I’m about to make a bold and unqualified declaration. Well, slightly qualified. Hardly a statement worthy of Marx and Engels (not to be confused with Hall and Oates) but well, as I said slightly qualified. A bit of a “I love you, but…” from my palette.
Brawn (49 Columbia Rd, Bethnal Green E2 7RG, 0207 729 5692) is my new favourite London restaurant.
|Cornish Squid, Romesco Sauce £10|
The menu is everything I love about the menu at Vinoteca…but some how tastier. I feel like such a traitor writing this, Vinoteca has been my London No.1 for years. Brawn’s menu lays out bold and uncomplicated flavours, seasonal changes and is smart and warming all at once. The whole place is an ode to pig too. I cannot find fault with a venue that worships the same animal I pedestal as The Greatest Contribution to Human Consumption. OK, maybe rice, but then the swine.
|Dorset Clams, Lemon & Coriander £8|
If we’re talking the ‘Bang on Trend’ sharing platter concept (which I actually like but is as over-worn as a Kookai tube skirt circa 1997 in a university Commerce faculty) it kills the offering at Polpo (which I think is more like good home cooking than tasty rustic restaurant food).
|Spatchcock’d Quail, Pomegranate & Pistachio £8|
In fact, while I’m on Polpo, I was disappointed. The same disappointment I felt when I travelled to Croatia after everyone I know told me it was the best place in Europe. No, the World. Really? Even if you discount my guy friend’s opinion by the leg to body ratio of the Croatian female populous, these wide-spread claims of Awesomeness (an actual threshold of travel destination evaluation) still don’t make sense to me…ah, but Polpo sorry, lost in Balkan mathematics for a second there…Polpo, fine, but when our waiter suggested we order either the cheapest or the most expensive wine in response to a request for guidance, it takes more than one exceptional dish of cuttlefish and squid ink gnocchi to bring the meal back beyond neutral…that’s all we got though…well two serves of gnocchi, but I’m sticking with disappointed.
|Hand Chopped Tuscan Style Beef £8|
Alas, Brawn. Love it! Perfect for a date, calm and paired-back, quirky and full of laughter. Great for a larger group when you’ll be able to traverse the entire menu if you’re feeling as greedy as we were. When I break up with Hummus, I’m jumping straight into the arms of their Pork Rillette. I don’t care about it’s past, I don’t what to know how it has grown up, I just want to love it (and probably die).
|Chicken liver salad|
My only apprehension, their wine list focused on natural wine. If any wine were to live on Columbia Road, it would be natural wine, in an odd-ball share house with it’s other natural wine friends. Sure it’s cool and unusual and interesting, but at the crux of it, natural wine can taste kind of like funky flat cider to the untrained palette. And let’s be honest, not many of us can claim a truly trained palette. I’ve visited Brawn with some chefs and wine buffs who actually can support such a claim and even they were confused, maybe I should say intrigued, by some of the wines. It’s not Brawn’s fault, it’s more likely just the concept of natural wine or the learning curve of amateur wine drinkers like me who don’t count hemp clothing as a wardrobe staple. My boyfriend as spokesman for Twitter informs me James Murphy (of LCD Soundsystem) dined at Brawn last week and loved the wine. He doesn't strike me as the hemp clothing type, so I'll take the Ignorant category for 100 points and reassess with another bottle on my next visit.
|Corn-fed roast chicken with morels|
I’d be willing to give Polpo another go, I’m even open to a return trip to sail Croatia (once my physio clears my leg extension rehab). But I’ll be back at Brawn a lot, and not just trying to get the attention of Pork Rillette. It's good. I don't have any literary food jargon to pad this one out. It's just good!