Brassica is housed in what used to be a popular Spanish restaurant in the Heatons, La Casona. Under the guidance of acclaimed Chef, Paul Faulkner, it’s already acquired an avid following and on the Thursday night we attended, was filled with a lively crowd of hungry diners. When we’d phoned to book, we were told yes, the restaurant could accommodate us at our chosen time, but apologised in advance that they’d have to give us a ‘slightly inferior’ table. (The table was perfectly acceptable, but I liked the attention to detail.) The ambience in Brassica is pleasantly austere, quite a change from its more flamboyant Spanish origins. We decided to try the set menu, (two courses for £14, three for £17). We both ordered the same starter, a Venison Scotch Egg with Pickled Celery, Beetroot and Apple Chutney. This was superb, the spicy meat coated with a crispy outer layer and the egg caught just at the right point, the yolk soft and full-flavoured. The tangy accompaniment was just enough to set it off.
So far so good, but then the main courses arrived and were perhaps not quite so successful. I went for the Fish Pie, which was pleasant enough if a little watery. Served in a tin dish, it resembled decent pub grub, but was not up to the standard of that incredible starter – and the accompanying broccoli spears were limp and unspectacular. Susan opted for the ‘Blade of Beef with Carrots, Wild Garlic and Creamed Potato. The description prompted us to expect a thin slice of meat, but instead she was served a cake-shaped serving of pulled beef, which was flavoursome but disappointingly greasy. The carrots and potato elements were nicely done. Again, it wasn’t bad, but nowhere near as assured as what had gone before.
We decided to go a la carte for the sweet (there was a choice of just three desserts on the set menu, none of which really appealed.) Susan ordered a Raspberry Soufflé served with Vanilla Ice Cream and I went for a real old school dessert, Treacle Tart and Custard. Soufflés are notoriously difficult to pull off, but this one was perfection, light, fluffy with a refreshingly tart flavour. The treacle tart was a sweet bombshell, stickily encased in thick vanilla custard. In both cases, the plates were virtually licked clean.
So, great marks for the start and end, but not so much for the middle. On the Moor, of course, the restaurant to beat is Steve Pilling’s Damson, which time and again pulls off note-perfect courses with aplomb.To be fair, Brassica isn’t a million miles away from rivalling it, but may require a little more attention on those main courses.