Bruno Loubet’s Christmas mantra is “Do the best for the people you love.” It’s what entertaining at Christmas is all about. And the best, if you’re speaking from Loubet’s perspective, is something pretty darn special. Raised in the small Bordeaux town of Libourne, the chef’s progression through the kitchens of London was marked by acclaim at every turn, whether it was working for Pierre Koffman or Raymond Blanc (Blanc’s Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons was awarded two Michelin stars when Loubet was head chef), or picking up a star under his own steam at Inn on the Park. Bistrot Bruno, in Soho, was a huge hit, picking up The Times’ restaurant of the year award in 1992, among other gongs. AA Gill, a famously fierce and unsentimental critic (and Gourmet Traveller columnist), says Loubet’s cooking is something he misses terribly. Misses, that is, because in 2002 Loubet and wife Catherine moved to Queensland, lured by sunshine. At Bruno’s Tables in Toowong and at Noosa’s Berardo’s he wowed diners, and now, at the newly renovated Brisbane veteran Baguette, he continues to give his all.
Growing up in France, Christmas, says Loubet, was all about tradition. His memories are of his mother going all out and sparing nothing in the kitchen. “When we were all at home, my mother used to cook amazing stuff, similar to the yabbies with peas, spinach and asparagus that I’ve re-created here,” he says. His mother’s version of the dish, though, was a touch on the rich side: “It was completely covered in a rich brandy sauce, so I had to adapt the recipe to the climate here.”
The menu Loubet has designed for us on these pages strikes a balance between the grandeur of the dishes of his homeland and the light, fresh style of cooking he has become known for over the years. Even under the influence of oh-so-casual Australia, though, each dish is still clearly French in provenance and, whether taken together, as we’ve shown them here, or incorporated into a Christmas feast of your own devising, they’re sure to wow your guests.
These days, Loubet focuses on both his family and his diners over the festive season. He chooses to celebrate Christmas with his family on Christmas Eve, in the French style, and spends Christmas Day behind the burners at Baguette. Either way, he says, Christmas is all about giving and generosity. “You give the best you can to the food, the family, the presents and you have fun.”
Baguette, 150 Racecourse Rd, Ascot, Qld, (07) 3268 6168, baguette.com.au.
WORDS LISA FEATHERBY PHOTOGRAPHY PETRINA TINSLAY
This article appeared in the December 2008 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.