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.