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Tuesday, 7 December 2010

London Restaurant Reviews - Brawn

Terroirs Goes East...

Brawn is the much anticipated new offshoot of Terroirs in the East of London, on trendy Columbia Road, E2. Terroirs has become a regular haunt (reviewed it here) for its great quality and excellent value cooking in the West End. So I was thrilled to hear of their new venture a stone's throw from my home.

Brawn has a more laid-back feel than Terroirs, being more like a cafe-style restaurant. It has whitewashed brick walls, wooden floors, mismatched tables and chairs and some eye catching art work.

The menu is divided into 6 sections containing mainly smaller dishes to share but also some more substantial choices. "Taste Tickler" had such items as Maldon oysters @ £1.50 each and Parmigiano Reggiano @ £3. The section on "Pig" had Lardo di Colonnata @ £8 (cured pork fat) among others, while "Plancha" had Dorset Palourde Clams & Manzanilla @ £8 or Red Mullet & Chanterelles @ £13. The other sections were "Raw", "Slow Cooked" and "Pudding and Cheese".

It was noteworthy that provenance of most items was shown on the menu from their Hackney Wild Sourdough by the E5 Bakehouse to the cheeses purchased from Androuet in Spitalfields. Dr G and I ordered one dish from each section (apart from Plancha).

"Cervelle de Canut" @ £3 - a speciality of Lyon, this was a soft white cheese dip seasoned with freshly chopped herbs, shallots, olive oil and vinegar and served with toasted soldiers.

"Suffolk Pork Rillettes" @ £6 - is rustic French cuisine at its best - the meat is cubed or chopped, salted heavily and cooked slowly in fat until it is tender enough to be easily shredded. It is then cooled with enough of the fat to form a paste. It is normally spread on bread and served at room temperature.
"Garfagnana" (from the Bellandi Family, Tuscany)" @ £8 - a traditional Tuscan cured salame, Garfagnana is made from various pork cuts and offal such as brawn (head meat), lungs, kidneys, heart and tongue meats as well as lard and blood. The meats are seasoned with cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, fennel seeds among other spices, and stuffed into pig's stomach. It is slowly boiled for many hours and then cured in lard for about 6 months. It appeared to be an acquired taste!
"Hand Chopped Tuscan Style Beef" @ £8 - this was my favourite dish of the evening - roughly chopped pieces of ultra fresh raw steak seasoned very simply with rosemary and sea salt crystals. Delicious served with bread and drizzled with some extra virgin olive oil.
"Soft Polenta with Wild Mushrooms" @ £7 - I love polenta, particularly deep fried for polenta chips. Brawn's was soft but still very delicious and creamy. I also liked the addition of fried chanterelle mushrooms.
Dr G and I also had a couple of their cheeses - there are only 3 available. We had "Gouda" (from Utrecht, Holland) @ £3.50 and "Saint Nectaire" (from Auvergne, France) @ £3.50. These were both good but at those prices I would have expected a more generous serving.
The wine menu is very good (around 120 bottles) although it is not nearly as extensive as Terroirs'. We ordered a bottle of 09 Marcillac @ £20 (Dne du Cros, Philippe Teulier, Marcillac) which went well with most dishes we ordered. We also noted with approval that the mark up on this bottle was less than twice the High Street price. This is unusual when a mark up of 4, and sometimes 5 fold, seems to be the norm these days.

Cost: £65.81 for two including wine and 12.5% service (or just over £30 per person) which I believe to be relatively good value.

Likes: the Tuscan style raw beef and soft polenta dishes were excellent. I also liked the laid back atmosphere and the very attentive, charming service by our French waiter.

Dislikes: the selection of cheeses on the menu (3) is very limited for a French wine bar. I wish they had a Chez Bruce style cheese board or at least more choices.

Verdict: simple but quirky menu, authentic French and Italian produce expertly served at reasonable prices. Very good, predominantly French wine list with sensible mark ups. Highly recommended.

Brawn on Urbanspoon


  1. I like the look of this place more than Terroirs and that tuscan style hand cut beef looks delicious!

  2. I am going here for dinner tonight - very excited! Their rillettes look much more like a paste than the Elizabeth David ones I made for the cooking club - interesting.

  3. This looks like an interesting addition to the East End eating scene. It seems to fit in with the overall more relaxed vibe alongside near(ish) places like St John Bread & Wine, a little informal, but without compromising on the quality of ingredients.

    Definitely worth a visit, although, looking at the portion size of that cheese I may avoid that. Good on them for pricing the wine well though.

  4. Amen The Grubworm re the Cheese. Bit of a joke that. Good looking gaff, though. Like your photos too.

  5. Been there twice already and loving the simplicity, the vibe and the good value. Enjoyed the charcuterie, squid with romesco sauce, red mullet and a version of cassoulet. The wines are fab and they do Camden Brewery on tap which is lovely. Good for chef spotting: I've already seen Angela Hartnett, Jeremy Lee, Claude Bosi and Nuno Mendez eating there!

  6. The food looks really good and is also priced keenly. But I can't help but feel that the bars on the window make it look like a prison!

  7. This looks really good Luiz! I love small dishes to share with a glass (or a bottle) of good wine... perfect. I am not sure I would want to try the Tuscan salami though...

  8. There seems to be more and more food gems coming to or discovered in the east area which is great for me. Can't wait to try this one when I'm in Bethnal green

  9. Looks like they've taken some of my favourites from Terroirs over there- the rillettes and the mushrooms with polenta. Looks like a great option over east. Thanks for the write up!

  10. I wish we would get some places like this down in south east london - i am tired of fried chicken (lol!). It looks pretty good, and good price - but they should sort out the cheese selection if they want to be like the french!

  11. Happy to see your write up on Brawn Luiz--Terroirs is my favourite wine bar in London and am going to check out Brawn on Tuesday. I'm so happy to see the Polenta on the menu as a regular--it's the best! You think I'll need a reservation?

  12. Lovely photos - looks really good.

  13. @ Vintage Macaroon - me too, found the atmosphere at Brawn much more convivial than Terroirs'.

    @ Gourmet Chick - your rillettes were much nicer Cara, looking forward to reading your review.

    @ Grubworm - spot on on everything you say, I hope they will improve on their cheese selection and portion sizes.

    @ Lambert - thanks mate!

    @ Stuart - thanks Stuart, will make sure to try some of the Camden Brewery on tap on my next visit.

    @ Mr Noodles - interesting comment, but I don't think you can really see them from the inside, or maybe you can, but I didn't really notice them. They certainly didn't distract me from the enjoyment of my meal.

    @ Ute - small plates to share is the way forward in my opinion, love having the variety.

    @ Kay - indeed, and look forward to hearing what you think of it when you visit.

    @ Tori - my pleasure Tori, glad to hear from another Terroirs fan!

    @ Nicole - completely agree Nicole, the cheese selection is rather poor. Have you tried Green and Blue on Lordship Lane in East Dulwich? It is a lovely place and they do small dishes to share, and their wine (it is also a wine shop) are very good and well priced.

    @ Christina - you might need to book. I managed to get a table on a Friday evening, calling 30 mins before we got there. It was busy but it didn't seem to hard to get a table. I think Terroirs is one of my favourite London wine bars too. I want to try Bar Battu, have you tried this place yet?

    @ Greedy Diva - thanks Carly!


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