Brawn, Bethnal Green
Of all the places, in all the land (that is London), Brawn is firmly up there in my top three. It brings together the exact setting I want from a restaurant/bistro/wine bar; genuinely interesting wines, beautifully thoughtful food made for both sharing and individual eating, and with these great things a calm, creative space to enjoy for hours and hours.
Right in the heart of the residential side of Bethnal Green, on Columbia Road, Brawn can be easily missed thanks to the subtle and an assuming exterior which looks like much of the cool area around Hoxton, Shoreditch and Hackney. Walking by, there’s usually a few heads sitting at the bar and as the day goes on, the tables become filled with families, groups of friends and dates. It caters to all.
Brawn’s thing, which I feel was one of the originals, is good seasonal produce from local suppliers and created in a simple and honest fashion - all priced incredibly reasonably. Nothing on the menu is too complex which means the ingredients listed create standout flavours. One of the best examples of this was very simple dish of anchovy fillets in olive oil. Sourcing some of the meatiest and flavourful fish, paired with a gorgeously grassy olive oil and a touch of sea salt meant it was a very welcome explosive surprise in our mouths. The quality of the dish transported you to Spain for the most authentic tapas, with fish and produce delivered daily as if direct from the sea and olive groves.
Amongst the other dishes, another one that stood out last time was the black pudding and cuttlefish. Always a good couple together, but even better here where the home made black pudding was the softest, meatiest and subtly rich - probably the best black pudding I’ve ever had. Together with the just-about-cooked cuttlefish, the textures contrasted and complimented perfectly. If I wasn’t sharing all of the dishes, I would have very easily eaten this a lot quicker and less elegantly!
As for the mains, there’s often a fresh pasta dish on the menu which I always head towards. Luckily, my dinner dates are sharers so I get a taste of some fish or offaly, meaty dish too.
A genuinely great part of the experience at Brawn is the interaction with the staff, particularly those who love wine. It’s the type of place where they always have some truly weird and unexpected wines, and then really, really good versions of the classics with some dynamic element in there. The wine buyers here know their stuff, focusing on small bio-dynamic producers and you can very easily get carried away with the list, but often I like to ask them for their take on what’s new in and what I’m in mood for and they’re more than willing to share. Even if it sounds way off what I wanted, I’ll always go with their suggestion because it’s basically a promise of a new lesson in wine and one that your taste sense-to-brain function will have a small circuit malfunction.
If I was cool enough, and had the means to live in this part of town, Brawn would be my local hangout without a doubt. A place that’s perfect for a few quick bites over a sherry, and equally perfect for a drawn out weekend meal. I can’t urge you enough to go.