It’s not often I go out to a restaurant and end up with wine in my armpit. But it did happen at a recent meal at Brawn, on Colombia Road in Hackney. The very nice waitress was opening a bottle of pink plonk at our table and the cork shot out. She exclaimed ‘Oh!’ in a lovely French accent, as wine spurted out and cascaded down my right boob and into my armpit. She looked slightly afraid of what I might do (looking pregnant and moody as is my wont at the moment) but I couldn’t help bursting out laughing. Praise be to gawd I was wearing a bright print. To be honest, though, I was just super grateful to have babysitting and be OUT OF THE HOUSE!
Anyway. This did absolutely nothing to spoil one of the nicest meals out I’ve had in at least a year. Brawn is a friendly, relaxed place and I wish it was my neighbourhood restaurant – the trendy folk of Hackney are very spoilt indeed. The food is basically rustic, unfussy gutsy French food – small plates of charcuterie treats, honky cheeses and then ribsticking main dishes such as steak and gratin Dauphinoise, fish and soufflés. Lots of well-sourced ingredients that just scream quality, with seasonal touches. And cream and butter and LARD! Especially don’t come here if you’re vegetarian, you will be mainly consigned to the puddings section of the menu. It’s all about PIGS and WINE.
I must mention that I broke a lifelong view of finding pork scratchings disgusting. Normally the sight of any crackling makes me cringe, especially if it is a tiny bit chewy, gummy or has hairs in it. Urgh. But the ones they make at Brawn are shatteringly crisp with a yummy porky flavour, like exceedingly posh Gallic Frazzles. I wolfed them down.
We absolutely hoovered up these delicious pork rillettes, which came with teeny vinegary cornichons, crusty fresh bread and butter – the rillettes were creamy, salty and the pork had a real deep savouriness to it. I think this was my fave dish of the night. A million miles away from those sad plastic tubs of rillettes pate you get in French supermarkets:
Smoked aubergine purée with buffalo mozzarella – GET IN! Smoky spoonfuls of heaven. We ate this in about 15 seconds flat, with spoons:
And now to the mains: sliced steak and garlicky fried potatoes. Great quality beef, all smoky from the chargrill, buttery potatoes. Grrrrrrrr yummy!
And now THIS: my artery-busting cheese soufflé atop a silky Gratin Dauphinois with a gem lettuce side salad – I nearly died right there. My eyes did some serious rolling into the back of my head:
Puddings, of course – a silky vanilla cheesecake (WOOF) and a pavlova meringue with cream and summer fruits (my only complaint was it was a little light on the cream – ha!):
Ah oui – I wobbled unsteadily and happily out of Brawn, dreaming of a time when I would return. I asked the minicab driver to open all his windows on the way home, but I passed out within two minutes. All that lard and wine!