For the uninitiated, Grain Store is the wildly successful restaurant of supremo chef Bruno Loubet. With an ethos of vegetable-heavy, cow-rejecting goodness, this King’s Cross behemoth has delighted diners not just for flavour, but with the ethical turn of Bruno’s cooking.
With the success of this model, and the chef’s growing love of all things non-animal, it comes as no surprise that this formula should be attempted elsewhere - in this case as a takeover of Bistro Bruno Loubet at the Zetter Hotel in Farringdon.
What made this prospect immensely appealing was that this new venture is not just a copy-and-paste replica of Grain Store, but a set of dinner tasting menus packed with playful ingredients and just enough mystique to be intriguing (without crossing over into the realm of eye-rolling vaguery). The buzz of the restaurant that greeted us was indicative of London Foodies’ verve for a reduced-meat menu.
We started with a dish of Vegetable oyster and caviar, “Bottom of the sea”. I am a supreme oyster lover but, thanks to my stupid body, I now am apparently allergic to these bizarrely sensual little molluscs. Thankfully, the vegetarian version offered all of the happy seaside smack in the face as its marine counterpart. Tapioca pearls served as the ‘caviar’, with the classic oyster shallot dressing tricking my mind into playing along with these vegetable interlopers.
Next was the Asparagus in brown butter, pomelo and bronze fennel. It’s hard to describe adequately how revelatory this dish is, the kind of thing where you question why pomelo and brown butter hasn’t made it into the canon of contemporary cookery. The way the sweetly tart pomelo nodules warmly popped in your mouth - all the while offering a tart reprieve to the intense brown butter - was a sensory delight. I’ll have a plate of that to go please, forever.
Next came a dazzlingly colourful dish of Pickled flowers and rhubarb with sea trout, jostling with green apple purée and bergamot emulsion. The rhubarb had a savoury bent to its pickle that melded beautifully with this plate of sweet, rich and sour. The bergamot emulsion was frothy, pithy and luxuriously rich in the mouth, the perfect match to the sea trout.