Saturday, 6 March 2010

Le Bouchon Breton

Last night I re-visited Le Bouchon Breton in Spitalfields market and had another cracking meal.

Le Bouchon is a little bit of France tucked away in east London. The restaurant is on the first level and takes bit of finding (at least two of my friends rang for directions having wandered haplessly for a while), but once you do, it is worth it, especially if you enjoy traditional French fare. And I'm not sure I could have had a more authentically French meal, if I tried!

Les 12 Escargots de Bourgogne
"12 Snails with Garlic Butter"
So, I started with a dozen snails, as you do. Well, I 'd never had snails before and it seemed like a good time to start. As a rule I always think it's best to try something new for the first time at a restaurant, as, chances are, it'll be cooked well so you stand a good as chance as any of liking the new food.

What I hadn't reckoned with was the new utensils I'd have to get to grips with, in order to get to grip with my molluscs (see below). Snails come on an escargotière, or escargot plate, a metal platter with recesses for the snails. You also get a pair of snail tongs with which to grip the little beasts and a snail fork with which to prise the meat from their shell.

Fortunately I was amongst experts who were able to explain just what to do. Once I'd realised that I had to stop pressing down on the tongs once I had the shell enveloped (further pushing on the tongs just opens them wider!), I was off. The technique is to plunge the snail fork into the meaty bowels of the shell and then twist to pull out the meat.

The actual snail was covered in a gloriously green and garlicky butter. Now, unfortunately I did not have an epiphanous moment and discover an amazing new gustatory pleasure. I can report that my snail experience can be reduced down to three words: rubbery garlic butter. Each snail was a perfect morsel but tasted of nothing more than the garlic and herb butter.

On the basis of this experience, I'm not sure I shall be bothering with snails again. Unless I'm in France, or maybe The Fat Duck...
Cassoulet des Landes
"Hearty Stew of Confied Duck leg, Toulouse and Garlic Sausage in a Rich Confied Tarbais Beans and Tomato Ragout"
Cassoulet is a revered, historic, regional dish in France. A little research (what would I do without Larousse and the interweb?) leads me to believe that what I had a was a variant of a Toulouse cassoulet without the mutton. To give it a restaurant appeal I think the duck was cooked separately as the skin was magnificently crisp (which made up for the lack of bean crust).

The dish was very rich and wonderfully flavoured. Absolutely terrific. If I had a minor quibble it was that the beans were mushy. The combination of duck, sausage, fat, beans and tomato must surely be as close to an ambrosial experience as man can get.
Clafouti aux Pruneaux et Creme a l'Armagnac
"Warm ‘Clafouti’ with Brandy Soaked Prunes and Cream"

A clafoutis is a baked batter pudding embedded with black cherries. Here the brandy prunes were a beautiful accompaniment to a rich batter. To be honest, by this stage I'd maybe had a glass of wine or two too many (hence the lack of photo) and can't remember if the cherries had been replaced with prunes too; there certainly weren't any stones.

We also had a platter of seven cheeses, which were, obviously, typically French. What I mean is seven completely delectable, distinct cheeses each as moorish as the next. There's no chance of me remembering what seven we had apart from the fact that despite being stuffed to the gills, I couldn't resist. I would love to go to one of Le Bouchon's cheese masterclasses though I'd have to make sure that it wasn't preceded by a large meal, in order to appreciate the fromage.

Le Bouchon probably isn't a destination restaurant (as is clear from the fact that on a Friday night it was nearly half empty) but it does offer traditional French fare at very reasonable prices. I really can't conceive of anyone going to Le Bouchon and not having a great meal.
Le Bouchon Breton on Urbanspoon

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails