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".
"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.
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.