Who: Tomos Parry (previously Kitty Fisher's)
Where: 4 Redchurch St, Shoreditch, London E1. (nearest transport: Shoreditch High St overground)
Why: Considered by many the hottest restaurant in the UK currently
'I read Shakespeare once but didn't like it much, it was full of quotes,' as some wag once said. And while the professional critics are no fans of food bloggers, I am happy to give credit where credit is deserved, acknowledging that both Coren and Rayner are excellent writers. Accordingly, you expect a good turn of phrase. But there's another thing to remember on any particular turn: when they eat at a restaurant, they are in fact working, and when they then write the review, they are similarly working. In other words, as they search for the perfect phrase, even if that takes an hour or two (or ten), they're doing it on the clock, in the quiet study of their working day. The food blogger meanwhile scrambles to fit in some writing between coming home from work, cooking a meal and doing the ironing, thereby consigning perfect phrases to l'esprit de l'escalier.
I say all this because of Brat's egg-bottarga dish. Rayner describes it as follows:
It’s a thick slice of still-warm toast topped with a crushed mess of an egg, also just still warm, the yolk languidly fixed between solid and soft, overlaid with shavings of cured and dried grey mullet roe. The cosy nursery softness of the egg is punctuated by the salty, grown-up hit of the bottarga.
As a description, salty roe on scrambled eggs on toast hardly cuts it after that, does it? You're on a hiding to nothing to try. Coren clearly decided he'd up the ante with exaggerated praise and significantly less prose by declaring that this same dish was in fact:
the greatest single new dish to be invented in this country in decades
As I say, what room does that leave the food blogger to operate? Coren's already 'all in'.
So let's start elsewhere - the service. Looking after us that day was Caitlin, who it seems flew over from Perth, Australia specifically to take up the position at Brat. Bravo. She was totally brilliant and delivered service every bit equal to Parry's cooking. It's easy to forget but it's the FOH who prime your mood well ahead of a plate of food ever arriving at your table and that can set the tone for your enjoyment for the whole meal. Let's face it, Coren is hardly known for his sunny disposition, so maybe his review was nudged in the right direction by the wonderful FOH staff at Brat.
And yes, everything is pretty much perfect, we had no criticisms anywhere. The cooking by fire thing is brilliantly done and adds that extra layer of depth to all the dishes. The bread for example on both the cod's roe dish and on the bottarga are both flame toasted and it brings that marginal gain that puts distance between it and the short cut electric toaster equivalent. Doing many things a little bit better accumulates to make a big difference.
And most noticeable of course is the meat cooked in this fashion. We had grouse to share which provided the perfect main after multiple starters and it was, honestly, the best grouse I've ever had and the grouse to which all future grouse must now be compared. Of course, real fire cooking adds a degree of unpredictability on getting each and every dish just right, especially perilous when cooking on a commercial scale, but that is what you're buying here, Parry's unquestionable skill in this area.
Devoid of pretension, Brat offers the most desirable of menus, brilliantly executed. I guess we've joined the chorus line of praise.