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Restaurant Review: Brula, St Margarets, Twickenham

December 2, 2011

Brula was recently voted Runner Up Best Restaurant in the Observer Food Monthly Awards 2011, is an Open Table Diners’ Choice Winner 2011 and has a Michelin Bib Gourmand. Last month I had a great meeting with its owner, Lawrence Hartley, talking to him about his Top Ten Cookery Books and learning quite a bit about the influences behind his opening of a Parisian-style restaurant in Twickenham, and his love of French cooking.  I decided that a visit was definitely due, so last night I went there with friend Liz for their Monday-Thursday Menu de la Maison (Evening:£19 for 2 courses; £25 for 3; Lunchtime: £14 for 2 courses; £18 for 3).

Stepping inside Brula feels just like stepping inside a traditional French bistro in Paris. The building was once a Victorian butcher’s shop and there’s wonderful stained glass in the windows, large mirrors and dark wood seating. The tables are laid with pretty fine porcelain china, reflecting the attention to detail with every aspect of the dining experience at Brula.

Bread and olives came immediately as we made the difficult choice of what to eat; I could have happily eaten anything on the menu. I ordered a large glass of house red, a Corbieres 2009, a blend of Syrah and Grenache, which was excellent. I always believe that it should be perfectly safe ordering the house wine in a good restaurant – and Brula proved me right.

I chose Duck Rillettes with a beetroot salad to begin. It was soft and creamy as it should be and served at just the right – room – temperature (straight from the fridge and solid, as I had it elsewhere recently, is not good); the shreds of duck were exquisitely full of flavour.

For my main course, I chose Aberdeenshire Onglet Steak Frites – well, what else could one order other than steak and frites when feeling almost as if you were in Paris!  The frites were sensationally good – perfectly cooked. The steak was tender and full of flavour; truly excellent. It came with a little watercress salad and onion marmalade, horseradish cream and some mustard on the side. I do, however, have to apologise for the photo … I was having such a good time I moved out of Food Blogger Mode and started eating before taking the photo … then I suddenly remembered, so it looks less perfect than when the plate was put before me. But it can only mean that I need to go back soon for a second attempt …

Lawrence sees his role as front of house and makes a point of checking diners are OK himself as he moves round the restaurant, and this adds to the friendly, intimate ambience. We didn’t order desserts, but when coffee came – with heavenly rich chocolate truffles and tiny madeleines – some ice cream came too, compliments of Lawrence. Delicious blackberry and vanilla, creamy, full of flavour and wonderfully smooth.

I’m already in family discussion about when to go back … and how lucky am I that I can actually walk to this great neighbourhood restaurant.

Update: Brula restaurant closed December 2014.

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