I was very sad to see this local favourite close in mid October 2008. It was a benchmark 14/20 restaurant.
The sort of restaurant everyone wishes they had at the end of their road. Despite some ownership changes over the years the Brackenbury has remained remarkably consistent, turning out British and French dishes that are rarely fancy but are always carefully cooked. Service is better under new restaurant manager Joe. The dining room is in two parts on what is basically a residential street, with a few tables outside in the summer. A feature is the fair pricing, and there is now a decent wine list with some good value wines, now organised by style e.g. "floral and aromatic". The house wine was £13 and there were lots under £30; markups are about three times retail. The menu changes regularly, keeping its appeal fresh to regulars.
The Brackenbury is tucked away in a residential street. The dining room is in two halves, each split-level with three steps separating the levels. There is outdoor seating under a canopy for fine evenings. Inside, the floors are carpeted, the colour scheme a plain taupe. This is the colour of the carpet, the painted walls and also the upholstery on the wooden chairs. The seating is a mix of the chairs and banquettes. Lighting is from side lamps, and a few prints adorn the walls. There are no tablecloths, but white linen napkins are provided. There is no music; notes from a sample meal follow.
Bread is simple: slices of brown bread from the Exeter Street bakery, a capable place that supplies many London restaurants. The bread has good texture and decent seasoning (14/20). The menu is modern British, with seven starters (£5.50 - £8) and seven main courses (£10 - £18). Vegetables were £2.50 each, desserts were £5.50, with cheese from la Fromagerie at £7.50. The wine list covers a range of countries and is organised by style e.g. “floral and aromatic”. House wine was £13 a bottle or £3.50 a glass. Madish Unwooded Chardonnay from Western Australia 2006 was £25 (retail price around £8), while Spy Valley pinot noir from New Zealand 1996 was £32.50 (retail price around £12).
Smoked eel was served simply with cucumber salad and horseradish cream. The eel had excellent taste, the bite of the horseradish cream providing a lively counterpoint to the smokiness of the eel, while the thin slices of cucumber added a complimentary extra texture and colour; a simple dish that worked really well (14/20). A mixed leaf salad with tomato, green bean and soft egg had a pleasant, simple vinaigrette dressing but salad ingredients were fresh but were of ordinary quality (13/20).
Rabbit ballotine was wrapped in bacon and retained some moisture, the rabbit itself carefully cooked. This was served with good choucroute cabbage with a little sausage, carrots and young turnips, the latter providing an earthy balance to the delicate flavour of the rabbit (14/20). Brill was fresh and carefully timed, served with puy lentils, parsley caper butter and large cooked spring onions (14/20).
Lemon and vanilla cheesecake had a good base and a pleasing filling that could have done with a fraction more acidity (14/20). A rich chocolate cake had strong chocolate flavour and silky texture, while the vanilla ice cream with it had smooth texture but was rather mean on the vanilla (14/20 overall). Coffee tasted rather cheap (12/20). Service was pleasant, and the relatively new restaurant manager Joe is a friendly breath of fresh air after his dour French predecessor, who is still present but now appears to be a waiter.
Notes from a particularly good meal here follow.
A starter of risotto made with white truffle (presumably just oil truffle given the price tag for the dish of £6.50), fresh peas and feves featured well cooked Arborio rice and a very good chicken stock that had suffused the rice with flavour. The texture of the rice was excellent, and the vegetables tender (16/20). Fresh and smoked salmon were layered and cut into a circular tower shape, topped with guacamole, surrounded by a thick dressing of cherry tomatoes laced with Bloody Mary. This salmon worked well with the guacamole and the tomatoes; an unusual but effective combination (15/20).
We both had a main course of carefully cooked tuna, served with a green salsa, tender broad beans and a little relish of red pepper and chilli jam. The spices were restrained and added a little lift to the dish without dominating it (15/20). I tried a passion fruit cheesecake, which had a good base and plenty of passion fruit flavour, accompanied by a very good passion fruit sorbet, bursting with fruit flavour and having smooth texture, served inside a hollowed out passion fruit (easily 15/20). Mango sorbet was also well made, with smooth texture and intense mango flavour (15/20).