2 Bellevue Road, SW17 7EG
WLC Rank : 28
Glass from : £ 5 (125 ml)
BEST FORPeaceful location on Wandsworth Common
Wholesome, classic dishes
Cared for cheeseboard
Large, satisfying, rested wine list
Head sommelier, Victor Barré is enjoying meeting regulars which give security to the neighbourhood restaurant in the current economic climate. “We know their names and they know ours,” he says.
Formerly Harveys under Marco Pierre White, who infamously charged a customer £25 to hand-cut an off-menu portion of chips and also painted his own artworks to adorn the dining room, Chez Bruce seems to fit the perception of how a restaurant should be run – by a good bunch of passionate people who know exactly what they are doing.
Previously assistant head sommelier at The Ledbury (RIP), head sommelier, Victor Barré was born in Chiswick to a French family – his mother harks from Le Puy-Notre-Dame in the heart of Saumur. He describes his personality as combining “French sultriness and British humour.”
Barré looks for wines which take the collaborative dishes of the wine-loving owner, Bruce Poole and head chef, Matt Christmas to another level. Hence, in homage to the legendary Pierre Koffmann, the painstakingly deboned, sweetbread stuffed pig’s trotter dish with mashed potato can be rendered even more exceptional with a glass of Mâcon Le Clos (Domaine Sophie Cinier) or a clean Saperavi “when done really well done in amphorae.”
Barré recalls ordering the “wow” dish as a civilian while celebrating his anniversary at Chez Bruce one month before the lockdown. At the time, he did not know he would soon begin a professional relationship with the restaurant.
The cellar aces in Burgundy, including a library of Domaine Raveneau Chablis, with icons including wines from Anne Gros, Leflaive, Mortet, Roulot and Prieuré-Roch. There is also a modest collection of Bordeaux (Smith-Haut-Lafitte, Vieux Château Certan) and Bordeaux blends (Shiner, Chapter 1, Stellenbosch) and cherry-picked Barolo (G. D. Vajra, Voerzio) and Barbaresco (Sottimano, Pajoré, Neive and Bruno Rocca, Rabajà) as well as Spain (Clos Mogador, Priorat and Bodegas Lan, Viña Lanciano, Rioja) and its islands (Ànima Negra, Mallorca, Callet). Expect premium picks, too, from north America (Littorai, Charles Heitz). Barré is also interested in wines showing freshness and point of difference from Australia, hence the presence of Lethbridge’s still Pinot Meunier.
As with the sister restaurant, La Trompette, the restaurant maintains a proactive approach to corkage during weekday lunches.
Ready for its reopening, as part of the refurbishment, Chez Bruce added a brand-new dispense bar from which drinks such as the jasmine and sloe gin sour are produced. Other drinks include the lager from Wimbledon Brewery, an English pilsner from Nine Reigns, Derby, and Breton cider.
Although he has traditionally preferred to acquire his knowledge of wine first-hand, visiting producers such as Domaine Guiberteau in Saumur and Domaine Eric Morgat in Savennières, Barré spent a lot of time studying wine during the lockdown. He also enjoyed the ingredient spoils of restaurant-grade suppliers whose new approach to delivering to home addresses was, he says, “a very public affair.”
When not at work, Barré is a fanatic of cycling, climbing, snowboarding and motorbike riding – a hobby he acquired from his father.
By Douglas Blyde.