“I’m broke,” I told S.
“Me too,” she said.
“Let’s go somewhere cheap for dinner,” I suggested. “Franco Manca on Broadway?”
“That place is crap,” she asserted (a bare-faced lie).
“What about Brawn?” I said. “I’ve wanted to eat there for ages.”
“Isn’t that expensive?” she said, doubtfully. As doubtfully as you can via WhatsApp, anyway.
“Fuck it,” I said.
And so goes the story of how I came to spend £50 on dinner on a rainy Wednesday night, when I was broke. I ate soup for days after (I now associate eating soup, even in the swankiest of places, with being broke, like those cats that got fed then tortured with electric shocks. Google it).
Brawn is pretty sexy, though. Right on the corner of Columbia Road, it is a white-washed room with seventies style table and chairs, vintage posters and wine bottles adoring the walls. It feels airy and intimate all at once. We got there at half six (only booking available on the day) and it was dead. By about eight pm it filled up. I liked the crowd for the same reason I like going to swanky wine and cocktail bars — it makes me feel naughty, like I shouldn’t be somewhere so posh. Bit like when drinking was fun, because it was illegal. The crowd was a little older, sophisticated, but still buzzing. We swapped tips with the table next to us. We had a very intense sommelier, who gave me the most amount of eye contact I’ve ever had while taking my order. He bloody loved S. A little intense, a lot entertaining. He recommended us a red which he called “fucking good”. It had a picture of a third world child and pink graffiti on it. It was quite light and weirdly fizzy, even though we had asked for something heavier. Oh well.
We shared a couple of starters to begin: gougerges — little fluffy doughy dumplings with a parmesan crumb dusting. They were hot, salty, sweet, sticky, all at once. Like eating really posh umami Wotsits, but better. We inhaled those.
We shared burrata, cime di rapa and bottarga next. Fuck me yes. I would have liked to climb into this burrata and slept in it, like a melty cheesy cloud of heaven. The snowy white innards oozed out like a poached egg, but better, because eggs are kind of icky when you think about them for too long. It was on a bed of green, salty, even bitter veg — the perfect contrast to the rich, gooey flesh. There was nothing that could have improved this dish.
For mains, I had the monkfish, with mussels, monk’s beard and seaweed butter. It was basically a seaweed butter soup with a very plump, firm piece of white fish in the middle, hiding under a bed of monk’s beard. Salty as fuck, but you know i like that. The mussels were like little pops of ocean flavour. By the end, I felt like the entire inside of my mouth was coated in buttery grease, which it was. Good job we had red fizzy wine. A great dish, but not very filling — they don’t do sides (I KNOW RIGHT) so I ate a lot of bread to fill up.
S’s main, on the other hand, was huge. She went for the lamb rump, with braised artichokes and puntarelle. I didn’t taste it (seven months strong pescy) but it looked fucking tender as. One of the only times since giving it up where I wanted to eat the shit out of that meat. It was served in a glossy, beautiful jus with big wedges of artichoke. She was stuffed.
All in all, the bill came to £100, including service and a £30 bottle of fizzy red. Okay, it wasn’t the bargain dinner I’d planned on, but who gives a fuck. I live my with boyfriend’s mum, I can afford a little dinner, for fuck’s sake.
49 Columbia Rd, London E2 7RG
Four and a half out of five stars