For those not aware, I left my job of eleven years, about six, maybe seven weeks ago. Keeping track of time is a nightmare, especially when it’s all you have to do with your time. As you can no doubt imagine, these weeks and a short few preceding them, have elicited every possible emotion, from heartbreak and rage, to joy and fearlessness, love and regret, and everything in between, sometimes all at once. Alas, I can’t say anymore about the circumstances, I’ll let you make up you own minds based on the censorship around it, I mean I’m not saying it’s North Korea…
And so, this lunch stems from one of the moments when I knew I had done OK. Big J, one of my originals, took the day off to take me for lunch. It is, admittedly, a massive first world problem, the question of where to eat in London, the choice is endless, old favourites, young upstarts, so much food and so little time. Several friends had recently told me I would love Brawn, it was my kind of place. At the bottom end of Columbia road, it’s also very much in my hood, just beyond stumbling distance.
It’s the kind of room I love to eat in, stripped back, white walled, sunlight bathing the tables. It’s the type of space that allows the food to take centre stage. The menu is one where you want to order everything and we do, absolutely, order too much, starting with a sensible amount and then going, ‘Shall we just get that too?’, ‘Oh, you did really want to try that’. I love eating with Big J. He is one of the nicest people you could ever hope to know and just as greedy as me; it makes for a beautiful, long, leisurely lunch.
Bread appears quickly, most likely after my telling of a previous meal where bread didn’t appear till course five. It has that perfect, yeasty smell and is served with a generous portion of butter. From the snacks, we have olives, fat and sexy.
Parmesan fritters and radishes with smoked cods roe. You see already what I mean about over ordering? And if you are thinking we will scale back further into the menu to allow for these, let me just assure you now, that didn’t happen.
Parmesan fritters are akin to cheesy clouds, so light they almost float from the plate, buried beneath feather like shavings of Parmesan.
Radishes with smoked cods roe is a not a revolutionary dish but wars have been fought over less. It’s is mesmerising. I find myself in the weeks that follow, staring into space, thinking of this silken, smokey, creamy, intensely flavoured plate. The contrast of the sharp, bitter crunch of the radish used as a vehicle to propel the cods roe into my mouth. It is a plate licking dish.
The first of our three starters is burrata, spring onions, salmoriglio and breadcrumbs. It is, like many things here, simple but perfectly executed. I love the charred onions, the sweetness and smoke. The buratta, once cut, spills it’s creamy insides across the plate, pooling with the salmoriglio, an Italian dressing of lemon, oil, oregano and parsley. The crisp, oil drenched breadcrumbs adding crunch.
Tearing ourselves away, we tuck into first of season asparagus with tardivo, almond and herbs. Asparagus and tardivo, a skinny radicchio, are just charred, drizzled with oil, mint and toasted almonds.
Smoked eel, apple, kohlrabi and watercress, is nice, fresh, uncomplicated but perhaps just lacking in something pulling it all together.
We ask for a break before mains but are told they are already started, a break is really needed. Only the lamb is served and we ask again for a break before our second main is served.
The lamb blushes, bathed in a pool of rich gravy. Tiny sweet peas tumble out of a nutty artichoke, it’s a classic combination of flavours and very good for it.
Despite asking again for a break, we are told the pork is coming. We insist on a break and, I suspect, are served the pork chop that sat for a long time on the pass. This, I have to say, is the only issue during otherwise lovely service.
The pork looks stunning, the fat slick and well rendered but it is on the dry side, having asked twice for a break, they should have made it fresh. But, onwards. The anchoiade is both creamy and salty and cuts through the richness of the pork. I can’t even attempt a potato.
And so, we sit outside drinking Rose and watch the world go by. Eventually, we are tempted in, tiramisu is calling me.
It is served in a vast wedge, and I am grateful Big J will help me to eat it. It is beautifully done, dusted in bitter coca, coffee soaked sponge and layers of sultry mascarpone. It is, for me, the perfect end to the perfect day.