brought over a plate decorated with the words “Happy Birthday” with a candle stuck into a scoop of ice cream. There was no singing, I was pleased. I just thought that was a lovely, lovely touch and something that he had decided to do as a thoughtful gesture.
The atmosphere is lovely, relaxed but with a nice buzz. Wine and water glasses were topped up as necessary and the service was impeccable and attentive without being obtrusive. I’d go back to Bistrot Bruno Loubert again and again, and again. And I’d always have the beetroot ravioli.