The All New ‘Brula’, Twickenham
Brula has long been regarded as a little corner of Paris in SW London. It has won many awards, including Zagat’s Best French Bistrot 2013 and was named one of the top 5 best French restaurants in Hardens 2013. Though situated in very English Twickenham, Brula’s authentic French feel no doubt comes from owner Lawrence Hartley’s own background. With a Parisian mother, he spent much of his childhood in France and, as he told me back in November 2011 when I interviewed him for my Top Ten Cookery Books series, it was this early experience of Parisian brasseries that he wanted to recreate in his own restaurant.
Recently the restaurant has undergone a makeover, not only with its internal refurbishment adding a lighter touch to the ambience and also putting additional seating on the terrace, but in its menu too. Brula has gone more continental offering a brasserie menu by day when you can pop in for light bites, pastries and coffee or tea as well as an excellent set lunch menu, but then in the evening it becomes a restaurant. The restaurant offers a great value Prix Fixe as well as an A La Carte menu.
The menu itself has undergone an exciting change with the arrival of James Kirby as Executive Chef. Having worked at Pied a Terre, Chez Nico and Bibendum, James brings a wealth of experience from some of the finest kitchens in London. He and Head Chef Jamie Russell have produced a menu that brings lightness and a more modern approach to French cooking. There are some really fabulous things here: starters of ‘Crisp Lamb Breast, Turnip Puree, Hazelnuts and Charred Baby Gem’ and a ‘Confit of Salmon with Fennel Hearts, Watercress Puree, Toasted Quinoa & Roasted Fennel Broth’. Lawrence had kindly invited me to join him for lunch while we talked about the ‘all new Brula’ and happily for me he insisted I had a starter (no ‘I’ll just have a salad’ here!). I had ‘Chilled Pea & Mint Soup with Brown Shrimps’. I love peas and their sweetness matched with the fresh mint is such a classic yet gorgeous combination. It was perfectly seasoned and really delicious.
Lawrence wanted us to try a ‘Crab & Asparagus Cocktail’ so I had a taste of that too.
We both chose mains off the Light Bites lunchtime menu with Lawrence going for a ‘Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese Bagel’ and I had a salad of ‘Smoked Salmon with Asparagus & Jersey Royals’. This was just a perfect lunch for me on a warm (though not sunny) summer’s day. Light and fresh with paper thin slices of radish and peppery watercress along with the main ingredients; it was a delight.
On the A La Carte there are some wonderful main courses, including ‘Grilled Scottish Halibut with Courgetts, Sea Aster & Clams’ and ‘Slow Cooked Gloucester Old Spot Pork Belly, Rainbow Chard, Red Peppers & Coco Beans’. Lawrence offered me a dessert and while ‘Blackberry Sorbet with Star Anise, Mint & Marshmallow Teacake’ or ‘English Strawberries with Elderflower Sorbet & Meringues’ sounded very tempting, I thought it might be too much at lunchtime. But I certainly won’t hold back next time I eat there in the evening!
I love the new menu and the way it represents Brula’s new all-day, more accessible, come in at anytime set-up. You can go in for just a coffee and pastry – as a couple sitting at one table were doing. You could have a lunchtime snack of, perhaps, a ‘Brula Terrine with Onion Marmalade’ or some ‘Seasonal Soup’. Or, if you have time and appetite, or go in the evening, you can settle down for one of the best French meals you’ll find in London.
Update: Brula restaurant closed December 2014.