Le Bouchon Breton
8 Horner Square
Old Spitalfields Market
London E1 6EW
Tel: 08000 191 704
Food type: French Bistro
Food rating: 5/10
Nearest tube: Liverpool Street
Website: Le Bouchon Breton
A bouchon is defined on Wikipedia as a type of restaurant in Lyon serving up traditional Lyonnaise cuisine. The term Bouchon, as defined by Peter Hertzmann, refers to the informal keepers of workers’ cooking, specifically the silk workers of the Croix-Rousse district in Lyon. Nowadays, the term bouchon is used loosely with many of them catering to the tourist market.
Le Bouchon Breton is the latest addition to the ‘Le Bouchon’ family with sister restaurant Le Bouchon Bordelaise located in Battersea. Like its sister restaurant, there is a Le Gavroche pedigree with their head chefs – Chef Nicolas Laridan was formerly head chef at Le Gavroche. Michel Roux Jr. is also consultant for this restaurant. The similarities do not end here either – the menu in most part is similar for both Le Bouchon restaurants serving up authentic French bistro food. The food focuses on simplicity as much the quality and freshness of the produce. You won’t find any complex, triple reduced sauces here.
The restaurant is located at Old Spitalfields Market on the 1st floor next to Wagamamas. A large sign convieniently guides us to the restaurant. The decor of the restaurant is as you would expect from a smart, chic, French brasserie with tables (draped with white table clothes), wooden chairs and red leather sofas. There is also seating outside for when the weather and climate are more permissible. A huge glass panel allows diners to obtain a good view of the market. There is also a bar area spanning 15 meters which is pretty popular during the weekends. There is a 700 bin wine list although prices are ambitious with few bottles under the £30 mark.
Bread was in the form of sliced baguettes served with unsalted butter. The bread, which is brought in, was served cold and passable although none to spectacular (3/10). Special mention for the unsalted butter, supplied by La Cave a Fromage, which were of very good quality. This is unsurprising as La Cave also supply butter and cheese to high end restaurants such as Tom Aikens and Le Manoir Aux Quat Saisons. Cheekily there was a £1.50 surcharge for bread which I was not aware of.
Fruits de Mer – Le Plateau Imperial
We started off with a ‘full works’ platter of Fruits de Mer consisting of Oysters, Tiger Prawns, Whelks, Winkles, Crab, Clam Palourde, Surf Clams, Mussels, Langoustines and a Lobster. This was beautifully presented on a towering tray with the seafood placed on a bed of ice and seaweed. As a platter of fresh seafood goes, this did a very good job – the seafood is sourced from Bristol with some oysters (the prized Belons and Fins de claires) sourced from Brittany. This was accompanied by home-made mayonnaise, aoili and shallot vinegar. Of special mention was the crab and tiger prawns which were the essence of freshness – the sweetness of the crustaceans highlighting their wonderful texture. The oysters were stunning, in particular the Belons which were intensely salty with the taste of the sea. The langoustines were slightly disappointing with a slightly soft texture. Another small nitpick is that the lobster tail should have been snipped with a pair of scissors to make eating it slightly easier. (7/10)
Le Cote de Boeuf pour Deux
Le Salade Verte ou Mixte
The seafood-fest left us rather full and still to come was the mighty Cote de Boeuf. Apparently the best sellers at this restaurants are its classic french onion soup and their steak. Hardly surprising as there is a good provenance with the beef. The beef here is a cross of Scottish Black Angus, Charolais or Limousin breeds from a single herd. The cows are grass fed as are most cows in Britain (although purist my argue that you get better beef from grain fed cows). The beef is hung on the bone for a minimum of 28 days which guarantees a more intense flavour and tender beef. Our rib of beef was cooked perfectly as per requested – pink (ie Rare). The beef was carved at tableside before being presented on a wooden board – the lovely claret juices trickling to the sides of the board. The rib of beef was moist and juicy, with a very good chargrilled flavour. The steak was accompanied by a huge bowl of pomme frite, some very good bernaise and a small bowl of mixed salad (health issues and a balanced diet is surely not top priority here). Often bernaise is made very badly being too sweet and tasting like custard with tarragon, but here it was spot on. (6/10)
My dessert was the classic tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream. Tarte tatin is one of my favourite desserts and I can tell a good one from a poor one from a mile away. The tarte tatin here was disappointing on so many levels. One of the biggest problem I had was that the apple tart was not cooked to order. Instead, the tart is made in advance and heated up to order. This results in the pastry being soggy and lacking texture. In addition, the tart was not heated through resulting in clumps of solidified caramel. The vanilla ice cream was pleasant enough. (3/10)
Profiteroles a la Glace Vanille, sauce Chocolat
J’s profiteroles were as you would expect – cream puffs stuffed with vanilla ice cream and drenched with chocolate sauce.
Overall, our dinner at Le Bouchon Breton was a pleasant experience with very fresh seafood and a thoroughly enjoyable rib of beef. Their huge weakness lies in their lack of imagination and execution of the desserts. The dessert menu was limited, with safe options lacking in imagination. This would have been fine as classic dishes are timeless for a reason but there-in lies the problem – the execution of these dishes were mundane and very ordinary. Service was attentive and more than capable. Although I seldom talk about the ambience of restaurants (as I find this very subjective), with the bar situated near the dining area, the noise decibels can get quite high during dinner which may not be everybody’s cup of tea.