The idea of eating surrounded by antiques is not new. In the eighties an eccentric couple ran a restaurant called the Gasworks in Fulham. The food was dubious (lots of slightly rancid aerosol whipped cream as I remember), but the atmosphere generated by the copious Victorian artefacts lining the walls, the taxidermy and elaborate chandeliers, was spooky and exciting. And that’s why you went.
More recently, Les Trois Garçons in Shoreditch, open for the last ten years, offers the same kind of experience in a much bigger space. One advantage of this concept is that the wow factor of the surroundings can mask any inadequacies on the food front. At Les Trois Garçons, the heftily priced three course menu at £47 involves many elaborate dishes with varying success, which combines with the decor to make a special occasion and party venue.
Jackson Boxer, grandson of the cookery writer Arabella Boxer, initially started out taking a space at the front of Brunswick House home to the architectural salvage company LASSCO, to run an espresso bar and lunch snack venue. He has now expanded to a bigger restaurant space at the back, which used to be a concert hall for a local trade union. A mixture of Moroccan and Victorian light fittings hang in abundance from the ceiling and the seating and tables are all part of the shop.
The big difference in Boxer’s venture is that the food is the opposite of mediocre (in fact exceptionally delicious), and it is reasonably priced. My starter of purple sprouting broccoli, anchovies and a freshly made romesco sauce (£5.20) was perfectly cooked and balanced, while my companion’s beetroot and goats curd salad was uplifted by shavings of raw white beetroot and hazelnuts (£5.60). We followed on with a juicy bavette steak, served with braised button onions and spinach (£13.20), and for me a wild bream fillet with potatoes, samphire, cucumber and a slightly over generous portion of horseradish (£12). The wines are intelligent, again well priced and gin from London-based Sippsmith features.
There was only one gripe with the whole experience last night. Two parties, one of 12 and the other 17, lined two sides of the room. The music which started off fittingly as cool versions of Tamla Motown, metamorposed into a harsh technobeat, and as the evening wore on, this, combined with shrieks from the partygoers, drove us out earlier than we would have liked. But not before consuming a modestly named set buttermilk pudding with caramelised oranges and shortbread (£5.00), which lingers deliciously and memorably still.
The decision about whether to take bookings for large parties (say over 6-8) is always a difficult one. They do change the atmosphere, and they can dominate the service. Other smaller tables are left in a hiatus while the main courses are served on the big tables. I understand how tempting it is when you are starting out to go for the big bills. However, for longevity, if the table size was limited to say eight, there would be no problem in filling them, judging by the number of hopefuls in the bar waiting for a table as we left.
Brunswick House Cafe
30 Wandsworth Road
London SW8 2LG
Tel: 020 7720 2920