Chez Bruce is a Michelin star restaurant not far from where I live. It's just a few paces from Wandsworth Common station. It's within easy cycling distance, but I have never contemplated cycling there - I'm not sure I could cycle anywhere after a three course boozy lunch. That having been said, when we were there a few months ago, we followed a couple into the restaurant who were wearing cycling gear and said that they'd like to ditch the gear before they settled at table. The Glasshouse is a companion restaurant, also Michelin starred, and located very close to Kew Gardens station. I have only been there once, but would go more often if it was nearer to home. They also have La Trompette in Chiswick, but I've never been there.
I suspect that some people are deterred by going to Michelin star restaurants for a variety of reasons. One, of course, is price. I'm reluctant to express opinions on affordability because everybody's perception is different. What might be affordable for one person joining a group of friends might not be affordable for a couple expected to pay for young adults or elderly parents.
At Chez Bruce, you can have a weekday lunch of 3 courses for £29.50 and I consider this very good value for money. Of course, you pay extra for drinks - and their wine menu doesn't really have a 'cheap and cheerful' option - and like just about everywhere, you pay more again for service. So it's not the same as nipping out to 'Spoons for a pie and a pint. We went to the Glasshouse because, when you go to Chez Bruce, you get a time limited money off voucher (and, I think, vice versa).
Perhaps people are intimidated by their perception of Fine Dining restaurants. For example, dress code. Again, I wouldn't dress as I would for a pie and a pint at 'Spoons, and I don't see many - any - people wearing PE kits. Some people, old school, dress very smart, or in red trousers, but for most people there's quite a broad definition of smart casual - during half term we saw a group of teachers. One or two in their best dresses and one or two in neat blouses and jeans.
The staff are trained to a high standard. That standard is to be pleasant and helpful, and, above all, to be responsive. They don't tell you anything about themselves, and they don't keep interrupting your eating with "Everything alright guys?" In fact, they don't address you as 'guys'. Most importantly, they don't have airs and graces. The first time I went there, I thought it would be painfully obvious I was a bit out of my depth, but the welcoming attitude made me feel more at ease than in less 'exclusive' places.
As for the food. Well, I keep coming back! Chez Bruce opened in 1995 and has kept on going. They don't go in for gimmicks - their Head Chef has Retweeted several 'We Want Plates' monstrosities. You can be sure that dinner will always be served on a plate, not on a board or in a pair of wellies! They're not at the cutting edge of trendy presentation, and are 'on trend' rather than ahead of the curve in fashionable ingredients. Bruce, his senior staff and his restaurants just don't do TV.
You eat at Chez Bruce - and at Glasshouse - for good quality ingredients thoughtfully combined, cooked to perfection, and presented in an attractive appetising way. I've never had anything less than perfect, and I've even enjoyed ingredients I thought were almost on my 'don't like list'. You know how it is, you see a dish on the menu that looks very enticing but it contains something, not something you absolutely hate, but something you'd never buy to cook at home, but you order the dish because of everything else, and realise your unfavourite ingredient is actually okay. My pet peeve is that sometimes fish dishes are prepared with 'meat juices', which is annoying for me, but I feel reluctant to actually criticise a restaurant for not pandering to my personal quirks.
As I said in my recent post about photographing food, the quality of the photos will vary partly depending on the ambient light. But this post includes a selection, eaten on various occasions. If you mouse over the photo, you will (mainly) see text describing the dish. Most were taken at Chez Bruce, but those with 'GH' at the end of the description are from Glasshouse.
All these photos, and more from many other places are in my Food and Drink album