Brat opened in March 2018, ticking all the hipster boxes with its Shoreditch location, open wood fire grill, vaguely Basque theme and a head chef, Tomos Parry, formerly running the kitchen of ultra-fashionable Kitty Fishers. Mr Parry previously worked at Climpsons Arch after training at The River Café. Unusually for a chef, he has a degree in Politics and History. The restaurant takes inspiration from the great Basque seafood restaurants Elkano and Kaia Kaipe, where turbot is grilled in the open air over charcoal. The name “Brat” is apparently an old English nickname for turbot, as well as meaning “apron” in Welsh, according to Mr Parry, so take your pick of these explanations. The menu is, and who’d have thought of this in Shoreditch, a small plates format. The dining room is upstairs in what was once a strip club, with bare wood floors and small, tightly packed tables, set above the separate Smoking Goat restaurant. The grill is visible just as you walk in, at the heart of the open kitchen.
The wine list has been put together with help from the knowledgeable people behind Noble Rot. It featured labels such as at Haut Fevre Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine ‘Gras Moutons” 2016 at £36 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £13, the excellent Argyros Assyrtiko ‘Estate’ 2016 at £55 compared to its retail price of £21, and Tissot Chardonnay ‘Les Bruyeres’ 2015 at £75 for a wine that will set you back £36 in a shop. There are grander wines too, such as Mas de Daumas Gassac 1990 at £138 compared to its retail price of £87, and Comtes Lafon Meursault 2014 at £192 for a wine whose current market price is £139. This was a carefully thought out wine list.
Chopped egg salad with bottarga came on toast and was warming and welcoming, the bottarga not as dominant as I feared it might be (14/20). Smoked cod’s roe on sourdough was pleasant, the bread itself excellent (13/20). Spider crab salad came with cabbage and fennel, this combination working nicely, with the anise flavour of the fennel complementing the crab (14/20). Grilled bread and anchovy was also enjoyable, the anchovies not excessively salty (14/20). Beef tartare is a classic dish, here used Moorland beef from the Peak District; for me the seasoning could have been a bit bolder, but the meat was of good quality (14/20).
The turbot itself was served as you might see it in the Basque country, served on the bone. We had a 1.5 kg fish (£75 to share between two), which was appropriate for a couple of people, but the relatively small size inevitably meant that the flavour of the turbot was limited; with turbot, the bigger the better. For example I ate two superb fillets of turbot recently in Dublin, at Patrick Guilbaud and The Greehouse, where the fish came respectively from magnificent 9kg and 8kg specimens. Given that they sell the whole fish here, it would be ideal if you come to Brat in a large group and order the biggest fish that they have to offer. Anyway, the fish was nicely cooked, and was certainly very pleasant (14/20). On the side, smoked potatoes were nicely cooked (14/20), and some plain tomatoes were better quality than you usually see in London restaurants, although admittedly that is not setting a high bar. We finished with a decent cheesecake (13/20).
Service was friendly, and they had some nice Zalto wine glasses available for better quality wines. The bill came to a hefty £184 per person, but this was with two bottles of good wine between us; the food component came to £72 each. If you shared a modest bottle then a typical cost per person, if you order the signature turbot, might come to around £97. This is still quite a lot of money for a notionally casual restaurant, though certainly the standard of cooking is quite high.