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Sunday, November 28, 2010

BRAWN: SCRAWNY

























There was a very polarised debate recently (on the Guardian Word of Mouth blog I think) about kids in restaurants. I read it disinterestedly because I spend a lot of time in restaurants in London and Spain and I’ve never had a problem.

In the latter country it’s not unusual to see young children eating out with their parents quite late at night. If they’re not eating the parents send the little blighters off to the nearest plaza where they run around until they collapse with exhaustion to be picked up later by mamá y papá . In London, I’ve encountered the odd crying baby at lunchtime but the parents usually just take the sprog for a walk around the block until they stop.

As I said before I’ve never had a problem, but that was until the other night when I visited Brawn, the new sister wine bar/restaurant to Terroirs which brought natural wines to the West End. The whole story is too tedious to go into now but I’d asked the parents of a couple of young children if they would mind keeping them under control.

It was as if I’d just announced to the room that I'm giving the Queen a Pearl necklace for Christmas.

The manager came over to smooth things over but sided with the parents (“We want a relaxed atmosphere here”). When I pointed out that playing hide and seek using tables upon which there were wine glasses and red-hot skillets might not be appropriate he said that they were sensible children. Henceforth I was known as Angry Man.

So a here’s a message to all the Boho parents of Hackney: I’ve got news for you, you feckless, Middle Class twerps. The last time I looked the World was revolving around the Sun, not you and your little lifestyle accessories. If you don’t like it, shove off to Giraffe (which I believe are handily located all over the capital). Now on with the post.

I have a theory about Natural wines that someone, someday will come out and admit it was a big con all along and they’re very sorry for selling us weird, cloudy wines at elevated prices. It’s just a theory of course but Natural wines are very odd. I like them, but then I’m quite odd too.

The more outré examples remind me of Gueuze with that mixture of sourness and natural pétillant character. Others just taste as if they might be off. They do have a freshness to them though that is, well, refreshing and makes them natural partners (see what I did there?) to food, especially charcuterie, terrines and the like.

Which is lucky because that is what Brawn has aplenty on its menu. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the cooked dishes I tried failed to impress (as at Terroirs).

I was hoping for some lightness and balance in my Zander (Pike-Perch) Quenelles with shellfish sauce but the dumplings were rather eggy and heavy and didn’t taste much of the advertised freshwater fish. The sauce had been heavily reduced as well making it too harsh and salty.

A Caillette is a sort of faggot and this one, from Daniel Thierry, a master charcutier from Troyes (which presumably accounts for the price) had a nice, not over-processed texture and tasted fine although I always prefer a stronger offal flavour. The mash that came with the meatball was gluey and overprocessed and needed some butter or cream to enrich it. The carrots were surprisingly good.

Pre-prepped is definitely the way to go at Brawn as bookending the meal were some better plates. The Saucisse Seche and the Salame da Spalmare were excellent., especially the latter (aka Nduja) which is a sort of spicy, spreadable salami. However, with a single Oyster and some waffer-thin slices of parmesan I paid a tenner which seems very mean given the weeny portions.

The Pork Rillette wasn’t bad either: it at least tasted of Pork, which is a promising start, and had the proper meaty/fatty ratio. The texture was a little smooth though as if they’d machine-processed it instead of doing it by hand. I could have done with some toast as well although the bread was a decent sub.

At the other end of the meal was a good Chocolate Mousse although I’m sure this sounds like Mr Damning had just come into the restaurant accompanied by Ms F. Praise.

It does seem to me that places predicated on their wine just can’t get the hang of this cooking lark and so it proved at Brawn. Having said that it’s a pleasant, relaxed place for a drink (especially if you fancy trying Natural wines), its alternative role as E2 community centre notwithstanding, and if you stick to dishes that won’t test the kitchen’s cooking chops too much you should be ok.

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23 Comments:

Blogger Patrick said...

People having long converstaions on mobile phones is something that really annoys me. One day I will do this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtdpJlZ07u4

Monday, November 29, 2010 10:24:00 am  
Blogger Honey said...

How wrong can you be?!?! Clearly we went to different Brawns - I popped in on Friday night around 9pm for dinner with my boyfriend (we live in Mile End) - and were absolutely thrilled by the food and the ultra-relaxed air about the place. It is perfect for this area. Lots of young couples have a great Friday night out. I totally disagree about the caillette - I ordered it and it was a rich, gamey taste, just as I think it should be. The pork rillettes were rich and full of flavour. The oysters were spot-on. We don't know that much about natural wines but one of the managers was very helpful and we tried a few different glasses. We didn't know Brawn wasn't properly open til this week, but it didn't matter. We can't wait to get back - and maybe we will bring our 8-year old next time! (Clearly your issues with children clouded your whole evening....)

Monday, November 29, 2010 11:04:00 am  
Blogger 365 Tage said...

Hackney Wild Sourdough sounds wild, baked in the Marshes.

Monday, November 29, 2010 2:01:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Sigh.

Honestly, life really is too short. Why don't you go read my post properly? Or maybe you could get your 8-year old to read it to you as you seem to have had some trouble with the BIG WORDS.

Monday, November 29, 2010 2:04:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Oh fuck - I am Larry David.

Monday, November 29, 2010 2:06:00 pm  
Anonymous Sassy Fork said...

I think some restaurants will only learn when one of the kids' parents sues them for hot food falling on their kids.Sadly steps are only taken after disaster strikes and well-meant cautioning words are misconstrued.

Monday, November 29, 2010 3:35:00 pm  
Anonymous Boltaymi said...

Why is this commentator "Honey" hiding her identity if she thinks she is so right??? Makes me wonder...

Monday, November 29, 2010 3:43:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Hi Sassy,

Exactly. No problem with the kids being there but it really wasn't the time and place to be playing games. Maybe it was just the De Beauvoir Town set allowing their little ones to 'express themselves' through the medium of the Natural Wine Bar.

HP

Monday, November 29, 2010 4:40:00 pm  
Anonymous Steve said...

Notwithstanding the diatribe about children in restaurants I disagree with a lot of the comments in this review. I thought the food was very good; the Caillette was spot on, good texture and well seasoned. The charcuterie was superb - ok, that's about provenance, but still. Red mullet a la plancha was beautifully cooked, monkfish cheeks were tender with nice accompanying aioli. And to finish - an irreproachable lemon tart and floating islands. Other points to approve - a delicious light beer from Camden Brewery and the wine list. Note - natural wines don't all taste the same; there is a wide spectrum from fresh, fruit-driven wines to the funkier, unfiltered and unsulphured cloudy styles. The wine list at Brawn enshrines this diversity and is full of rare treasures at very reasonable prices. Overall Brawn struck me as a very friendly place (the chef came over and explained the menu in great detail) and I hope the locals do support it because it brings something special to an area not renowned for its feeding and watering holes. Back to the point about children - I think it is important to demystify the experience of "eating out" and introducing children to proper food, but a balance should be struck between this and the enjoyment of other customers. The restaurant manager has a difficult task in arbitrating fairly or finessing the situation and may not always get it right.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010 1:14:00 pm  
Blogger ninn said...

I'm with you HP. On the continent children are generally well behaved in restos because they are used to family mealtimes, with food being treated with respect at all ages. Unruly kids in a restaurant is a sign of poor parenting/social skills. If more people complained (and walked out) in restaurants with this behaviour, managers would take note. Good on ya!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010 4:58:00 pm  
Anonymous UncleHunty said...

I completely agree about the kids. I have a 7 year old and lived in Hackney until 12 months ago. The middle class yummy mummys and jazz dads are under the impression that telling little Ella and Barney 'NO' will give their kids some sort of brain cancer. Useless AND feckless. Kids are just another in the line of accessories...like a shitting and noisy single speed bike.

I get annoyed at having to be the designated parent for all those twats who simply won't control their kids appropriately.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010 7:39:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Steve,

We seem to have had completely different dishes (except for the faggot and I can only comment upon what I ate) . I did end by saying it's a pleasant place for a drink. I wasn't convinced by the cooking - maybe you're used to something different.

Ninn and UncleHunty,

It's interesting that the parents/guardian of the children were ordering food and booze for themselves and not involving the children as far as I could tell. So how that educates them in the ways of eating out I don't know.

Maybe it's a family that doesn't go out to eat that often and would be better off in a Giraffe or similar.

HP

Tuesday, November 30, 2010 9:39:00 pm  
Blogger The knife said...

What interests mme the most in this post is the fact that all those who defend the restaurant have anonymous handles/ id's

Damnn these bloggers and wild cards who just mess up the work of honest, earnest PR folks

Wednesday, December 01, 2010 10:26:00 am  
Anonymous tonimoroni said...

On the kid issue, I remember being in a beachside resto in Corsica with lots of Italian kids running around. I didn't mind especially - hey, I was on holiday - but the thing was that as soon as the food arrived, the kids all sat down with ramrod straight backs and tucked in, quietly and respectfully.

Maybe it's the way we bring up kids with food and eating out?

[Basically, what ninn said]

Wednesday, December 01, 2010 12:18:00 pm  
Anonymous C.Elder said...

I thought Terroirs was hugely over-rated, so am not surprised you are lukewarm about Brawn .
As for unruly kids, as usual the parents are to blame.Introducing eating out to kids is fine.But it also means eansuring the kids understand what is appropriate behaviour in a public place.This means no running around, no shouting/screaming;no throwing food/cutlery;no banging on the table;no spilling liquids to make "ponds" to play with;no running into other tables and so on. I did walk out of Byron on K High St. after being subjected to all the above at lunch, and have never been to another Byron since.The staff did nothing, and the manager was apologetic but said he had no power to intervene either.It is unfortunate that parents who allow this behaviour cannot undertsand that whilst they may accept this behaviour in their homes(and this is the problem), this behaviour is not acceptable in a public place.
I have 3 children, and all of them know how to behave in a restaurant.
The ones you mention reflect poor parenting. Just wait till they become "yoofs" !!!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010 1:28:00 pm  
Anonymous Julie Lovelass said...

Unruly kids have the ability to ruin a meal, period! Poor public behavior regardless of which country or restaurant is unacceptable and is the parent's responsibility

Wednesday, December 01, 2010 9:25:00 pm  
Blogger Donald Edwards said...

As a former restaurant manager; I abhor kids running around in the restaurant, and have had quite interesting conversations with parents of the above children. where upon my asking them to control their kids due to large trays of extremely hot soup a l'onion etc are being carried around, has led to parents demanding, in outraged terms, to speak to whoever is in charge. Which tends not to go down so well after I explain that the person they're seeking is the person with whom they're speaking.

Thursday, December 02, 2010 3:59:00 pm  
Blogger rhettg said...

I was there that eve and have to say I got the impression you were the child in the situation, throwing your toys out of your pram. The restaurant was almost empty, perhaps the manager could have offered you a different table (you had your pick of two rooms), but equally you're an adult and could easily have requested to move as opposed to being so uptight. Of course this self-induced drama queenery would have had no effect on your professional review of the restaurant ;-) . So, get over yourself and grow up.

Saturday, December 11, 2010 4:05:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Your impression was completely wrong. You could also do with reading the post again and try and work out why I was upset rather than put your spin on it.

PS I don't get paid for my posts they're simply my experiences which I blog about.

Saturday, December 11, 2010 7:24:00 pm  
Anonymous zuriga said...

Having lived most of my long life in the U.S., I've been surprised how few children one ever sees in UK restaurants. How are these tots supposed to learn how to behave if they never set foot in such places? I side with Hermano1 that under the tables is just not an appropriate place for kids to be unless they are sleeping.

That said, I do not think it's worthy of you Hermano1 to insult the blog readers or to talk down to them. There's enough dumbing down everywhere now, and you shouldn't add to that! You want courtesy in the restaurants and the same applies to readers here.

Monday, December 13, 2010 11:45:00 am  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Not that it's anybody's business how we run OUR blog but in general commenters will get the courtesy they deserve. Trying to be snide or clever will get them the appropriate response.

Monday, December 13, 2010 3:58:00 pm  
Blogger Northern Snippet said...

I read this with interest.I have children of my own but am constantly amazed at the level of non supervision some parents adopt when in our pub.Games of hide and seek,unattended loo visits resulting in whole rolls of bog paper lodged down the loo-we've seen it all.
Food and cutlery flung unchecked on the floor,in fact a level of behaviour which surely they wouldn't accept at home???
Last weekend a couple with two young children dined with us,one of them screamed consistently but was ignored.No attempt to placate or remove for a while to console.
As they were leaving a diner at a nearby table mentioned that the disturbance had spoiled her meal.
The mother turned around and told her in a loud voice to Sod off.
Charming.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 9:51:00 pm  
Blogger Foodycat said...

A drink and some charcuterie sounds good - not so much unsupervised children. I once got to witness a couple with a screaming baby clear a room at Le Manoir: surely if you can afford to drop £300 on lunch, you can afford a babysitter?

Sunday, December 19, 2010 3:29:00 pm  

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