The Magic Roundabout
The Vauxhall roundabout must be one of London’s ugliest landmarks. Five lanes throb with endlessly gyrating traffic flanked by eye poppingly brutal looking high rises and an equally uninspiring railway station, which, incidentally, must have once been so impressive that it gave its name to the Russian word Vokzal (Вокзал), also meaning railway station. Who knew? In any case, it is probably one of the last places on Earth you’d chose for a convivial evening in fascinating surroundings, eating exquisite food. But stone me! What’s that there, hidden away on the left as you enter the one-way system coming from the west? Well, I never! It’s a stately little Georgian house with white pillars and stone steps leading to the front door with a Union Jack hanging above the portal
The lettering outside, hardly visible when you whizz by on your way to other, more elegant, parts of London, informs you that this is Brunswick House, built in 1759 and once the rural seat of the Duke of Brunswick, back in the halcyon days when the gardens led down to the Thames and Vauxhall was deep in the countryside. It’s had a chequered history, has Brunswick House, passing through the hands of various owners but these days, it harbours not one but two fabulous secrets. The first is that the property is now owned by LASSCO, the UK’s prime buildings salvage company of architectural antiques and curiosities. Here you can find among other treasures an 18th century copper bell tower, marble lintels, antique radiators and door furniture, reclaimed flooring, fancy mirrors and monumental ornate marble fire places. As though this wasn’t exciting enough, there’s another surprise in store for you! Walk in through the side entrance and you find a most unusual, slightly peculiar but quite enchanting restaurant by the same name, Brunswick House, run by the cookbook writing restaurant dynasty, Boxer and Boxer, specifically Jackson and Frank.
As you walk in, you don’t quite know what to make of this place. The front of the venue features a long wooden bar, the back a generously sized dining area. Partly grand, partly shabby with the tiniest bit of Addams Family vibe thrown in, it boasts very high, incongruously polystyrene-tiled ceilings hung with all manner of chandeliers, the walls show gilt framed mirrors with price tags attached to them, there are showcases full of strange things, doorways chintzily swagged and draped in sumptuously brocaded fabrics, grey and white floor tiles and, in among all this, utilitarian wooden tables, church chairs and oxblood leatherette covered banquettes. It’s all a bit odd but in a good way.
In these faintly bizarre surroundings you might expect funky sort of pub grub but then comes the small but perfectly formed menu. I know my food, trust me, but here are several dishes that completely flummox me and the help from the excellently warm and knowledgeable waiter has to be summoned. He’s only been working there for a week, he tells us, but boy, does he know his stuff! It all sounds thoroughly mouthwatering.
The Lovely Husband and I settle for Mullet Crudo, Raf Tomatoes, Buttermilk and Sea Purslane as a shared starter, then Confit Salsify, Jerusalem Artichoke, Black Cabbage and Ogleshield Crisp for me and Hake, Fennel, Peas and Anchovy for him.
But first two slices of warm sourdough bread, perfectly crusty on the outside and softly spongey on the inside with a dollop of whipped, mildly salted butter arrives, so good, that we gobble it up immediately.
The crudo is served looking very pretty, bite sized raw maninated mullet pieces with strips and flakes of the other ingredients, light and super tasty. After a suitable interval, not too long, not too short, we get our mains. Ah, lordy lord, after the first bite we float off into seventh heaven. The taste, the texture, the composition, the presentation, all of it is simply faultless! The creamy oystery salsify is cooked just so, sitting in a fine warm beetroot puree, the cavolo nero adds a pleasant, slightly bitter taste further enhanced by the wafer thin cheesy Ogleshield crisp, and the baked Jerusalem artichoke has all the pleasure of a cross between a baked potato and a Yorkshire pudding about it. Pierce all ingredients on to a fork and the taste explosion is incredible. The hake too, is luscious, flavoursome and flakey, it just melts in your mouth, coupling beautifully with the slight sweetness of the peas, the aniseed impression of the fennel and the hint of intense fishiness from the anchovies. Wow!
The great good food critic, Fay Maschler, in her Evening Standard January 2016 review describes it so: “Like a treasure hunt with clues, a piece of music with reflective melodies or a tapestry with tight intricate stitches, the menu is woven together in a way that is enticing and also sensible, practical.” This, I think, is true of the individual dishes too. They are just fantastically cleverly combined and superbly well presented. I wouldn’t be remotely surprised if this restaurant weren’t in line for a Michelin star.
But we’re not finished yet! There is still the rhubarb with mascarpone and fennel sorbet to devour! How brilliantly put together yet again, the tart rhubarb, the creamy fresh bloblets of mascarpone, the cool aromatic fennel sorbet; the entire delicious combo is crowned by a crispy super thin sweet biscuit. The final flourish comes in a portion of the Innes log cheese with Tardivo and black walnuts along with our habitual Americano coffee. It’s a masterpiece, the whole meal!
What can I say, dear reader? If you find this review too effusive, I can’t blame you, but frankly, I was just floored by the fabulousness of the entire experience, the quirky environment, the excellent service and most of all, the out and out stupendousness of the food served up. Of course, it goes without saying that we were expecting a hefty bill. Let’s face it, you can’t get top notch without paying top dollar, can you? Or can you? Our shared starter, two main courses, one pudding and one cheese course plus a carafe of Sauvignon and 12.5% service charge came to £74.03. What??? £37 per head? We’ve paid that in upmarket burger joints!
Brunswick House has several seriously gorgeous looking private rooms for hire for parties from 2 to 200, just don’t be surprised if, like the daily menu, the restaurant and rooms change appearance. Everything in them is for sale. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in the restaurant on weekdays from 9.30 am to midnight, Saturdays from 10 am to midnight and Sundays from 10 am to 5pm, as well as wine, cocktails, coffee, tea and snacks all day in the bar or on the small terrace.
What I wore
Black Joseph polo neck jumper, camel and black bandage skirt by Hervé Leger, black leather belt, long black leather boots by L.K.Bennett with black patent toe caps, camel Veneta Bottega Veneta shoulder bag.
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I look forward to sharing more food adventures with you!
Kia aka Fizz of Life