This guy in my office would love everyone to believe he is a serial dater. Day after day he comes in with stories about X from Essex, Y the waitress and Z the hot one. I think he thinks we believe him. When this first started I had no reason not to believe him. I mean, I wouldn’t know how to make time to meet three different dates in the same week, let alone keep track of their lives, jokes and names. But then, that’s just me. This guy is bright, looks alright, can be charming when he chooses, knows a good restaurant, and… is a guy I guess. But as the weeks went on his stories about this supposed quest for love stopped ringing true. I guess what killed it for me was that he can never talk about the excitement jitters that usually precede the prospect of a new something-something.
You can fake a lot of stuff – you can’t fake the feeling of butterflies in your stomach. Everyone probably has their own version of butterflies. For me, I know I am excited about a date when I change outfits at least three times before I meet him. I know he likes me when he doesn’t notice that I have repeated myself – five times. I know I like him when I let him order for the two of us. I know the date is going well when my toes curl as the butterflies finally settle.
I had a toe curling experience recently. No, not on a date – but this came a very, very close second.
I strayed into London’s eclectic East end. Breakfast at the Albion Deli, haircut at Jones & Payne, and then for the highlight of my weekend: lunch at Bistrot Bruno Loubet. Finally!
I have been meaning to eat here since my boss couldn’t stop raving about it nearly 9 months ago. Things happen only when they are meant to, and this Saturday is exactly when this meal was meant to happen. I first visited the hotel that hosts this bistro a few days ago when the charming General Manager Jason Catifeoglou showed me around the Zetter Townhouse (which I have to come back to for many, many cocktails).
The restaurant was quiet. (Apparently, Saturdays are unpredictable.) If I wasn’t travelling on a happy cloud that day I may have reconsidered this option and walked over to the buzzing Modern Pantry next door. But it’s a lovely, bright room, and I got a table by the window that also looked into the kitchen – my favourite kind of table. This is what I ordered:
I started with the foie gras daily special (£9) – I broke my 3-year rule of no foie gras because I wanted to see what kind of magic this chef from the South of France could create. It was pitch perfect. Next came a second starter: beetroot ravioli, rocket salad, fried breadcrumbs and Parmesan (£7.50) – I hate beetroot, love ravioli; this dish is an absolute winner. I finally understand what the “sweetness of beetroot” means.
A quiet restaurant means that the chef has a few minutes to drink his apple juice at your table. It will come as no surprise that I have a soft spot for chefs – I would rather spend my day talking to a chef and how he created something than… than, well, anything else really. And Bruno Loubet is amongst the more disarming ones. His stories of regulars at the bistro, how recipes from his cookbooks have been blatantly plagiarised by several, how the new restaurant in Central London is coming along, and cycling to work everyday, made this meal even more memorable.
I then ordered another daily special for my main. My boss in New York never orders the specials. He doesn’t do it because he doesn’t think the chefs have enough time to perfect the recipe. I suppose that makes sense – but when I see a crab special (£18), I can’t not order it.
For my main I had a crab linguine with curry oil. This dish arrived looking like summer in a bowl, and biting this pasta off the fork may be one of the most sensuous things I have tasted in my life. This dish made my toes curl – every single bite made my toes curl.
That’s almost as good as being on a good date.
p.s. Not even the disastrous buffalo milk pannacotta with watermelon and pineapple salad (£6) could ruin my memories of this meal.