49 Columbia Road E2 7RG
0207 729 5692
AKA: The one that's the chefs' favourite
The deal: You know when we do our chef chats on this site? And that bit when we ask them what their favourite restaurants are? Nine times out of ten, they all say Brawn. And it's easy to see why. It's a modern British menu with the emphasis firmly on meat, but there's also a nice line in seafood too. Slap bang in the middle of Columbia Road, on a summer Sunday you can dine while people-watching as they get stuck into the flower market. Then feel slightly smug as you avoid the bone-crushing crowds outside and tuck into hearty dishes and some excellent wine inside. Yeah, you may not get to walk home clutching some cut-price petunias but you will get to leave with that full-bellied post foodgasm glow. And we know which one we prefer.
The food: Baby, we were Brawn to run. Or in this case, eat. And they've named the restaurant after the dish that got the whole thing started: brawn. Less-enticingly known elsewhere as headcheese (bleee) this old-fashioned favourite is the meat from a pig's head cooked and set in a block with aspic and it's obviously the restaurant's signature dish (£6). A pleasingly hefty chunk of it arrives on the table with the creamy, fatty pork rillette (£7) and we're in meatopia. Mopping up the meaty goodness with warm E5 Bakehouse, the brawn is dense with flavour and set off with the little accompanying cornichons and mini-pickled onions. To follow, we'd recommend a palate-cleansing veggie dish of heirloom tomatoes, basil cress and pickled shallots (£7) and moving on to a perky and tangy plate of scallops with lemon, capers and parsley (£9). For mains, go in heavy on the meat - the juicy spring rump of lamb is served on a light and usually flavoursome polenta, sprinkled with broad beans and gremolata (£17). At last! A full, hefty main course rather than sharing plates. We left sated and happy - especially after a slice of their perfect vanilla cheesecake (£5), a masterclass in combining rich, sweet and light.
The signature dish: Tofu. Just kidding, it's of course, brawn.
The head chef: Owen Kenworthy
When to dine: Saturday and Sunday for the flower market are when it's most buzzing, but mid-week dinners are great too.
Damage to pocket: Mains are about £15 a dish, so with a slice of brawn, a dessert and half a bottle of wine, you're looking about £40 a head.
File under: Date night, Mid-week munches, Pay-day blow-out, Weekenders