Eating out: The seven year hit

LETTONIE; 9 Druid Hill, Stoke Bishop, Bristol BS9 1EW. Tel: 0117 968 6456. Open Tuesday to Saturday 12.30-2pm and 7-9pm. Three-course menu, pounds 38.50, lunch pounds 19.95, supper Tues-Thurs pounds 25. Seven-course menu pounds 48. Credit cards accepted

There is an issue which I suspect preoccupies many of us who love good food, though I fear the confession of it may be seen as a justifiable cause for sneering. Never mind. Some people out there will understand.

I am talking about the problem of what to do when you are anticipating a particularly fantastic eating experience. How, much, for example, do you eat? You want to arrive hungry, but not starving: if you're too hungry, you will crave un- adorned carbohydrate, and probably find the idea of meat and rich sauces something of a turn off.

On the other hand, a late decision to take a light bite for purposes of pacing could be fatal. Imagine, come seven o'clock, you're bordering on too peckish for optimum palate performance. What do you eat? An apple? A banana? A jam sandwich? You decide it's too risky, and you'll hold out for 8.30. But just before you leave you realise that you really are too famished. Before you know it you've scoffed seven packets of Hob Nobs and you're groaning on the floor, begging your partner to cancel the booking.

Am I exaggerating? Maybe a little. But I know what I'm talking about - I'm writing this review before visiting the restaurant that is to be its subject. It's 4pm, and so far today I've had two apples for breakfast, and a bowl of whole earth organic cornflakes, with semi-skimmed milk, about half an hour ago - delicious, but will they keep me going until dinner at eight?

Why the build up? Because Marie and I are due to get the 6.15 from Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads, where we will be met by my parents. They will drive us to the suburb of Bristol called Stoke Bishop, where we will all have dinner in a small restaurant called Lettonie, tucked into an unprepossessing row of shops between the vet and the launderette.

I last went to Lettonie in 1990, to review it for Punch, and had some of the most sophisticated and brilliantly executed food I have ever tasted. Seven years on, I'm itching to get back, and not least because I hear that its days may be numbered: chef Martin Blunos and his wife Sian are looking to move, and reincarnate Lettonie in the country.

The next day ... The dining-room, though small, is sumptuous, as if the Blunos are in rehearsal for country-house life. It may be scaled down grandeur, but it could hardly be more comfortable - which is just as well, because we had a pretty long wait for the first of our dishes. I struggled not to ruin my careful preparation by overdosing on bread, and eventually Dad took the inscription on the menu quite literally, and went out to the street to smoke "with consideration for other guests". Which meant, of course, that our amuse-gueules arrived at once.

My first taste of Blunos' food for seven years, and the other's first ever, was pretty sensational: little coffee cups filled with an intense fish soup. They came with croutons topped with a blob of rouille into which had been mixed (according to some unlikely but, as it turned out, inspired whim of the chef) little pieces of potato. "A cunning ruse," my Mum observed, "to make you wait so long for something they know will instantly make you forgive them."

This was a knockout preface to a meal in which, almost for the first time I can remember when dining in a party of four, all of us liked everything we ordered. My only disappointment was that the starter I craved, red mullet with a caviare butter sauce, was not available. I felt like fish, so went by default for squat lobster tortellini with a lobster and cream sauce - just a touch reluctantly as pasta somehow seemed an unadventurous option in a restaurant like this. But the filling was superb - not the standardised mousse of nondescript crustacea, but a really meaty affair packed with the sweet flesh taken from the tails of the little squatties.

Marie was having a Faberge-esque time with Blunos' celebrated signature dish: a scrambled duck egg put back in its shell, topped with Sevruga caviare and served with blinis and a glass of iced lemon-grass vodka. It arrived spectacularly, in a gold-plated egg cup, on a dish aflame with yet more vodka. Such theatrical dishes are inclined not to live up to their billing - but not in this case. The buttery, nicely sloppy eggs with proper buckwheat blinis were comfort food of the highest order, but the generous heap of Sevruga turned a peasant's breakfast into something decadently aristocratic.

My main course, roast monkfish with a clam sauce and nettle fritters, was a pleasantly light dish to come back to between raids on the richer dishes which the others had chosen. Mum's sweetbreads with a lemon sauce, and Marie's stuffed pigs trotter with Madeira sauce showed the kitchen had offal well under control. I advised Dad against ordering guinea fowl, a bird that so often disappoints through dryness and lack of favour He was right to overrule: the breast, which came with a deeply flavourful morel cream sauce, was as tender as that of a nicely cooked chicken, and infused with a faint and intriguing taste of it's own liver. Perhaps the result of a long hanging, or of pot roasting with a stock made from its giblets. Perhaps both.

And for once there were dessert choices that promised to revive rather than fatally hole you below the waterline: orange terrine with passion fruit sorbet was outstandingly zesty, while apple and vanilla parfait with apple sorbet was the best thing I have ever seen done to a Granny Smith.

It would be hardly be fair to question the Blunos' decision to look for a country property where they can offer Martin's brilliant food in a more conventional setting. After all, it's as much a decision about the kind of life they want to lead, as about the kind of business they want to attract. But if you've never been to Lettonie, and have the chance to do so in the next few months, before the move, then grab it. It's a suburban gastronomic folly of enormous charm, and I guar-antee the experience will linger in the memory - especially if somebody orders the egg.

Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
artSistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer, Lord Alan Sugar, Karren Brady are returning for The Apprentice series 10

TV
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder star in 'Girl, Interrupted'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas Pynchon in 1955, left, and Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix in Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of his novel, Inherent Vice

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Nicole Scherzinger will join the cast of Cats

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Fans were left surprised by the death on Sunday night's season 26 premiere

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lady Mary goes hunting with suitor Lord Gillingham

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

    Time to stop running

    At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

    Arsenal vs Galatasaray

    Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence