Brawn, a wine bar located on Columbia Road in Bethnal Green is one of those rare meals of late that has intrigued me and made me think.
On Sundays, a set meal is the only food on offer. A simple typed menu with the day’s date is present on each table. Staff are knowledgeable on their wines and make up for my lack of understanding.
First up is a simple charcuterie plate; cornichons and a lonely cocktail onion, slices of saussion and 2 quenelles of pork rillettes. A basket of warm sourdough is placed in front of us and is regularly topped up throughout the meal. The rilette is soft and cornichons tart.
A plate of beetroot is the surprise hit of the day, particularly as I have never been a fan of the stuff. What is placed in front of us is a world away from the bland, wet tinned beetroot I grew up knowing. Large, firm chunks are simply dressed with olive oil, a few parsley leaves and a sprinkling of cumin seeds. Delicious. Prior to this meal, I would never have considered buying any beetroot, but have been thinking about re-creating this dish for a simple lunch; perhaps with the addition of soft goats cheese and a chunk of sourdough bread.
4 grilled sprats arrive next to a scoop of horseradish cream. Never having eaten a sprat before, the texture and flash is similar to mackerel and has a similarly naturally oily nature to it. Duncan is surprised when I eat the head and tail, but really, the fish is small enough that both are simply crunchy. Pleasingly, the horseradish cream is milder than I was expecting. While I am absolute chilli fiend, my ability to handle the burning nature of horseradish, wasabi and hot mustard is sadly non-existent.
The mains arrive in a saucepan ready for us to serve ourselves. 2 slices of pork belly, cooked confit. This particular pig seems to have been a greedy little thing because my piece is mostly fat. The beans are rich and moreish and soft. I mop up the sauce surrounding the beans with more bread.
An unusually long wait for dessert gives us a chance to people watch. Brawn sits on a prominent corner on Bethnal Green road. The 2 sides facing the street are lined with windows and the place is filled with sunlight. It really is a lovely spot to sit, bask in the sunshine flooding the windows and sip a glass of wine.
Dessert arrives in the form of a vanilla pannacotta. Oh my. It wobbles with the intensity of a just set pudding. The pudding is fragrant with vanilla pod seeds that crunch pleasantly between my teeth. A spoonful of liquor serves as a simple sauce, the cherries are soaked in it. My knowledge of alcohol really is pitiful. The pannacotta is just set and while I hate to use the cliche, it really does melt in my mouth. Despite the increasing uncomfortableness I am feeling in the stomach area, I am devastated when my spoon scrapes up the last bite.
The £25 Sunday set menu is definitely worth the price. Staff are lovely, friendly, professional and knowledgeable. I can think of worse ways to spend an afternoon than to sit in that bright, comforting room and while away the afternoon sipping wine and sharing a few plates of food.
The menu is updated regularly, based on what is fresh and in season. The food here is confident in its show of restraint. To match only a few primary ingredients on a plate, none hidden under a barrage of complicated cooking techniques or hiding under sauces shows just how little processing quality ingredients require and demonstrates confidence in the knowing simple pleasure of just how good texture, flavour and even colour can be on a plate.