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Brula’s Christmas Season Set Menu

December 7, 2014


We’re so lucky in Richmond/Twickenham to have this great little French bistro on our doorstep. When I saw the set menu for the Christmas season in Brula’s regular e-newsletter, I said to Jonathan that we must go along. As it turned out, Lyndsey’s parents were visiting from Wales so five of us braved the sudden winter chill to head out on a cold and frosty night – a 15-minute walk or short bus ride for me; a short drive for them. There was ice already on the road and pavements as I carefully made my way, wrapping my new winter coat with its furry hood around me. But oh what a warm welcome when I arrived. The friendly staff, the warm glow in the restaurant with its low lighting and the beautiful stained-glass windows adding a glorious colour. And some fizz waiting for us from owner Lawrence Hartley who knew I was coming, having now interviewed him early on in the blog’s life (click here), seen Brula through some special menus, its taking over of the café at Strawberry Hill House (click here) and, of course, his and Tim Healy’s (of A Cena), ownership of my favourite Joe Allen in Covent Garden a couple of years ago (click here). Lawrence and Tim seem to have managed a good job of owning some of my favourite restaurants between them. But at least I know they’re in safe hands!

Brula is where I go when I crave something French; Brula transports me to a corner of Paris and its menu and food do justice to that claim. It has won many accolades in recent years and is a firm favourite with locals. Its à la carte menu is wonderful but we’d decided before going to opt for the seasonal set menu at £25 for 3 courses. Jonathan was having a hard time choosing; he’d need to come at least twice, he told me. He changed his main course choice just when the waitress thought she had all the orders; he changed his dessert choice after his main course, but the waitress took it in her stride and with a smile said it was no problem. Though when Jonathan saw the Sticky Toffee Pudding at the next table he wondered whether a last-minute change to the cheese had been a good move.

Service at Brula is ‘service with a smile’ in the best possible way: it’s efficient, unobtrusive and friendly so you feel at ease, comfortable and well looked after. It was busy; the restaurant full. There was that wonderful buzz that comes from happy people eating well and, we noticed, a mix of ages. It was Jonathan who noticed a number of tables with people of his age while there were also tables with people of my age. It’s nice to have a mix. It’s a good sign in a restaurant.

The set menu offers a choice from three starters, three main course and two desserts or cheese. We all went with different starters: Lyndsey and her parents having the Cream of Chestnut Soup, which they said was very good.


Jonathan chose Chicken Liver Parfait with Onion Marmalade. This was gorgeous – I know because he gave me a taste after telling me it was stunning. The parfait was incredibly smooth, light and creamy with a wonderful flavour. It was served with toasted brioche.


I’d chosen Salmon Gravadlax with Mustard & Dill Dressing. I’d hovered between this and the parfait. How to choose! I briefly thought that it was so easy to buy gravadlax that the parfait would be a better choice. But I’m so glad I went with the salmon because really you don’t buy gravadlax this good in the supermarket. It had a wonderful texture and taste. It’s one of my favourite things and I really enjoyed it.


When it came to main courses we all had the same. I’d dithered slightly between Grilled Sea Bass with Raisins & Pine Kernels; Jonathan was all set to have Pork Belly with Brussels & Chestnuts until a last-minute swerve of direction led him to the Duck Leg with Spiced Red Cabbage & Honey Roast Parsnips along with the rest of us.


I love duck but don’t often think to buy it. This was cooked perfectly, just how I like it: the meat falling from the bone, the skin so tasty and crisp it was delicious to eat too. Parsnips walk that fine line when cooked between underdone and mushy soft: these were perfect with their firmness yet cooked all the way through, their honey glaze adding to the sweetness. Spiced red cabbage is a classic accompaniment; classic because it works so well. It was a lovely dish and brought a nice touch of Christmas with it.


Four of us had chosen Chocolate Pot with Walnuts for our dessert. Chocolate pots can suffer from being too heavy and slightly cloying but this one had managed to achieve all that gorgeous deep chocolate taste you crave yet have a pleasant lightness to it, making it all the more delicious.


As I said above, Jonathan had been going to have Sticky Toffee Pudding but then changed his mind and had Stilton with Cranberry Compote. He was very happy with his final choice but I think there’s still going to be a move to return to Brula to try other choices before the menu ends at Christmas!


We drank an excellent bottle of Corbières (Syrah and Grenache) with the meal. And I love the way Brula always serves tap water (which we’d asked for rather than a bottle) in a jug to leave on the table, with fresh mint leaves in it, adding a nice freshness but not the acidity of lemon slices. Lyndsey and I were the only takers for coffee. I do like to have a good coffee at the end of meal; the meal feels somehow unfinished to me without it. Coffee at Brula comes in lovely old cups and saucers; mine was different to Lyndsey’s. It reminded me that I’d started a collection of old cups and saucers when we had the family holiday in Normandy a couple of years ago, and I bought some more from the same place last year when I went back to the area. This is one of the nice, extra touches that makes Brula special. Another great touch was that Jonathan had noticed at a nearby table that a couple drinking an Alsace Pinot Noir had been given special and very pretty glasses appropriate for this type of wine. Since Pinot Noir is his favourite grape I think we may be heading back for that some time!

We’d all had a great evening and were so warmed by good food, good company and a lovely atmosphere, it really didn’t seem so bad venturing out into the icy cold again to go home.

Why don’t you sign up to receive Brula’s newsletter for news of seasonal menus, events and other offers at

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