49 Columbia Rd, London E2 7RG
Chef: Ed Wilson
August 2016

Brawn is a charming little bistro at the west end of Columbia Road flower market. The heart of the menu (which changes frequently) is based on French provincial cooking, however, it does take successful inspiration from other parts of the world (e.g. the ceviche and tagliolini enjoyed in my review below).

Brawn is one of my usual recommendations when people ask, as in my experience it has consistently punched above its weight. This time around (when, unfortunately, they did not have the signature brawn on the menu) it was a sucker punch for my expectations. They still delivered consistently good dishes, but was lacking in the absolute brilliance I know they can achieve. I would still recommend it, though with less confidence and would check the menu beforehand.

The details:

Food: 6 / 10

Bread and butter
That’s right, it was that damn good it deserves its own mention. To be more precise, the bread – an artisanal sourdough – was ‘merely’ good, the butter was phenomenal.

Little cheese choux pastries, they were light and tasty, but a bit too reminiscent of shop-bought cheesy bread twists.

Scallop ceviche
I went for the surprise factor and didn’t ask what style of ceviche was on offer. It turns out it was Peruvian, and it was delicious. The flavours were punchy (looking at you, red onion), yet well balanced.

Crab tagliolini
I had high expectations for this dish, due to having had sublime crab at Brawn before. On this occasion the crab was good, full of flavour, but fell a bit short of the mark. The crab was well complemented by the tomato and stock sauce, but let down by the tagliolini, which did not taste fresh, and was cooked past al dente.

Aubergine ravioli, tomato and marjoram
Some classic flavours that came out fresh and strong, but were not well executed. Again, the pasta was bland, though thankfully al dente, and the texture balance was off with the aubergine being finely puréed and the tomatoes having no bite.

Dark chocolate, olive oil and sea salt
A flavour combination you would usually find in posh chocolate shops. It relies on the salt marrying the chocolate to the olive oil. This incarnation was balanced enough to be good, but not perfect. The chocolate ganache being darker and the sea salt more liberal would have lifted this dish.

Panna cotta and gooseberries
An undoubted high point, this dessert was absolutely delicious. The panna cotta was rich and creamy, and was perfectly complemented by the bite of the gooseberries. Top marks for this glorious dish.

Service: 7 / 10

The staff were friendly and efficient. The only slip-up was a forgotten (but charged for) mint tea.

Price point:  A bit more than the high street, but worth it.

In conclusion: It was good to see the chefs stretching the menu and incorporating new ideas. Despite this bold experimentation, I would have favoured some of the hero dishes it is known for.

Allowing my judgment to be clouded by all the outstanding previous visits, I can assure my readers that Brawn is a solid destination for mouth-wateringly good food, good service and good atmosphere.

Brawn gougere
Cheesy gougeres starter
Brawn scallops
The scallop ceviche
Brawn tagliolini 2
Crab tagliolini
Brawn aubergine ravioli 2
Aubergine ravioli, tomato and marjoram
Brawn aubergine ravioli
Aubergine ravioli
Brawn chocolate
Dark chocolate, olive oil and sea salt
Brawn panna cotta
The best panna cotta in the world, fact.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s