The Brackenbury, restaurant review: Can son of the River Café Ossie Gray put his own imprint on the formerly chic restaurant?

 

Perhaps it is the fact that I've just been on a tour of a nearby gin distillery. Perhaps it is because it's a double date with the highly entertaining Mr and Mrs Rogers. But something bowled me in through the front door of the Brackenbury restaurant, through an aperitif and to the table without me noticing how dull the space is.

There is, now I think about it, a young man vacuuming one of the two dual-height dining-rooms – but since he stops that to make me a delicious G&T and Tracy a vodka and orange with lovingly squeezed fresh orange, the light housework doesn't register either.

I used to go to the Brackenbury when it first opened in the early 1990s. It was a rather chic date restaurant for us west London singletons, but somewhat lost its way until Ossie Gray took it over recently.

Gray has form. He's the son of the late Rose Gray, of River Café fame – and where he's been general manager. It's a canny move to identify and take over this tucked-away venue; it's in the middle of the smart bit of Shepherd's Bush, where, if you get it right, locals become regulars.

The place certainly fills up nicely during our visit, which is only a couple of weeks in. The rooms need to be busy to liven up the vanilla décor. The steps to the slightly higher level at the back are bordered with wooden balustrades. It's all a bit, well, loft conversion.

Anyway, to the food. Five starters, five mains, so between the four of us we put the kitchen – headed by Kensington Place, Glasshouse and Providores alumni Humphrey Fletcher and Andy Morris – through its paces. Of the starters, a simple dish of smoked mackerel, beetroot, watercress and horseradish (£6) is a delight. Fresh, clean and harmonious.

Certainly not "clean" is my Jerusalem artichoke, endive and thyme soup (£6). It looks a right old mess – clumpy and murky with a blob of crème fraîche on top – but it is a beautifully judged combination, so I'll forgive it. Mr M's bruschetta of braised cavolo nero, ricotta, spiced olives and grilled chilli (£8.50) is a bit heavy-handed, with flavours fighting to come out on top (spoiler alert: the olives win).

Tracy, who orders the mackerel starter, wins again with a main of spiced fish stew featuring bream, cuttlefish, mussels and tomato. At £17.50, it's not the most generous dish I've seen, and there's a huge blob of aioli to bring together the rather plonked-on components, but she declares it delicious and, being a fish specialist, she knows her stuff. Still on fish, which is clearly the chefs' forte, Mr Rogers has roast Icelandic cod, ratte potatoes, and braised celery in porcini and marsala (£16.50). I manage to steal some of the celery – it's silky and rich, the humble stick transformed by slow, attentive cooking. The fish is simply prepared and none the worse for that.

The brace of grilled quail with fennel and radicchio salad and Montpelier butter (£16.50), which I've rather smugly snaffled, is a major disappointment – a bit tough, and feels rushed somehow. The punchy butter helps soften the birds, but I leave rather more than I'd wanted to.

There are other good-sounding dishes – a steak, a meaty tagliatelle dish, a veggie artichoke and polenta ensemble – that round out a surprisingly versatile menu.

On to puds, and they're zingers. My iced Paris-Brest with praline ice-cream inside and hot chocolate sauce (£6) is marvellous. The crisp pastry and rich sauce muddling with the ice-cream – much better than fresh cream, to my mind – disappears with such speed I might have guessed the vacuum cleaner had a role. My Instagram record shows only an empty plate with a few cocoa smears across it.

The wine list has some handsome Italian bottles which Mr Rogers steers us through – I've only just made out "colombare recioto" in my notes, a pudding wine that, coming on top of everything else, was a honeyed goodbye kiss. Ossie Gray was also the wine buyer for River Café, which figures.

If I lived within walking distance of the Brackenbury, I'd be jolly glad to have it. I've heard reports it's packed every night, which is encouraging: Britain's cities need this sort of engaging small venture to fight off the chains.

7.5/10

The Brackenbury, 129-131 Brackenbury Road, London W6, Tel: 020 8741 4928. £80 for two, with wine

Four more things I've been eating this week

Primrose's Kitchen

Beetroot and carrot in a muesli? Once over the shock, I fell in love with this natropathic, delicious breakfast.

The Lockhart

New southern US restaurant in London has a fun menu, but nothing beat the muffaletta snack – a supersized roll crammed with prosciutto, cheese and pickles.

Sipsmith

The gin distillery (see above) has stills called Prudence and Patience. The fabulous gin is such a hit that they're moving house and installing Constance, too…

Rainbow cake

For my daughter's birthday, I created a multi-layered sponge that – for impact – couldn't be beaten. Use professional colour pastes for gorgeous garish results!

Sport
Lionel Messi pictured after reaching the final
world cup 2014
Sport
Lionel Messi and Thomas Muller have shone brightest for Argentina and Germany respectively on their way to the World Cup final
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

    Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

    The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
    The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

    The Open 2014

    Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?