Old Spitalfields Market
8 Horner Square,
Even the weather joined in the fun as we made our way to try out 'La Fete Alpine' menu at Le Bouchon Breton. Obligingly freezing with sleet in the air, it ensured we were in just the right frame of mind for bubbling pots of cheese and mountain wine.
Le Bouchon Breton is very French, as you might expect. It falls just the right side of Cafe Rouge décor, complete with charming waiters, most especially Jean-Claude the Restaurant Manager, who even admitted popping back to France to keep his accent topped up... that’s dedication for you.
We were on a mission to test the Alpine menu, where diners choose one apres-ski favourite from the 'La Fete Alpine' menu (such as cheese fondue, raclette or tartiflette), a side order of onion soup and 1 side dish of Belgian endive salad. You also get half a bottle of Roussette de Savoie, or 2 pints of beer (or cider) all for £18 per person. An absolute bargain and you don't have to worry about getting those alpine panda eyes!
And so we began. The onion soup was as good as any I’ve ever had: sweet and silky, dark and delicious. Then came the glory of the fondue pot. Far from being a sad hangover from the late 70s as it is sometimes perceived in England, it should be celebrated for all its cheesy goodness. The trick, in my humble opinion is to scrape the gooey bits from the bottom. Like greedy fools we gorged on the thick stringy cheese and innocent little cubes of bread, little thinking that we should be saving some room for all the rest of the goodness to come.
My companion isn’t a white wine drinker but our utterly charming sommelier (same school as Jean-Claude!), insisted that the Savoyard wine that matched the menu would complement the meal. As is usual in these situations he was entirely correct. My friend was a total convert.
The French salami, garlic sausage & bresaola were as good as you’d expect, and I feel a little silly even writing this, but the boiled potatoes were absolutely amazing. I know they’re just potatoes but honestly they were special! Thank goodness for the endive salad, which cut through our gluttonous journey. We waded through enough food to feed a troupe of ski instructors, and at the rate we were going we’d have to roll down a mountain home!
Next up, the novelty of cooking our own ‘surf et turf’ on the hot stone. The beef as you can imagine was Charolais finest sirloin, and I have to confess we did nibble a bit before it even got as far as the stone. Shhhhh!
Whilst we were having one of many breathers, we noticed the two gentlemen at the table opposite had the most amazing rib of beef. It was pink and there was lots of it. It occurred to us that the fact that the gentlemen were French was probably a good sign. Then we wondered why it is that you don’t see many English men out for dinner together, unless it‘s ‘business’ of course? Answers on the back of postcard for that one. The revolution is coming, it’s just that it’s got to wait for Soccer AM to finish first it would seem.
Even though we were absolutely barrel-shaped from eating, one look at the cheese trolley and we were putty in Jean-Claudes capable hands, and masterful they were too. The restaurant runs cheese master classes and I urge you if you can to get signed up for one. I love my cheese but this man knows his stuff, and so he would, having worked in some of the London stalwarts such as Bleeding Heart, not to mention working with the crack Roux team behind Le Gavroche to bring Le Bouchon Breton up to speed.
Whether you’re just back from the mountains and pine for them or if you didn’t make the slopes this year and feel you’ve missed out, get down to Le Bouchon Breton before March 31st 2010 and you’ll be in for a rare treat. For an even bigger treat call ahead and see if Jean-Claude’s on.
La Fete Alpine is available at Le Bouchon Breton this February and March 2010.
**Le Bouchon Breton: **8 Horner Square, Old Spitalfields Market, London E1 6EW.
**Reviewer: **Tara O'Reilly