Don’t let Brunswick House Café’s unlikely, unwieldy location opposite Vauxhall Station deter you, because to enter the 1758 Georgian house is to enter another world.
You could walk directly into the bar and enjoy a pre-prandial Bittersea, but that would mean missing the myriad rooms housing architectural salvage company Lassco’s beautiful wares. Look, lust, linger. By the time you dine, you’ll have mentally spent your life savings several times over.
Whoever your companions, Jackson Boxer’s restaurant is never less than a pleasant prospect. But it’s also the finest place in the world to fall in love – so be warned, lest your guest falls for you along with the twinkly lights, cosy atmosphere and that higgledy-piggledy French brasserie charm.
There’s nothing higgledy- piggledy about the food; or indeed the menus, which announce each dish in an almost monosyllabic meter. Andrew Clarke is a chef, a magpie and a magician; plucking ingredients from hither and yon, pulling invisible threads which unite them in strange arrangements that make perfect sense in the eating.
Take ‘crab, chicory, fermented chilli, miyagawa’. Initially, I translate the latter ingredient – a Japanese citrus – as ‘angels’, because I feel as if those heavenly beings are dancing on my tongue. The seafood is sweet, the leaves are bitter, the chilli paste lends a bright bite, and the whole lot is brought together with a bang via a sprinkle of aptly-named Indian spice mix, gunpowder.
LB’s duck rillettes are declared another genius assembly: studded with black onion seeds, served with shards of toasted sourdough, crisp radishes in olive oil, and a prune mustard whose piquancy delivers a thrilling back-of-the-nose sting.
Pumpkin agnolotti for me, Old Spot pork for him; although the lines are blurred because we’re one of those infuriating couples who sit bus stop-style and share particularly choice morsels. In this case, that’s everything. Pickled walnuts and watercress are a stellar supporting cast for the meat; pasta is silken, dressed with raisins, sprouting broccoli, pine nuts, and sharp pecorino. Predictably delectable desserts are entirely unpredictable in their execution. Semi-frozen milk curd cubes are artfully plated with granola, candied tarragon and frozen grapes; chocolate cremeux features cardamom cream and a voluptuous stout syrup that renders the end of the evening all the more bittersweet.
With fairytale interiors and a dream team delivering pitch-perfect food and service, it’s hard to believe a place like Brunswick House Café actually exists. But it does – so go.
30 Wandsworth Road, London SW8 2LG, brunswickhouse.co
By Zoe Perrett