Something or someone being cool doesn’t come through trying. It just happens. It’s natural, at least on the surface. Like the Saturday night look you spent two hours devising. Being cool is about not trying to be cool. At least that’s what we’ve always been told. So when something or someone is so consciously trying, by being in the right places, doing the right things, acting in the right way, you think that, surely, that can’t be cool.
On paper, Brat reads like a Soho House keynote on opening a successful restaurant in London. This place could easily have started with a Venn diagram made up of three circles containing the words: Shoreditch, simplicity, oak panels. Despite the feeling of contrived cool that comes with every restaurant in Shoreditch, here there’s nothing showy-offy. And you have to say fair play to them for that. Because Brat is actually very cool.
But why? Well firstly the food is excellent. The mantra here is essentially ‘bosh it on the grill’. This may sound a bit dads around the barbecue, but what comes to the table are some smokey revelations. Grilled bread with anchovy is blackened and crispy with bubbles, lathered with salt and oil like all the best things are. Smoked cod’s roe is piped along more grilled bread and is one of the best things we’ve ever eaten for around three quid. In fact, everything here bread-related is sensational. Which sounds daft, but should really be the tell of an excellent restaurant.
Don’t worry if you’re gluten averse though, Brat’s gleeful commitment to pyromania provides other things to write home about. Unsurprisingly, the meat and fish really benefit. Beef chop is all blackened fat and pink meat laying in its juices. It’s an unapologetic plate of unadulterated meat, and it’s delicious: plain and simple. However, there will only ever be one star of the show, and that’s the turbot. Again, this is just a fish on a plate, but it tastes superb. It’s soft and flaky, a little smokey, and sitting in its own vinegary juices and marinade. Plus, it feeds three with relative ease. Never has something so objectively ugly been so lauded in east London. If there’s one thing you order at Brat, it’s this. Oh, and the bread, obviously.
Like the best cool places, you want to spend time here. The room is comfortably, kind of classily, covered in wood panels, and the semi-communal seating makes for a space that always seems to have a reassuring hum of conversation. It’s a restaurant that you want to talk in, be a little bit loud in, pass-the-wine-down-this-end-of-the-table in. Sure you could come here on a date, but neither the menu nor the atmosphere feel ideal for a one-on-one meal. This is a place where you bring your people. Three or four of them, preferably.
Despite what everyone says, coolness is something you can create. Brat shows this. It’s a lesson in back to basics cooking and hosting done well, which is something that’s a lot harder to do than it sounds. Few restaurants in London can do what Brat is doing: trying to be cool, and succeeding.
Bread And Butter
Holy smokes. This bread and butter tastes like it’s been grilled and churned by a deity.
Smoked Cod’s Roe
This meticulously piped cod’s roe on soldiers is completely delicious and excellent value.
Grilled Bread And Anchovy
This is more of a flatbread than a toast but don’t worry, it’s just as good as the other two.
Roasted Oysters With Seaweed
These are nice enough, but not essential.
Chopped Egg Salad With Bottarga
It’s a chopped egg salad as advertised. Tasty but nothing special.
These come smoking, literally. They’re a little skimpy, but a lot tasty.
Young Leeks With Fresh Cheese
Yung Leekz ft. Fresh Cheese is one of the tastiest side dish releases of 2018.
Wild Rabbit, Blood Sausage and Beans
These are rabbit mini-burgers of sorts, with beans and black pudding. They’re a little forgettable.
Spider Crab, Cabbage And Fennel
Three ingredients we love. Sadly, they don’t quite work together.
This, friends, is fish. Fish at its finest. Pure, 100%, unadulterated, turbo charged fish. It’s bloody delicious.
A juicy meaty fatty plate of cow sitting in juices that should be mopped up with bread afterwards. A small portion will feed five, so you do the maths on the bigger one.
Brown Bread Ice Cream
This is tasty but lacks the lovely grilled-ness of other dishes, because it’s ice cream.
Burnt Cheesecake And Rhubarb
20 years ago your mum would look at this and say ‘they’ve burnt it’. That, mother, is the point. Tasty stuff.