When chef Ed Wilson, wine specialist Eric Narioo and restaurant manager Oli Barker launched Terroirs in autumn 2008, it was an instant success. Its small plates of Mediterranean-inspired flavours along with an intelligent and diverse wine list proved a major hit among West End diners and critics alike, so it was no surprise to see the team launch a second site last November.
For Brawn they have moved east, opening the 70-seat restaurant on the trendy Columbia Road in the heart of the Flower Market. Housed in a former warehouse, interiors feature large windows and exposed brickwork walls, while the restaurant has a casual atmosphere reflecting its Hackney setting. Indeed its location means the clientele at Brawn is quite different to that at Terroirs.
"There are more dedicated foodies here and they do tend to order the more hardcore items on the menu like pig's trotters or tête de veau," explains Wilson. "They also order much more interesting wines and we sell a lot more wine by the bottle at Brawn than we do at Terroirs."
Wilson is in charge of the food offer at both restaurants, with head chef Owen Kenworthy managing the day-to-day running of the kitchen at Brawn. The spirit of the daily-changing menu is similar to that at Terroirs, with English, French and Mediterranean influences. Despite being named after the traditional English dish of potted pig's head, brawn (£6) didn't actually come on the menu at Brawn until fairly recently.
"For the first few months I didn't have it on the menu because I didn't want people to think that it was a signature dish. I didn't want everyone to come to Brawn to eat brawn," says Wilson.
The menu is divided into six different sections, kicking off with Taste Ticklers, such as Maldon oysters (£1.80 each) or fresh ‘breakfast' radishes and fennel served with pungent anchoïade (£3). After that it is Pig, offering various bits of pork including a selection of delectable charcuterie from France and Italy; and Raw & Cured featuring dishes like Lincolnshire smoked eel with trevise and salsa verde (£9).
Next up is Plancha, which means grilled directly on a griddle and is Wilson's favourite cooking method. "It's a lovely way of cooking, which gives you really fresh, clean flavours," he enthuses. "It's also very economical, especially in a small kitchen, because there's no need for lots of pots and pans." Dishes include spachcock'd quail (£8) served with a pistachio romesco sauce and pomegranate; foie gras on a bed of puy lentils (£12.50); and Cornish squid (£10).
Meanwhile the Slow Cooked section sees smaller plates such as leek gratin (£6) or Abruzzo bean soup (£8) next to larger dishes including duck confit, puy lentils and Swiss chard (£14); or tête de veau with sauce ravigote (£13).
A DEMOCRATIC MENU
"The idea is that the menu offers good value and it's democratic in the sense that you can order as little or as much as you want," says Wilson. "If people want to eat something a bit more substantial they do have that flexibility."
Of course, as with Terroirs, the wines are as important as the food at Brawn, and the list is witty and adventurous. Sections are divided into Stones, Shells & Sea; Oxidative and/or Yellow…; or Chenin and Orange Friends and there's a big focus on biodynamic wines.
"We're trying to dispel the myth about biodynamic wine being trendy or just a fad," explains Wilson. "It's a different style of wine making that is totally natural with respect for the land and I hope we can help it become more valued."
SAMPLE DISHES FROM THE MENU
PIG Jésus du Pays Basque (Pierre Oteiza, Pays Basque) £8
Prosciutto di Parma (Piero Montali, Emilia Romagna) £12
Pork Rillette £6
PLANCHA Fried Artichokes & Aioli £7
Cornish Cod "Dieppoise" £15
Spatchcock'd Quail, Pomegranate & Pistachio £8
SLOW COOK Pig's Trotters, Sauce Gribiche £7
Choucroute, Montbeliard Sausage & Horseradish £14
Baked Vacherin Mont D'Or, Ratte Potatoes, Charcuterie & Salad £36
PUDDING & CHEESE Crêpes, Salted Butter Caramel £5
Rhubarb & Apple, Spiced Crumble & Custard £5
Cornish Blue £3.50
49 Columbia Road
London E2 7RG
Tel: 020 7729 5692www.brawn.co