Tomas Parry opens Brat in March 2018 right above Smoking Goat, another heart-thumpingly good restaurant. Did you know “Brat” doesn’t just mean spoilt child but also “Turbot” in old English? Other colloquial names include “Breet”, “Britt” or “Butt”. I would have chosen Brat too given the choice! You may have gathered the restaurant’s name is a celebration of turbot “the Rolls Royce of the sea“, and chef Parry’s main command is the Basque way, a way famed for cooking turbot and Galacian steak over a wood fired grill. I happen to know from experience that his food is delicious having eaten at Kitty Fishers before he went solo. Michelin seems to think so too and gave him a star within six months after opening. Chef Parry describes his food as “instinctual and primal style”, in a similar under engineered vein in the venue, you get wooden panelled walls, matching floors and furnishings. It’s effortlessly composed which requires a lot of thought I’m sure – just like the food. I’d recommend sitting at the bar so you can people watch and get a champion view of the open kitchen where all the deft touches happen on the wood fired grill.
We start with smoked cod’s roe on toast, three digit sized snacks worth rejoicing about, all for £3.50. They’re flipping delicious and they use a sour dough worth fetishising about. More on that in a moment.
Game sausage, blood pudding and berlotti beans £7.5 is a simply-hewn rustic plate elevated by earthy salsa verde.
The dish entitled “grilled mushrooms” £8 was served in a broth of sorts, I suspect it was made from the juice of the mushrooms, in the centre was a hen’s yolk to be broken and swirled into the proceedings. It was a dish less striking than the rest but enjoyable nonetheless.
Now for the bread, but it’s so much more than that. A sour dough £3.50, some of the best I’ve had with its compelling wood fire char comes with a whipped butter and burnt onion ash that tastes intensely of sweet onions. We found ourselves slathering the butter into the hot bread until it melted into all of the lacy holes – people with high carb diets come to thrive on this bread. People like me.
Whole mallard duck £30 is smoked with hay and finished on the wood fire to render the fat and make the skin crisp.. It tasted dry aged, so the flesh has a real depth and a chew that keeps developing in flavour.
We finish with their burnt cheese cake and pears £6, it’s a spot on homage to how they do it in the Basque and it might be just better than how they do it in La Vina – the most famous version in San Sebastián. A bold statement, but try for yourself, you might be just as convinced as I am.
Onto the second visit…
What we didn’t get last time was the chopped egg salad with bottarga £5. It came on a rustically cut piece of warm toast topped with a lovely, glossy mess of chopped egg. The yolk was golden and soft, with shavings of intensely umami mullet roe. It’s another example of mastering the sweet science of simplicity.
Smoked pink fir potatoes £4.50 come with a spatter of glistening olive oil and flecks of green chive. The whole business was soft, nutty and made us go into a deep swoon dive for the spud. They’re very reminiscent of the ones at Kitty Fisher, but without the overpowering Tunworth cheese.
There were four of us during this visit, so ordering a slab of beef rib from the menu was tempting but not at an eye-watering £85. Our host who was one of the virtuous things of eating here by the way, suggested the sirloin instead which came in at a less-wincing £48, we were sold. It came mid-rare like how it should, on the bone, well rested with crispy edged fat. Again effortlessly good.
We order the whole Brat – their signature Cornish turbot £80 that’s slow-cooked in a custom basket over hot coals and left to rest allowing all the gelatinous collagens to emulsify into a delicious sauce. Our server suggested that we go exploring for the prized bits such the cheek, forehead and fins – shotgun was called immediately! The result was a silky, delicate, melt in the mouth joy. Click on the vid to hear and see more.
It would have been rude not to get more of that burnt cheesecake £6, this time it came with cheek puckering rhubarb.
When did I go? Nov 2018, March 2019.
The damage: Expect to pay £50/70 per head with booze
The good: Brat is a place where I lost myself, all adults can lose themselves here. It’s a case where you don’t need to throw the kitchen sink at something to make it good, just good timing in the kitchen, quality ingredients and a deft touch will do. The steak and the turbot were examples of master stroke cookery. And like I mentioned before, they give you the sweet science of simplicity in their cookery with service with grace, charm and great energy. Delectable couldn’t be more complete at Brat.
The bad: Nada.
Would I go again? Yes!
Address: 4 Redchurch St, Hackney, London E1 6JL