Thursday, 10 May 2012
Brunswick House Café: a gem in Vauxhall
There is something unlikely about the Brunswick House Café in Vauxhall. Even on a cheerful, sunny day Vauxhall can seem a bit dreary (until you snatch a glimpse of the river). It's certainly not at its best in pouring rain, so on a cool, wet, grey late April day I came upon the unexpectedly cheerful delights of the Brunswick House Café. I was there for lunch with a rather special friend who worked nearby and who is moving to France with her family. She works for a notable wine company and she told me that, as well as being a customer, the Brunswick House Café had practically become a work canteen. (My only grouch with the place – and I'll flag this up now – is having some very decent wine served in a tumbler. It always strikes me as an affectation, so I wonder if her colleagues take their own glasses. Call me a purist, but I do prefer a stem on my glass!)
Brunswick House is home to LASSCO, the architectural salvage company, so, basically, the café is located within an extraordinary warehouse and the display starts before you walk in. You pass through a bar which looks ideal for early evening drinks or just a morning coffee and end up in a room full of interesting period furnishings.
Simply prepared seasonal food is order of the day prepared by chef, Jackson Boxer (grandson of food writer Arabella Boxer), so there were some early spring treats on the menu. My friend ordered a main course, porcini, artichoke and nettle risotto and I ordered two starters. My fennel and celeriac soup with wild garlic and buttered almonds was decadently creamy, garlicky, but not overwhelming so, and with a nice little crunch from the almonds. It was garnished with some garlic flowers and looked like spring in a bowl. Served with plenty of tasty sourdough bread and butter, it would have been ideal for lunch on its own. However, I was keen to try more from this tempting menu.
My second dish was smoked cod's roe, radishes, soft boiled egg and toast. I have a bit of a weakness for egg yolk, so could not resist the sound of this. And it was gorgeous. Again, another perfectly judged lunch dish – rich, unctuous, yet offset by the firm, tangy radishes. It was served with more of their delicious sourdough, this time toasted. My friend wasn't drinking, but I sipped some Semillon from Provence which worked well with both dishes - freshly and gently aromatic, with enough weight to tackle that egg yolk.
If I'd had longer, I'd also have gone for the white sprouting broccoli with romesco and anchovies. I've recently made romesco sauce, so was tempted to try their more expert version. These starter-size dishes cost about £5 and mains are from about £7. Great value for money. My glass of wine was £2.70 (£16 per bottle) from an excellent short list, with plenty of options under £30. Europe dominates and, if you are celebrating you could treat yourself to a bottle of Jacquesson Cuvée 734 for £55 (Champagne really doesn't get much better than this). Alternatively, they offer a Prosecco for just £21.20 which would be a versatile choice for spring. I do hope they have proper flutes for these. There are also some interesting beers and a Breton cider.
I'd love to go back for dinner. I imagine it's probably quite romantic in the evening, that's if you like vintage bits and pieces and the mellow tones of old wood. If not, there are always meatballs and lingenberry sauce at Ikea.
Brunswick House Café
30 Wandsworth Road
London SW8 2LG
Tel 020 7720 2926