Restaurant Review Roulette: Bloomsbury Bistro

Ah, Greg Cox is about to review the one restaurant that he and I disagree on: Bloomsbury Bistro.  I respect Chef John Toler, and I understand why folks love this restaurant, but after eating there 4 times over the years, I’ve yet to have a meal that left me satisfied.  The menu is disjointed.  The food can sometimes be excellent, but other times, just OK.  The restaurant currently has a 5-star rating, but that rating is from nearly 10 years ago, so it appears Greg is taking another look at it.  Frankly, with the paucity of restaurant openings in the area, this is a good time for him to revisit these “old friends.”

Here are this week’s odds.

5 stars — 2 to 1

4.5  stars — 3 to 2

4 stars — 5 to 1

3.5 stars — 20 to 1

3 stars — 80 to 1

2.5 stars — 1200 to 1

2 stars — 25,000 to 1

1 to 1.5 stars — 9,356,441,000 to 1

So, what’s Bloomsbury Bistro going to get?  If I had to lay down a twenty, I’m guessing 4-1/2 stars (and I’ve repeatedly argued directly with Greg about this place, so maybe I’ve tainted him), but Greg’s fondness for the place may keep it in the 5 star world.


Edit:  Greg Cox awarded Bloomsbury Bistro 4-1/2 stars.  The review contains no criticisms of the place, so I’m slightly surprised it didn’t get the full 5 stars which it had been carrying.  Of course, this is the first time that Bloomsbury Bistro was reviewed under the N&O’s 5 star system, as it had been a 4 star place and was just bumped up to that 5th star using the new scale.  Anyhow, 4-1/2 stars is probably right for this place.


10 Responses to Restaurant Review Roulette: Bloomsbury Bistro

  1. James says:

    I’m with Greg re: Bloomsbury, and I consider myself a pretty harsh critic. Multiple trips over 5-6 years and I’ve been consistently impressed every time. Is it The French Laundry, Alinea, el Bulli or La Pyramide? No, but they routinely execute excellent food at a reasonable price with outstanding service. While plenty of others have boomed and busted over the years, Bloomsbury has been consistently excellent. I’d be surprised with anything less than 4.5 stars.

  2. burgeoningfoodie says:

    Haven’t been but have wanted to give it a try at some point. Guess I should have gone during the recession specials.

  3. dmccall says:

    I’ve had nothing but 4.5 star meals there! So sorry to hear about your experiences.

  4. Varmint says:

    I don’t think it’s a bad restaurant, but it’s not a 5 star place for me. It’s still a 4 to 4.5 star place in my opinion, but I also understand why some think it’s a 5 star joint.

  5. VaNC says:

    4.5 I love Bloomsbury.

  6. ap1 says:

    I think Bloomsbury is Ok but not among the top places in the Triangle. There is an impressive packing of ingredients on every plate–which is the problem. I have been to private wine dinners there where the menus were much more restrained and a whole lot better. So it is clear that the restaurant could be one of the best but the chef just hasn’t put his best foot forward on a nightly basis. We pretty much never go there anymore unless it is some event scheduled by someone else. There are too many places that are better.

  7. Varmint says:

    “There is an impressive packing of ingredients on every plate–which is the problem.” I think you nailed my thoughts with that line. For some reason, those ingredients just haven’t come together for me — and I so badly want them to. Interestingly, some people have the same problem with Magnolia Grill, but Ben Barker’s combinations have always worked for me, unlike with John Toler. There is not a restaurant in the Triangle that I’ve wanted to like more than Bloomsbury Bistro. I’ve tried it 4 times, always hoping that this will be the visit where my eyes are opened. That has yet to happen. In the end, it simply may be that John Toler’s cooking is not for me, whereas it may be perfect for most other folks.

  8. sidemeat says:

    I have sat back and read some of you folks talk about how the menus at Bloomsbury seem disjointed and how it is hard to try and put together a meal around a bottle of wine there. My take is this. Toler was cooking Globally long before that moniker appeared on the culinary babble scene. With such a small menu, it is hard not to come off as loosely defined. One of the reason I have taken clients there for the last 12 years is that there is a nice variety of cooking styles on his menus, which for my purposes tend to stay true to their origins. If I want red meat and potatoes, my wife feels like Thai and one of my clients is in the mood for Mediterranean stuff….we all get a little something. I can agree with the notion that Toler’s menus lack focus, but that is the beauty of the place. In fact, I asked the chef a few years back what his specialty was…what his best dish was, and he said he had no idea but that he cooked a lot of different styles of foods and wanted to do his best to keep them culturally intact. I tend to understand his efforts. I hope bloomsbury gets at least 4.5 stars. The guy has been there for 15 years for a reason

  9. Varmint says:

    He’ll get 4.5 stars at the very least. And I really think he’ll actually get 5 stars, as Greg has always liked the place.

  10. lucy3 says:

    He just doesn’t seem to know when to stop adding ingredients. It’s just too much for the most part. Rarely have I had an entree that actually tastes like the protien, it’s so covered up with other overpowering flavors. Have eaten there four or five times but stiopped going once Raleigh’s food scene started to pick up. Maybe once upon a time it was one of the best in Raleigh, but there’s a lot more out there now that simply blows Bloomsbury out of the water as far as I’m concerned.

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