Bruno Loubet places vegetables at the center of the plate at his new London restaurant.
Carnivores: There’s no need to be afraid.
Loubet is a chef who well understands the pleasures of the flesh. Two of his finest dishes are hare royale and boudin blanc at Bistrot Bruno Loubet. Meat-lovers won’t be frozen out at the Grain Store, his second establishment, which opened yesterday.
“Vegetables are often just a garnish and I want them to become the focus on the plate,” Loubet said in an interview at the new restaurant, just north of King’s Cross station, in London. “I like my piece of meat but the funny thing is when you start to cook like that, you start to appreciate the meat more.”
(The chef has a new cook book, “Mange Tout,” if you are also interested in his meat-centric dishes.)
Loubet is among a growing number of chefs seeking to rebalance their plates. Alain Passard at L’Arpege in Paris is known for it and in London Alexis Gauthier (of Gauthier) earlier this year published “Vegetronic,” moving in a similar direction.
“I’ve been cooking big joints of meat for years because it’s my job,” Loubet, 51, said. “But all my life, I’ve also been growing vegetables and foraging. That’s part of my childhood. I know now this is a big trend but this is how I grew up.
“We couldn’t afford a lot of meat at home with seven children, so we used to grow all the things ourselves. We had chickens and rabbits and pigeons but a big part of most meals during the week was with vegetables, because that is what we could afford. And we used to go foraging.
“You’d go home from school with a bag and pick nettles. Then my mother would poach a few eggs from the chickens and put them in a soup she made with the nettles, stuff like that.”
The Grain Store is housed in a grain warehouse that dates to 1851 and is situated just north of King’s Cross and St. Pancras train stations. The interior design by Russell Sage -- a favorite of Gordon Ramsay -- is playful and quirky.
That look reflects the menu, which features dishes such as chilled Chili con Veggies -- with ground mushroom substituting for meat -- and peach, salted watermelon and basil salad, salmon confit. Or how about strawberry and balsamic jam, horseradish ice cream, nasturtium leaves?
It’s a new direction for Loubet, although you can see the influence of chef Raymond Blanc for whom he worked at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. Loubet made his name in London at establishments such as L’Odeon and Bistrot Bruno in the 1990s before moving to Australia for eight years. He returned to the U.K. in 2009 to open Bistrot Bruno Loubet, at the Zetter Hotel.
The Grain Store won’t be for everyone. Serve a good steak and many diners may argue that all the vegetables you need are fries and onion rings. I wouldn’t disagree, although a few mushrooms on the side and a martini might be welcome.
Just for once I am feeling a craving for seared asparagus, green gazpacho sauce, rosemary and pink peppercorn melba toast.
The Grain Store, Granary Square, London, N1C 4AB. Information: http://www.grainstore.com/ or +44-20-7324-4466.
(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. He is U.K. and Ireland chairman of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Opinions expressed are his own.)
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