‘A boar or swine’s flesh, especially when boiled or pickled.’ Not exactly a sexy descriptor but an accurate one nonetheless. You don’t go to Brawn to not eat pig and pig we did eat. And a respectable amount of it. Brawn has been on my restaurant hit list for way too long now and yesterday I finally made it. On an unassuming corner of Columbia road, the light bright building looked inviting and warm on a cold winters night. As we walked in, we realised the reservation may have been unnecessary, it was far from busy but it was a Monday night after Christmas so I’ll reserve judgement.
There was a small selection of nibbly bits available on the short yet varied menu, the most enticing of which was the Nduja scotch egg. I love Nduja, it is essentially a spicy spreadable sausage, which can comprise meat from the head of the pig amongst various other piggy offcuts. If you’re a bit squeamish then just lie back and think of bacon and you’ll have a great time. As I couldn’t indulge in the scotch egg myself due to its glutenous casing, my kind friend, stepped up and took one for the team. And then I got really, really jealous when it arrived. A perfect little breaded ovum appeared atop a silken swirl of green. I’m not sure what the sauce was exactly, it had the colour of something containing avocado but definitely had the flavour of tarragon and the consistency of mayonnaise… When it was sliced in two, it revealed a perfectly runny quails egg which was wrapped in the spicy nduja. The nduja was the hero of the night. Spicy, sultry, very, very piggy. I would happily eat that every day for the rest of my life. You could smear it on a London pavement and I would lick it off, it was that good.
We shared a mixed charcuterie plate which was pleasant but underwhelming, it featured Felino, a mediocre pressed pork terrine and pork rillette. Having spent a large portion of my chefs apprenticeship working in French restaurants and learning the art of charcuterie, I was sad to realise that I have had better charcuterie before and not to blow my own trumpet but I have made better charcuterie before. Never mind, onwards and upwards.
For my main course I decided to opt for Sea bream with brown shrimp and fennel compote. It was a testament to simplicity. The bream was sat proud on the fennel compote which was packed with flavour, the anise was not too in your face, quite a feat considering they had added fennel seeds to the mix and the brown shrimp tied it all together with a sweet, meaty accent. All in all, a very nice evening.
Brawn is a restaurant with a good, solid reputation and they served good, solid food yesterday. There were flashes of genius (that egg) and there were more moments of simple, lovely food being made with good techniques. Go to Brawn and order a dozen eggs and you will die happy.