Monday, 31 October 2011

Everyone needs a bit of Brawn...

There are some places that you mean to go to but for some reason you never get round to.  You think about booking a table but then get distracted by somewhere else, forget about it for a while then read something which reminds you that you really need to try the place out.  For me, Brawn is one of those places.  I have been meaning to go for literally years but always seem to get distracted.  And so, with it being the Fashionista's birthday, I decided that a dinner at Brawn was on the cards.

Then came the distractions... Viajante called to say that a space had freed up on the same night, I politely declined and remained focused.  Then we couldn't get a table until nine so decided to go to Jose for a couple of bites to eat and were almost way laid by the quite incredible tapas - we fought through and stuck to our plan.

And so we arrived at Brawn having battled through to find that, despite having booked four days previous, my name was not on the list.  Disappointing.  No matter though, a couple of spaces freed up at the bar and so we decided to sit there. 

The atmosphere is friendly, the decor clean and inviting, and the menu a mixture of French and Spanish.  We started with some pork scratchings (Crooked Well, - if you are reading,  this is how it should be done), a glass each of manzanilla and amontillado sherry, followed by another little taster of cured (Spanish?) sausage.  All delicious.

We continued the tapas theme by getting some Brawn (we had to try it) and hand chopped Tuscan style beef and then snails with bacon and garlic.

Brawn, for those not in the know, is traditionally a terrine made from the meat of a head of a pig (not normally including the brain etc).  It may not sound good but in this case it was delicious.  Tasty meat terrine (no jelly - which for me is a plus) seasoned well.

The beef was great, coarsely cut with a good helping of sea salt and chopped fresh rosemary served with toast- I really really enjoyed this.

The snails were an afterthought and it retrospect maybe we didn't need them.  In any case, they were a bit disappointing- the bacon had made them a little salty.

Following Jose was always going to be hard, and my expectations were sky high given the reviews and Brawn's incredible sister restaurant, Terroirs.  Brawn was good in some parts,  its just that I am not sure that it was as great as its been made out to be.  In saying that I would go back just to have another taste of that beef...
Brawn on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Jose - Better than Brindisa?

I have to start with a confession - I love Brindisa.  I have never had a bad meal there.  I don't even recall being disappointed by any of the dishes I have eaten - and there have been many.  So I may be a little biased towards anything which, or anyone who, is in any way related to what many consider to be home of Spanish cooking and ingredients in London.  When the head chef and partner of Brindisa, Jose Pizarro, decided to head off to start his own food revolution, I was always going to go.

The guys at Jose.
If you've never been to Bermondsey Street, and I suppose, unless you've lived somewhere near, you may not have, you really should.  There are a couple of good bars in the Hide and the Woolpack and possibly the best Italian in London in Zucca.  And a true gem of a tapas place called Jose.  If you are looking for a place to sit down and enjoy your usual three courser, then Jose is not the place for you.  Predominantly standing, rammed to the rafters with a few high chairs dotted about, this is a true tapas bar with a kitchen open to the elements.

We had popped in previously for a quick drink and bite to eat after work to tide us over until our reservation at Brawn later on that evening (two meals in one night you say?  My excuse - its tapas, we're just doing what the Spanish do).  That time we had razor clams with chorizo and mint (as good as Pinotxo in the Boqueria Market in Barcelona, its that good) and sea bream with morcilla (Spanish black pudding) and roasted red peppers (simply incredible).

After that tantalising taster I had to return to do the menu full justice.  And return we did, going along early expecting to beat the dinner rush- we didn't, this place is always mobbed.  However after a few minutes waiting we managed to get a couple of seats at the end of the bar and started to order dish after dish.

For "mains" (not that there is such a thing in tapas) we had:

Padron Peppers:

Pain et tomate (the Spanish version of bruschetta- simple, delicious)

Deep fried hake with aioli and paprika dulce (slow starter and a little underseasoned but got better with every mouthful):

Chicken livers and red onion (rich livers, glazed red onions, brilliant)

Butternut squash and blue cheese (a small variety of squash, stuffed with blue cheese and radicchio - the sweet squash worked really well with the tartness of the blue cheese and the bitter radicchio)

Pisto and Duck's egg (Spanish take on ratatouille with crispy duck's egg and runny yolk)

Chorizo Iberico Manuel Maldonado and breadsticks

Then we had a cheese board with the ubiquitous Manchego (really good this time though), a soft goats chesese from Catalonia (if anyone knows the name of this please let me know as it was incredible), a creamy blue cheese which a nice bite (I forgot the name) all served with a tasty sweet tomato jam.

Now for some people that may have been enough, but we weren't planning on heading out after.  So, after a short pause, we asked about desserts - this is not really Jose's speciality but they did have one option which the waitress said we had to try - having searched on the internet I think it must have been torrijas borrachas (literally "drunk torrijas")- delicious red wine soaked bread with sugar and cinnamon -  sounds terrible, looks horrible, tasted amazing.  We also had a glass each of pedro ximinez and muscadet - Christmas in a glass.

After my first visit I was a little nervous that Jose might not be able to match their previous heights- I need not have worried.  Round 2 was a knock out.
José on Urbanspoon
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