Sometimes, when I go up to London , I’ve made eating plans weeks in advance. Research done, reservations made, itineraries plotted. But last week’s trip was a bit of a last minute adventure. Daughter number 2, Emma, needed help looking for a new apartment, so the trip was all about that.
Also? While Emma does care about food, where or what we eat does not provoke the same level of anxiety as it does in daughter number 1, Sophie. So most of our meals were last minute decisions. Like a 10pm visit to Gourmet Burger Kitchen after seeing Walter Mitty (the burgers were definitely better than the film) or else combining one meal in two (something Sophie would never think of doing) at The Breakfast Club, which does breakfast all day long.
But still, I did manage to get in a few truly great meals with girlfriends. I had a really lovely, long lunch and catch up at Beagle with Anissa. And my friend Meg met me for lunch one day at Brunswick House.
Whenever I go to London I can always count on Meg to plan lunch at some place not only delicious, but interesting. And by interesting I mean really cool setting. It was thanks to Meg that I discovered Daylesford Organic, a hip little restaurant located in an organic produce store. And then there was the time we met for tea and cake at the cafe in the Chelsea Physic Garden.
This time she told me to meet her at Brunswick House. I had no idea where it was so she gave me very easy directions. “Just get on the Victoria Line, and get out in Vauxhall. Look across the street from the Tube stop and you will see some of the ugliest buildings ever built. In the middle of this horror, there is one lone Georgian building. That’s where we’re going.”
And sure enough, it was true. Vauxhall, which is basically a big round-about, is home to some of the ugliest real estate development in London. (actually, it’s going on all over the city, but that’s another story) Truly horrible glass sky scrapers with almost scary ‘architectural’ details. And there, squeezed in between this valley of glass and steel is the stately Brunswick House.
Built in 1759, the brick mansion has gone through a lot over the years, including, most recently, squatters. It was finally acquired by Lassco, an architectural salvage firm, in 2005 and they have been restoring it ever since. It acts not only as one of their showrooms but is also home to a cafe.
Brunswick House Cafe is run by Jackson Boxer, whose family is in the food world and whose grandmother was Arabella Boxer, the cookbook author. The restaurant sits right in the middle of things, amid a mish mash of mis-matched tables and chairs, vintage chandeliers, stacks of old suitcases, posters and model trains. And everything is for sale.
But if the objets are all antique, the food is modern and fresh. Mike (Meg’s husband) started with the Cauliflower, Parsnip and pomegranate salad, which was crunchy and brilliantly dressed. Meg enjoyed one of the daily specials, marinated sea bass, with citrus dressing. I couldn’t resist deep fried herring roes, which were lightly dressed with a caper vinaigrette. ( I think I liked them even more than the fried oysters I had in NYC)
For main course Meg ordered the Smoked haddock, leeks, potatoes and clams. Although she tried to convince us she had no idea it would be made with cream, I’m thinking that is really why she ordered it. Because she certainly didn’t have any trouble soaking up the last drops of luscious sauce with her bread. Both Mike and I ordered the liver, because….well, if there is any type of offal on a menu, I can’t look elsewhere. Served pink and perfectly done, it was butter tender atop a bed of herbed lentils.
Afterwards we had a poke around the shop, which is on two floors. Although I knew I really couldn’t buy anything and have it shipped back to Italy, Meg was sorely tempted by the taxidermy birds under glass. “It’s a very good price” she informed me, peering closely at the bright yellow feathers. Meg is a fount of arcane information like this. Including, obviously, great places to have lunch in London.
Brunswick House Cafe
30 Wandsworth Road, Vauxhall
London, SW8 2LG
Brunswick House is located on Vauxhall roundabout, a 2 min walk from Vauxhall tube
Mon – Fri: 9.30am – 11pm
Sat: 10am – 11pm
Sun: 10am – 5pm
020 7720 2926