Play it Again – at Sam’s Brasserie in Chiswick:
Having visited and enjoyed Harrison’s in Balham a month or so ago, I was curious to be invited along to play spot the difference at Sam Harrison’s original Brasserie in Chiswick. I was also slightly unsure how far it would be from Turnham Green station and ended up arriving inordinately early. The Brasserie and Bar is in an old paper factory tucked away just off Chiswick High Street, and there are three quite distinct sections – the downstairs bar with banquette seating, a downstairs dining area and a smaller upstairs area. When I arrived the bar was busy but not packed and the restaurant was almost empty. But, I was early.
We enjoyed a quick aperitif once The-Hedonist appeared, while we chose from the a la carte menu. Playing the game properly, I picked the same mix of small dishes that I’d had at Harrison’s for my starter. Partly a yearning for padron peppers which cooked properly are perfect mouthfuls of crunchy charred sweetness. The hummus was nicely chunky and fresh warm flat breads a good accompaniment to both. And yes, the peppers were just as good as I remembered!
Meanwhile The Hedonist had Maldon Rock Oysters. I stole one and can vouch that it was fresh, plump and delicious.
I really was trying to find light dishes – and since it was my birthday, I got first choice of the menu and picked the roast cod with buttered leeks, clams and chervil pesto. Every bit as good as it looked, flaky white cod topped with a delicate pesto of herbs on a base of buttery leeks and clams.
The Hedonist’s Trout bound up mummy style in bacon looked spectacular and I was fascinated by the monk’s beard peeking out from under the belly of the fish. At first glance I thought it was samphire or chives, but the more delicate, tart flavour of the monk’s beard was a far more appropriate accompaniment for Trout.
Dessert for me was a lovely light brioche bread and butter pudding with apricot and icecream. Well, it WAS my birthday.
The Hedonist’s chocolate tart with cappuccino anglaise, honeycomb and crème fraiche looked delectable, but I didn’t get to taste, though admittedly by this stage I wouldn’t have done so even if it had been offered, simply because I was far too full!
I did however, enjoy a dessert wine. We sampled both those on offer and I was happy to drink most of the 2008 Riesling Noble Rot from Seresin in Marlborough, while my companion enjoyed the 2008 Sauternes Chateau Petit Vedrines.
By the time we left the main restaurant area was almost full. It seemed a little as if Chiswick’s mothers had all decided Sam’s Brasserie was the place to be (there’s a fun sounding kid’s menu with dishes like pasta with marmite and parmesan butter, to love or hate). Meanwhile the bar was busy with an assortment of business people enjoying the extensive bar menu. My impression was that restaurant at Sam’s was slightly more formal than Harrisons, with a good choice of interesting dishes. And the similarities were in the good things we’d enjoyed at Harrisons – my rather excellent padron peppers and hummus for instance, and the much loved burrata making an appearance here too.
The Brasserie and Bar opened in 2005 and appears to be flourishing. The excellent food and wine list are perhaps a reflection on Sam Harrison’s background as General Manager of Rick Stein’s in Padstow and the strong relationship that still exists between Stein and his entrepreneurial ex-employee. A set price lunch menu at £13.50 for two courses and £16.50 for three doesn’t sound remarkable until you see and taste the food, some of which could easily appear on a fine dining menu. So, I’m waiting for an expansion into Parson’s Green or Fulham and hoping Sam has a middle name;)
Sam’s Brasserie and Bar
11 Barley Mow Passage
Chiswick, London, W4