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.
“Guests don’t come for the same reason as 20 years ago,” says head sommelier, Arnaud Pasdeloup. “They have a different wallet in their pocket and can’t afford the same thing.” Yet they are more gastronomically “curious”, trying plum sake with a lime and coconut pudding, for example, or opting for a bottle of Georgian Saperavi or Istrian Merlot/Teran alongside their côte de boeuf with hand-cut chips and silky béarnaise, or a Syrian Chardonnay/Sauvignon, “made by a winemaker who goes to work in an armoured car,” with tandoori mackerel with bulgar wheat and cardamom purée.
Closer to home, Pasdeloup has experienced a reawakening when it comes to the diversity of Italy, “which always has something new to discover, though the fact they have many names for the same grape varieties keeps me on my toes…” He also rates Portugal, “even beyond the Douro, Port and Madeira,” and recommends investment for both prospective wine producers, as well as second homeowners, in the country which was once considered a vinous “a black sheep.” And recently buoyed by Taittinger’s arrival, English wine has “been a big polemic since about five years ago,” he says. “Look at the white cliffs of Dover and you can understand everything. What’s missing is the age of the vines, but the money and equipment are here.”
Pasdeloup studied hospitality in Paris before working aboard a cruise ship in the Bahamas, then worked at both Balla and Uccello restaurants in Sydney. In London, he began at sister site, La Trompette, Chiswick alongside Master Sommelier, Laura Rhys (now ambassador for English wine producer, Gusbourne) before taking on the list at The Glasshouse, Kew (the third restaurant of Bruce Poole’s “Larkbrace” group).
The kitchen of Poole and Matt Christmas bakes their own bread and cures charcuterie, while the front-of-house clearly care for the fine cheeseboard. Poole, who studied history, occasionally devises special menus for favoured wine producers, such as the historically-inspired banquet held in the upstairs private room (textile walls of which I once saw the cleaner hoovering) overlooking Wandsworth Common and the bus 319 home. Led by charismatic producer, Dr. Laura Catena, this told the story of the journey of the wandering vine of Malbec, from Cahors in France to Argentina’s Mendoza.
When not at Chez Bruce, you will find Pasdeloup riding his scooter, heading to a tennis court, golf course or concert.
By Douglas Blyde.
‘My favourite countries are Italy and France, although I am starting to be amazed by the value and quality of wines from the Balkans,’ says Head Sommelier, Arnaud Pasdeloup of Chez Bruce, the idealised local favourite of Londoners, which faces Wandsworth Common.
Pasdeloup studied hospitality in Paris, quickly ‘orientating’ towards the wine industry. ‘After studying wine for three years, I began travelling to learn other languages and earn experience,’ he says. Cue sorties in London, a cruise ship in the Bahamas, ‘then nearly four years in Sydney where I discovered a lot about Italian wines at Balla and Uccello.’
When Pasdeloup returned to London, he worked at restaurateur, Nigel Platts-Martin’s sister site, La Trompette, Chiswick alongside Master Sommelier, Laura Rhys before taking on the wine list at The Glasshouse, Kew (also in the Larkbrace group) alongside the food of chef, Berwyn Davies. ‘Now I close the circle with the third restaurant of the company, and the biggest challenge of all… Chez Bruce.’
To work in the Larkbrace company is a a great opportunity, says Pasdeloup, ‘because we host many wine dinners and taste a lot of wines.’ One seminal symposium concerned 1982 Bordeaux, ‘where I tasted all the first, second, third and most of the fourth Grand Crus of the Médoc.’
Expect an even-keeled, kindly-priced list at Chez Bruce, the equivalent of a six-speed, V8 Volvo, if you will, celebrating cleanly made classics which are ready to drink, best built for enjoyment at linen at 90 degrees free from excessive ceremony.
Chefs, Bruce Poole and Matt Christmas embrace food they themselves enjoy, including ‘homemade charcuterie, slow-cooked braises, offal, warm and cold salads, classical desserts’ as well as the ‘serious’ cheeseboard. Dishes may comprise warm sliced pig’s head with braised puy lentils and crisp ears, venison loin with sausage roll, brown sauce and roasted root vegetables, and Cabécou de Rocamadour baked in brioche with endive salad, honey, lemon and thyme.
Corkage at lunch, Monday to Friday is £15; it rises, Saturday-Sunday lunch and Monday to Sunday dinner to £30 (NB. one bottle per person).
By Douglas Blyde.
The directors of the restaurant, Bruce Poole and Nigel Platts-Martin, are self-confessed ‘fanatical’ wine lovers (with a weakness for Burgundy and Bordeaux) and take great pride in their cellar – and justly so. Head sommelier/buyer Sara Bachiorri maintains the 700-reference list, which, while covering every classic, Old World base, is on point when it comes to the most interesting winemakers making waves within their respective regions.
As the owners explain, they have invested heavily in their cellar over the years, enabling them to list many rare wines during their perfect drinking window, and not at excessive prices. With more than 100 examples from
Burgundy alone, it’s a selection that might require some prior familiarisation, unless you want to bore your fellow diners to death. By- the-glass offerings are boosted by the use of Coravin – treat yourself to 125ml of Hermitage 2000 from Jean-Louis Chave for £30.