Brawn, 49 Columbia Road, London E2,

It's on the site of a flower market, but there's nothing fleeting about the beauty of the food at newcomer Brawn

It's the run-up to Christmas, you're rushed off your feet and nursing a hangover. Sound familiar? It does to the waiter at Brawn, the hip and happening new restaurant on London's Columbia Road. "It was a bit of a big night last night... We're all feeling a bit tired," is his quip when I ask how things are going. In his case, and his defence, it's professional big nights that have caused his weariness – the place has been packed since its soft opening – and it doesn't show too much during our visit. We bond over what might restore us weary shoppers from the menu.

Columbia Road is a curious location. On Sundays it is the frantic home to a flower market that sees east-London trendies and domestic goddesses gathering up blooms and potted greenery. On non-market days it's a bit of a wasteland. But Brawn might be about to change all that. It's on a corner site bang in the middle of everything, in a high-ceiling, white-painted brick, airy pair of rooms separated by a narrow corridor. We sit at plain-wood tables; there's groovy artwork on the walls and some vintage bus ephemera lying around. So far, so east London. But the cutlery and glassware are refined and expensive – the first sign that this is no fly-by-night eaterie put together by guys who fancied running their own place "near Shoreditch House, yeah?"

The next indication is the menu, packed full of produce whose provenance is given prominent billing – which is either showing off or useful for foodies, depending what it tastes like. So-so cuts of meat and lacklustre crustacea should keep quiet about their home towns.

Brawn comes from the same stable as the much lauded Terroirs in Charing Cross – a relaxed venue that presents a kind of French tapas sharing-plate thing, very au courant. So although we're weary and hungry, we're primed to put the menu to a vigorous test. The result is that the four of us make it through 14 dishes. Spoiler alert: it cost us £130, which I think represents pretty good value for money. We also had a bottle of delicious French red, but our laid-back waiter forgot to put it on the bill. I'll have to 'fess up when I go back.

So – deep breath – we eat Maldon oysters and salame da Spalmare from the "Taste Tickler" section; Jesus du Pays Basque ham – the thinly sliced meat deliciously chewy and strewn with peppercorns, just as it should be – from "Pig". The "Raw" choice: a ball of buffalo mozzarella with lemon and anchovy, soft and yielding. From "Plancha", some Cornish squid with chilli and gremolata (chewy yet soft, delightfully piquant), and Dorset Palourde clams and manzanilla. The sauce of this last dish is so buttery and gorgeous that we call for more of the locally made sourdough bread to mop up every last drip.

...And that was just the starters. The wooden boards are cleared away and on come the mains. The Brawn staff, by the way, show no sign of bemusement at our ordering frenzy. Mind you, they're handsome young men who look as if they'd woo you with sparkling fresh shellfish and velvety olive oil rather than scratchy lingerie. Did I say that out loud?

Ahem, mains: Mr P's red mullet and chanterelles is a symphony of flavour and texture that soothes, while caillette de Daniel Thierry with carrots and potatoes is a faggot that's pungent and earthy – not entirely my dish of the day, but Mr M loves the meaty melange. I eat something just as carnivorous but in a different league, in my opinion: braised venison with soft polenta and chestnuts is pretty, powerful and like being wrapped in a warm cashmere blanket. My other guest, Miss T, having dived into everyone else's food with gusto, is delighted to have a restful bowl of abruzzo bean soup with a glug of that exemplary Valentini oil on top.

With an afternoon of present-buying and tree-trimming ahead, we need the sugar rush that pudding delivers, so we share lemon tart, chocolate mousse and floating islands. The mousse manages to be both devillishy rich and feather-light; the meringuey, fruity, creamy pud unctuous and moreish. I have a wedge of Saint-Nectaire cheese which is utterly à point.

If this sounds gushing, it's meant to. Food of this quality at this price is rare indeed. I hope there's enough buzz to draw diners all through the week (hell, if I didn't live and work on the opposite side of London I'd be there every other day). Brawn is the result of brains and beauty (and I don't mean the pig's).


Scores: 1-3 stay home and cook, 4 needs help, 5 does the job, 6 flashes of promise, 7 good, 8 special, can't wait to go back, 9-10 as good as it gets

Brawn 49 Columbia Road, London E2, tel: 020 7729 5692

Lunch and dinner, Mon-Sat (with cheese and charcuterie, 3pm-6pm). Sun, 12pm-6pm (cheese and charcuterie till 11pm). About £60 for two, including wine

Perfect pit stops

Second Floor Restaurant

Harvey Nichols 21 New Cathedral St, Manchester, tel: 0161 828 8898

A buzzing department-store dining-room offering great views and excellent food at good value


5-6 Kenyon Steps, Liverpool, tel: 0151 707 6323

This elegant Thai in the Liverpool One shopping centre stands out thanks to the high standard of its food


50 Frith Street, London W1, tel: 0207 494 9075

Inventive rotis that rock – an interesting mix of spicy meat and vibrantly fresh chutney in a chewy wrap

Pizzeria Malletti

26 Noel Street, London W1, tel: 020 7439 4096

Some of the best pizza in central London – mostly to take out – is to be found at this Soho pit stop

Reviews extracted from 'Harden's London and UK Restaurant Guides 2010'.

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Mark Wright
tvStrictly goes head-to-head with Apprentice
footballPremier League preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's clashes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas