Cookery Quote
Never eat anything bigger than your head
We should all be eating less meat and better meat
Whenever you see crossed chives you are in trouble

United Kitchen - doing good by eating well

There are many similarities between joining the army and working in a kitchen. In the days of Escoffier the kitchen “brigade” was just that and promotion followed a closely defined path; you worked your way up through the ranks from commis through chef de partie, and eventually from sous chef to head chef. Kitchens were also the home of obscure ritual, cruel jokes and camaraderie in the face of tyrannical head chefs. Simon Boyle sees things very differently and he has developed the “United Kitchen” a concept driven by altruism that aims to give people at risk, or those who have experienced homelessness, a life changing opportunity. Boyle set up the Beyond Food Foundation and then the Brigade Bar & Bistro where his concept is put into practice. The idea is that apprentices work in the “united kitchen” and gain the kind of skills and experience that they need for meaningful employment. Commendably these apprenticeships are not restricted to the young homeless, people of all ages may apply although there are only a limited number of places. Brigade has the backing of some heavy hitters like Price Waterhouse Cooper, de Vere Venues and Babcock International. The Fire Station on Tooley Street is an imposing edifice that was built in the 1860’s, today it is home to the Brigade Bar & Bistro; a Private Dining Room; and a Cookery School. Doing good by eating well is a very attractive proposition but it founders pretty quickly if the cooking, and dishes, are not up to scratch. We live in competitive times and no amount of worthiness will compensate for a meal that doesn’t tick all the boxes. The dining room is lofty with huge lights. The floors are reclaimed wood. The service is chirpy and efficient. The open kitchen has a number of chefs working away. The food has a defined personality – portions are vast, flavours are up front, due weight is given to provenance of ingredients, the theme is best of British. The array of different and excellent breads are all made in house and come with Netherend butter. From the starters the Brigade “Beans on Toast” – a home made bean dish with a hen’s egg and cured pork belly (£9.95); then seared Cornish scallops (£9.95); there’s a scotch egg with potted pork belly (£8.95); and steamed British mussels (£9.95). The mains are split into “headliners” and “simple classics”, so on the one hand there’s a fillet of saltwater fed trout with Jersey Royals (£17.50) – an accurately cooked tranche of fish with a whiff of wild garlic. While on the other there is a “Petworth steak and oxtail burger” (£15.95) a large burger is topped by a haystack of braised oxtail – the idea of having a rich gravy with a burger deserves wider consideration. The burger comes with a brioche bun and cheesy chips. One of the sides catches the eye – “deep fried broccoli, rustic tomato and white bean stew” (£2.95) an interesting dish that very nearly works. The broccoli florets are battered (think heavy tempura) and served with the beans on the side to dip into. A little lighter and this would be a star turn. Good food and doing good – sounds like a good idea all round.

Brigade, The Fire Station, 139 Tooley Street, London SE1 2HZ (0844 346 1225)

www.thebrigade.co.uk
www.beyondfoodfoundation.uk

Charles Campion - Wednesday 22nd May 2013

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