Mange Tout, By Bruno Loubet


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The Independent Culture

"OH JESUS." Such is the two-word response fired back at me by a friend on receipt of my latest invitation to be a gastronomic guinea pig for this column. But then, to be fair to her, she was present at my inaugural Cooking the Books dinner, aka "The Gwyneth Paltricide"; this time, I assure her, I'm dealing with a far more benevolent recipe provider, namely Bruno Loubet.

Once the protégé of Raymond Blanc, these days the chef is the toast of London, with two much-admired restaurants in the capital: Clerkenewell's Bistro Bruno Loubet and King's Cross's recently opened Grain Store, whose "veg-centric", as opposed to vegetarian, menu is winning rave reviews the length and breadth of the broadsheets.

Anyway, Mange Tout, his first book in 18 years, is not a paean to the stir-fry staple, thank god, but – and I'm guessing here – a celebration of eating everything. Which means that you get classic French dishes alongside interesting "fusion" fare (sorry, just experienced a random attack of the late-1990s there) and some crowd-pleasing curveballs by which I mean, chiefly, a black pudding and Scotch egg salad.

Helpfully, too, the dishes all tends towards the practical-for-entertaining, rather than preening-and-who-the-hell-has-a-sous-vide-anyway? variety.

Indeed, it being a weekday evening, and with seven gannets to feed, I start with one of the simplest dishes, "Asparagus Roasted with Meat Jus", which involves frying the green spears in rosemary and butter before finishing them off in reduced chicken or veal stock. I go for chicken, and what can I say except 1,000 times YES? Though I could add that it also might make it a bit difficult to be served some lovely, fresh-cooked vegetables in future without thinking: why aren't you slathered in animal nectar?

Then, for the main, I make "Baked Brie with Potatoes & Ham, Flambéed with Gin", self-evidently because it involves a) gin and b) towers of high-class cheese, high-class ham and potatoes, goo'ed together in the oven. It proves more controversial than expected, however, thanks to the Whole Foods Brie de Meaux I'd chosen, the ripeness of which caused some to emit goldfish-like gasps, while others, puffed up with cheese machismo, scarfed theirs down – only later admitting privately that they had lost use of their tongue.