'Light and healthy meals without being too indulgent for a midweek dinner out '

The Brackenbury

Open for lunch Tue–Sat midday–2.30pm, for dinner Tue–Sat 6.30pm–9.30pm

The blurb

The gap between Shepherd’s Bush and Hammersmith could probably be mistaken for a ‘no man’s land’—pubs and fine dining in Shepherd’s Bush are sparse; Hammersmith is much the same. But running down the middle lies Brackenbury Road, which feels like one of the last remaining places in London where all the little shops with their large front windows haven’t yet been turned into houses.

There’s a delicatessen, an art gallery, a hatmaker, a hardware and ironmonger store, and a butcher. It’s quaint and merry, and I almost feel like we’ve stepped back into the 1900s as we approach The Brackenbury. With menus that change daily, you’ll try something new every visit from their inspired Franco-Italian menu.

The style

The place is organised into three airy little enclaves—the bar, with a more casual vibe, a conservatory, and an elegant dining room, allowing you to adjourn to the bar for a nightcap. It’s a home from home ambience and the place feels like one of the private members’ clubs usually located much closer to the city.

Parcel paper is clipped over tables—a stylish take on typical French brasseries—and we sat in a garden-style conservatory with green trellis on the walls, padded booths, a large skylight feature and dangly plants. During the summer months the front of the of the restaurant can be opened up to allow for al fresco dining.

The crowd

The crowd inside is heavily made up of nouveaux locals, and with quiet background music it allows for a good flow of conversation from all sides of the rooms, the odd guffaw, and the high chance that you’ll bump into one of your neighbours.

The food

The chilled watercress soup with sea trout was gently peppery, with a silky texture and a vibrant, fresh colour of green, and the Croque anchois was cheesy and salty without being excessively oily. Having been rather traumatised by the thought of fish eyeballs and bones, the anchovy had pleasingly melted into the filling, leaving a crisp, rich, and buttery texture. The devilled egg and smoked cod’s roe was amazing, with the mustard and smoked fish complementing each other perfectly.

We then opted for braised pork cheek, with a broad bean and parsley puree and crisp pig’s ears, and the grilled guinea fowl. There’s a rather amusing story of the time my partner ordered ‘tète du boeuf’ in Paris, and was rather appalled to find the face of a cow staring back at him on its arrival—furry tongue included. However, the pig’s ears were halfway between a pork scratching and pieces of crispy onion, and fortunately didn’t resemble one of those chewy dog toys that I was half expecting.

The parsley veloute with broad beans was absolutely phenomenal—I don’t think I can praise this enough—buttery and velvety, and everything perfect. The braised pork was delicious and so tender you could probably eat it with a spoon (my upbringing, however, prevented me from testing this theory).

My grilled guinea fowl was mouthwateringly crispy and succulent, with a bruschetta-inspired salad with chunks of bread soaking up the juices from tomatoes and red peppers. It was pleasantly summery and light, with fresh basil and tomatoes and, as a bonus, waistline-friendly.

Pudding portions (would have been rude not to) seemed bigger than the mains, particularly as we were already feeling very full and sorry (or not) for ourselves. We were surprised with a poached meringue, rhubarb and custard pudding, which resembled a sort of ice cream float, featuring proper vanilla custard and tangy bittersweet rhubarb chunks, and my partner indulged in the raspberry and almond tart that is a firm feature on the menu, according to head chef Humphrey Fletcher; a sturdy slice made with almond flour, giving it a super cakey and dense texture like marzipan, with an excellent balance of tartness from the raspberry paired with the moreish sweetness of the cake. I’d have eaten more had I not been baring my food diary to my personal trainer the following morning.

Sadly, the iced Paris-Brest with praline ice-cream inside and hot chocolate sauce didn’t make an appearance on the menu that evening, or I would have shamelessly demolished it in a few bites—personal trainer or not.

The drink

I enjoyed the Etna Bianco 2013, Benanti ‘Bianco di Caselle’ from Sicily, with fresh, sharp notes of pear and a round, rich body that paired very well with the bursts of flavours throughout my meal, from the baby capers in the tomato salad to the anchovy in the croque anchois.

My partner went for his obligatory cocktail, opting for a Bourbon sour—smoky caramel Woodford reserve with lemon juice, sugar syrup and topped with soda. Being a man of very few words, it was described as ‘pretty good’. The dessert wine my partner ordered was like cake in a glass—an Italian ‘Le Colombare’ Recioto di Soave—deep amber in colour with the perfume of dried apricots and lightly toasted almonds.

In a nutshell

Light and healthy meals are on the cards without being too indulgent for a midweek dinner out (until you hit the pudding menu). Well priced, lovingly prepared food, and perfect if you’re looking for a summery vibe.

The Brackenbury, 129–131 Brackenbury Road, London W6;; 020 8741 4928

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