Saturday 17 January 2015

Brawn, Columbia Road, east London

A rustic French restaurant in a fashionable part of London, Brawn tends to easily fill all its tables, particularly at weekends. With whitewashed brick walls, battered Gallic posters, bare wooden tables and a wine list as long as your leg, Brawn is one of a small chain of earthy eateries renown for interesting victuals and vino. If you don't want a full bottle, you can get a 500ml carafe of Bellotti Rosso, which is billed as spicy, for £18.50. But it isn't great. The menu changes daily, but you can count on Brawn serving rich, rich food. The rillette (£6) is delicious, but is so fatty, you might see your life flash before you. The balls of mozzarella (£7), served on a smoked aubergine base, are less appealing. For a main course, the oxtail with polenta (£16) has a good, salty flavour, but it isn't special enough or large enough for the price tag. The pork sausage (£14), served with some carbs, also feels like poor value. Much better is the baked vacherin (£36 for two) - a warm camembert-style cheese, served with potatoes, bread and cold meats.  If you want something lighter, there may be a seafood option, such as five fat king prawns for £11, and you can get a green side salad for £4.  The service is pretty good, justifying the optional service charge of about 12%. But Brawn's kitchen may be at the top of a slippery slope. It feels like this neighbourhood restaurant may have gained too many pretensions. 6/10