Bistro Loubet was the grand culmination of my “goodbye London” dinners. Well, there were only three. But that does justify the plural and Loubet is worthy of the word “culmination.” The two other dinners, at The Modern Pantry and Acorn, were fun (and I had great dining company!) but neither restaurant really offered a taste I couldn’t get anywhere else, and that is the most important part of a goodbye ‘fill-in-the-place’ dinner, a final, fleeting taste of a place you won’t see for a while.
I suppose, however, my Loubet dinner wasn’t really that last-taste-of-British either. It’s French and not exactly serving the classics I crave when I re-cross the ocean: baked beans at breakfast, mushy peas with a massive fried fish, millionaire shortbread bars, really good lamb in the spring, strawberries… Wait a second. I did eat a lot of those things at Loubet, but like the Lyonnaise salad (pictured above), they were “Revised.” The food was not exactly French anymore. It was–dare I make this judgement–a very London, comfortably gourmet fusion of local British ingredients with cooking styles from all over the world. I had my strawberries with the addition of pepper ice-cream. I had lamb but it was ‘confit’ and served with lemony white beans, a sweet red roasted pepper, and a spicy green pepper. Then, there were moments of the meal that were more personal special ingredients. Ian, for example, is a soup aficionado and master, he cooks it all the time because it is a food group that never wastes. You can add anything that ‘needs to be cooked-up’ to soup. He had two courses of soup, one which involved the Englishness of peas. The outdoor seating area was another ‘special ingredient.’ Even the potential devilry of marauding city pigeons (Ellen is engaged in mortal-battle with all birds) was a warm joke rather than dinner-destroying havoc.
“Fusion” famously spells destruction, though New French usually misses that end, but this meal succeeded with each of its ever so slightly twisty goals, from the bacon spiral to the swirls of chocolate around the dark chocolate torte with salty caramel ice-cream. Rather than offering a menu with a list of ingredient descriptions that never seem to actually show up on the plate, Loubet has the outstanding quality of serving food with distinct distributions of tastes and textures. The pepper ice cream will make you feel your sinuses. The two types of bacon in the Lyonnaise are crunchy and greasy. The lamb “confit” bursts out of its circling fatty skin into flakes of juicy meat. I could go on, instead, here are the illustrations…
Bistro Loubet (at The Zetter)
St John’s Square, 86-88 Clerkenwell Road