|A glass of VdF "Moussamoussettes" Dne Moshe|
Everyone knows Columbia Road for its Sunday morning flower market where traders line the Road specialising in bulbs, herbs, cut flowers or potted plants. It's quite a sight but if you suffer from claustrophobia, get there early or you'll find yourself shuffling along toe to heel with what feels like half of London. There are some good individual shops on the Road, though many of them are only open from late in the week to catch the busy weekend trade. This means, early in the week, Columbia Road is quiet and leafy and, well, a bit of a haven of peace really. The draw at this time is lunch or dinner at Brawn.
|Torta Fritta, Parma Ham|
Occupying a corner site in what was a wood-turning workshop, it's a lovely light-filled space furnished with reclaimed tables and chairs. Brawn opened not long before I wrote about it here in early 2011. The restaurant garnered a host of positive reviews then quietly got on with its job as the perfect neighbourhood restaurant in a largely residential area of Bethnal Green. Being part of the much admired 'Terroirs' small group of restaurants, the food and wine at Brawn were, reliably good. So, why am I writing about it again now? Because in this notable restaurant things just went up a few notches. A re-think amongst the original owners of the Group has resulted in chef/owner, Ed Wilson, splitting off Brawn and taking over in the kitchen. Those of us who loved the Green Man and French Horn on St Martin's Lane knew Ed Wilson's skill. We briefly mourned the closure of the Green Man earlier this year in the restructuring of the Terroirs Group. Now we are re-acquainted with Ed's skills.
|Raw Scallop, Celery & Bottarga|
Lunch on a perfect Spring day this week began with glasses of gently fizzed, palest Loire rosé VdF "Moussamoussettes" Dne Moshe. A plate of Torta Fritta with Parma Ham was the perfect appetite stimulator. The literal translation of 'fried cake' is not particularly helpful. Think, at least in this case, featherlight crispy dough pillows draped with slices of the very best Parma ham. A starter of Salt Cod Salad "Esquiexada", the classic Catalan dish, was here executed with seasonal Marinda tomatoes, sweet Tropea onions and small purple olives, possibly Andalucian coquilles nicoises. The cod was salted in-house and made for a juicy and aromatic plateful. Raw Scallop, Celery and Bottarga, came in a shallow pool of fish broth made from the scallop skirt and dressed with good olive oil. A perfect balance of sweet seafood and bitter celery leaf and olive oil, it tasted of the sea and had us fighting for the last morsel.
|Black Pudding, Squid & Erbette|
When we thought it couldn't get any better, out came Black Pudding, Squid & Erbette. 'Surf n Turf' is really not my thing but I would have happily eaten all of this. Soft, sweet blood cake, tender cephalopod and earthy leaf-beet, the whole simply dressed with a vinaigrette. A glass of Saumur Champigny Piak from Bobinet was suggested and was a good match. My perfectly cooked fillet of Turbot came with sweet, fat mussels and a helping of still crunchy Monk's Beard in a clear fish broth along with the suggested well-judged glass of mineral Soave.
|Turbot, Monk's Beard & Mussels|
We really didn't need it but managed to share a portion of Dark Chocolate, Olive Oil, Sea Salt & Orange. As top-notch as it looks. Expect to pay £40 per head including a couple of glasses of wine and service.
|Dark Chocolate, Olive Oil, Sea Salt & Orange|
Brawn is a relaxing kind of place. The staff know their stuff and you can expect a genuinely warm welcome. The food and drink are seriously good and the restaurant draws on some of the best suppliers in London. Cooking is seasonal and, as they put it themselves, "The food is honest and simple with a respect for tradition". Most of the wines are natural, sourced from small growers who work sustainably, organically or bio-dynamically. There are a few seats at the small bar if you only want to pop in for a drink and a small plate.
If you do want to brave Columbia Road flower market and its surrounding shops on a Sunday and combine it with lunch at Brawn, the restaurant offers Sunday lunch for £28 a head, but you'd probably be well-advised to book.
49 Columbia Road
London E2 7RG