Hopefully the title does not mislead you into thinking I am about to embark on a story of salacious trysts from within this Columbia Road restaurant.  How crass that would be.  I simply mention my love affair français as it is an integral part of my culinary preferences, although I rarely get to indulge it due to lack of locational proximity (as well as attempts to avoid a propensity for empty pockets).

Inside Brawn

And so I now enlighten you with my venture into this infamous road’s eatery (just in case you were unaware, a glorious Flower Market is held in Colombia Road every Sunday.  One of two reasons I usually ever venture into the street.  The second being the Royal Oak public house for obvious reasons).  I had interestingly already indulged this French fetish through its other family members (two of which I have already written about), namely the Strand resident Terroirs, Soif which resides south of the river and the newest, Green Man & French Horn in the throbbing heart of Covent Garden.  All of them I fell in love with and although Brawn is not a spritely ‘hot table’ to contend with the latest reviewers, it is nonetheless somewhere I had not visited yet.  I found myself coming on the closing night to a chapter of my life, so it was a cause for celebration and renewal, both reasons that deemed it necessary to whet with a good choice of wine.  This is perhaps the forte of this group as their lists are always diverse and bountiful, their list overflowing with pages all of the times I’ve visited and Brawn is indeed no different.  And its not restrictive to Gaul offerings either as the selection includes Mediterranean, Eastern European and South American grapes too.

The Menu

The menu is what initially drew me in.  Tapas is most prolific in London at the moment, in varying forms, however I always keep a keen eye out for creativity in dish.  And this is what I found Brawn to demonstrate with their inventive temptations.  Simply broken down into Pig, Cold, Hot and Pudding, my guests and I enthused over a few choices which were helpfully assisted by the (consistently) knowledgeable staff, beginning with the essential Charcuterie.  Brawn was on the wooden board brought before us, accompanied by cornichons, pork rillettes and saucisson.  Brawn in name and brawn in dish, clearly vegetarians will not be able to appreciate the namesake however it identifies clearly the signature specialities that this restaurant excel (Brawn being the pig’s head cooked down and pressed into jelly).  The brawn was delicious, meatily coarse in places and meltingly smooth in others.  The rillettes were highly consumable too and spread thickly onto the warm bread provided (that replenished at a remarkable speed when its basket was near empty) floated far too quickly into each of our mouths.  Murmurs of ‘MmmmM’ spread too and the remainders of the board were swept off quickly to welcome the other dishes eagerly.

We ordered three other aesthetically pleasing plates which was as gorgeous on the inside as they were out.   The Cod Ravioli was a silky case for the white tender flesh of poached fish, which sat wantonly from its pool of a seafood bisque.  As I bit through the delicate pasta of perfect thickness, I smiled with delight from pure enjoyment.  The infusion of saffron flavours that permeated the sauce struck the perfect balance with the cod’s simplicity, along with some lovingly charred leeks which nestled gently on top.  I reached further depths of enjoyment from the Beetroot & Goats Cheese Risoni which inevitably attracts the diner’s eye due to it’s brilliantly crimson display of orzo pasta, drawing your eye to its centrepiece of warm goats cheese.  I derived most of my best memories of the meal from this dish, with such a satisfying combination of flavours, ensuring the slight sweetness from the beetroot mousse infused sauce, al dente bite of Orzo and salty tartness of the cheese balancing the mouth beautifully before the swallow.  I also educated my palate further past the introduction to brawn with my encounter of Duck Hearts & Romesco Sauce, Spring Onion.  Interestingly this chargrilled skewer of pink internal organs was highly reminiscent of some Filipino street food I had tried, with a smokiness not typical of many barbequed meats I had eaten in England.  I was pleasantly surprised by the flavour of this dish, not as overpowering as I had expected and only paired well further with a light romesco sauce combining fresh garlic, almonds, peppers and tomato.  Some strips of spring onion also crowned the dish to add a pleasing hue of green to the sunshine colours of the sauce.

Cod RavioliBeetroot RisatoniDuck Hearts

Without much convincing, we opted for two puddings from the menu, choosing both sweet and salty options.  The Frangelico Tiramisu intrigued me and was a splendid dessert, with the nuttiness of the liquer adding a slight twist to the norm.  It was a gateau-like version of tiramisu, one that I had made myself at home previously and I enjoyed this more than the usual ladyfinger variety.  Cheese was inevitable, choosing two from the selection of 4, in this case the Saint Marcellin and Munster.  Incredible flavours and again accompanied by bountiful bread, displeasure was not possible.

Frangelico Tiramisu & Cheese

I could try to list the wines we drank by the glass however my memory does not serve me correctly due to the wonderful time that was had and a (thankful) complete disregard for my day’s tribulations (which is only a good thing dear readers.  And I can assure you that the staff are more than capable of directing you to a wise decision if you are not able).  Whether you come for the flower market or just a Shoreditch based beverage, it would be worth to book a table.  A worthy resident of this corner of Columbia Road that I hope will grace its presence as long as possible.  It would be the wisest thing to do.

Art Shot at Brawn