49 Columbia Road, Bethnal Green, E2 7RG
WLC Rank : 60
Glass from : £ 6.50 (125 ml)
BEST FORNatural wine
Often wild liqueurs from Laurent Cazottes
“Even in the thick of it our amazing team keeps the vibes relaxed,” says Brawn’s Patrick Campbell. “We feed off eachothers’ passion and bring something fresh to the table each day.”
Brawn’s pig-meets-corkscrew iron sign over the door sets the tone for the offer, which may include a portion of Nebrodi Vastese Sicilian sausage or Coppa Trentina alongside a wide range of responsibly-farmed wines, including a chirpy young Cortese (Ottavio Rube), mature Cataluñian Marselàn and antique Mas de Daumas Gassac as well as various skin contact options by the glass.
GM and sourcer of wine, Patrick Campbell, who is an avid Chenin Blanc fan and grower of fresh produce, joined Brawn at the beginning of one of the most unusual of years, 2020 having long been a regular customer. Previously, he was the GM at Portland; he also managed Trullo and saw service at Moro.
Brawn looks for freshness in wines which shun “heavy winemaking technique/ego.” These must present “a clear idea of the land, the grape and the year in which it was grown.” Additionally, affordability is a key consideration, “for those looking to dip their toe into the world of natural wine.”
Although tending to focus on the Old World, “given they have less far to travel to reach us, boding well for their drinking condition,” expect cherry-picked options from Australia, the USA and South America, too.
Campbell enjoys working with importers who take time to help educate his team “with care and attention.” Similarly, long-standing relationships with growers bring “depth and uniqueness to the list.”
Purposefully “uncomplicated” Brawn’s menu changes daily, “with the focus squarely on the quality of produce and traditional cooking.” Seasonal dishes may include raw scallop with almond, apple, sorrel and horseradish, and lamb sweetbreads with caper and raisin relish. These are created by chef/patron, Ed Wilson, the former group chef of Terroirs, alongside the head chef, Doug Rolle. Campbell fondly recalls the pairing of “rancio-style Pinot Noir” from former head sommelier of Le Châteaubriand in Paris, Séb Châtillon (Ad Vinum) with tiramisu. “The trouble was, there were only two bottles so the pairing lasted all of three days…”
Whether taking “a calm, contemplative slant, or more energetic tip,” the playlist, from Wilson’s own vinyl collection, “amplifies the moment for guests,” says Campbell. And both wine and music may be taken away. Beginning as an arm of the store business launched during the lockdown, “Brawn Selects” has become a permanent vinyl and merchandise store, including, for £20, the Brawnswood Tote “bag for life” featuring “three canvas wine bottle loops and space for 10 albums.”
By Douglas Blyde.
Brawn, a buzzy bistro off Columbia Road, now fully owned by Ed Wilson, former group chef of the Terroirs clutch of restaurants which used to comprise it, is an ideal destination for lovers of low intervention wines. Despite being bijou a dining room, the expertly created list is a lengthy exploration of the ilk. But Wilson’s talent for making an engaging food menu suitable for the mainstream make it worth a visit even if you are far from beign a natural wine devotee.
Begin with gougères and Maldon oysters with fizz from Slovakia, Crémant from Jura, a la mode (pink) Lambrusco, or one of a quartet of grower Champagnes, then plunder the page long daily food menu proper, adhering to a philosophy of being ‘honest and simple with a respect for tradition’. Starters may include smoked eel with fennel with apple and horseradish, coppa with pickled artichoke and Parmesan, and of course brawn, then segue to mains like pork collar with (white) mogette beans, Brussels sprout tops and punchy mustard, Bavette with layered Pommes Anna, watercress and pickled walnut, or duck ragù pappardelle. Finish with 24 months aged Comté and Anne and perhaps Jean-Francois Ganevat’s 2007 Vin Jaune (a producer allotted their very own section on the list). For the sweeter of tooth, puddings may include blood orange and almond tart, or the now legendary pannacotta – try it with one of a good gamut of liquers such as golden plum.
Brawn’s logo is a distinctively porcine themed, rocket-esque corkscrew – an illustration setting the tone for a characterful list often categorised in friendly terms, e.g. ‘Sherry & Friends’ featuring Fino, Oloroso and Marsala from renegade, Marco de Bartoli. There are also quotes presumably to encourage guests who are new to natural wine to trigger their synapses, such as that by Kermit Lynch – ‘if you keep an open mind and take each wine on its own terms, there is a world of magic to discover…’
An abundance of whites from the Loire include Mineral+ by Frantz Sauon, Burgundies, meanwhile, could feature Intuition from Domain Sextant. Also present are plentiful Jura, as well as skin contact renditions from the Veneto, Austria, the Czech Republic and rugged, volcanic Tenerife terroir. In darker hued terms, expect a fine selection of terroir-driven Beaujolais, while Wilson also hovers his magnifying glass over the Auvergne and Ardèche. There is of course a Georgian Saperavi, too – essential a listing to sate true dedicates of the natural wine movement. Under the title, Special Wines fo Journey-Men and Women, discover more premium-priced listings, including a 19 month(!) skin contact Zibibo (Gabrio Bini), and the 1979 single cru, Barbacarlo from Lombardy darling of Gambero Rosso, Lino Maga…
By Douglas Blyde.