I read the other day that "until food bloggers were treated as paying dinners, then readers couldn't expect objective reviews". Don't you love these dogmatic statements? in my world nothing works that way.
Last week Michelle as in Greedy Gourmet invited five food-bloggers to join her for lunch at Brigade The Fire Station in Tooley Street where she was doing a photo-shoot. Our dining experience was very different from anyone else as the restaurant was closed to the public.
So no, I will not be able to comment on the hustle and bustle of the place when the restaurant is full, is it noisy? I don't know. Neither can I talk about the service when the front of the house is under pressure and it all become a little manic.
But what I can tell you is that in these few hours, we learnt a lot about what makes this place what is it, from the staff and from Chef Simon Boyle who together with Beyond Food foundation offers 6 weeks training programmes to people who have been at risk or have experienced homelessness. Then, trainees who make it through join a year programme.
It's one thing to know that Brigade is a social enterprise, it's another to see the eyes of the staff quietly light up and a shy smile or two appear when they talk about a possible future of working to high standards in a professional kitchen.
And this pride is reflected in the cooking. Yes, the ingredients are sourced locally, chosen with care but they are also presented beautifully.
I will not rave about my starter, Scotch Eggs (£8.95) but I could certainly go on about the inventiveness of the complement. The Piccalilli was not that horrid mustard coloured pickle instead it was fresh fennel, green apple tinted red by glorious beetroots.
No doubt Brigade is expensive, my main course Raviolo of Lobster and Salmon (£19.95) was too salted for my taste but Jeanne as in Cook Sister loved hers. The apprentice chef who created it, talked me through the process with confidence. So, sure, I would have preferred a little less salted but still it was perfectly executed.
As for my friends, there was no way of knowing exactly what Sarah of Maison Cupcake thought of her Pork Belly Toad in the Hole (£16.95) as all we could get from her was "YUUM" repeated as a mantra between mouthfulls.
May who blogs on Eat, Cook, Explore was impressed with the unusual and delicious combinaison of her Fillet of Beef and Figs (£29.95) when I say "her", in fact it was somebodyelse's, as two fillets were ordered with various degrees of cooking and each was served to the wrong person. At that stage we were so impressed by the food that it didn't seem to matter too much.
It has to be said that sides are often an after-thought but not here. At Brigade, the sides rock. The Tossed Autumn Salad (£3.25) was garded jealously by Fiona -London Unattached- who after a few days on a French press trip needed a lot of salad, so she told us.
We ended up trying out must of the vegetable dishes, each of them made with crops which are at their best during September: Sauteed Chard with Hazenut butter, Deep Fried Broccoli, personally I loved them all. Something else which impressed us was the wine list. Advised by Jeanne, our token sommelier, I discovered one of her favorite South African white, Kleine Rust and what a wine this is.
Brigade is conveniently located by London bridge, the quality of a meal is undeniable, the service is good. It's expensive for a bistro but you are giving to a cause whilst enjoying an innovative dishes executed with care, in the process.
Brigade The Fire Station
139 Tooley Street
139 Tooley Street