One of the latest food trends that I thoroughly approve of (along with cocktails at breakfast) is restaurants being proud to give a shit about where their ingredients come from.
Mustard, a new British brassiere in Brook Green, boasts just that kind of menu: good for both the environment and the people eating it. My friend Louise, marathon runner and Pilates enthusiast, was keen, as was I.
To me, Mustard’s décor feels like old British glamour had a baby with the Deep South; high ceilings and netted curtains, red wall tiles and teal woodwork, polished brass coat pegs and leather seats. But the thing that drew me even more than the bitchin’ decor was the variety on offer. As an adventurous veggie, it’s always good to see a restaurant putting as much effort into its meatless options as its meaty ones. I mean, I love a stuffed pepper as much as the next vegetarian, but a bit of creativity is kinda what you’re eating out for, amiright?
The staff were knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the menu. Louise, who doesn’t normally eat pork, followed the waitress’s zealous pork belly recommendation (£5.95) and was not disappointed. Surprisingly dainty, almost like pork belly soldiers with an applesauce dip, they melted in the mouth like butter. “Hands-down, best pork I’ve ever eaten,” – high praise indeed.
My starter of Soft Goat’s Cheese Salad (£6.25) certainly packed a punch visually, but unfortunately didn’t reduce me to tears of pleasure like Louise’s (almost) did. The goat’s cheese was delicate in flavour and satisfyingly creamy, and the crushed hazlenuts on top and rosehip sauce were a great touch. My beef (ha!) was with the dandelion salad. It looked the part, all skinny and pale, but didn’t add much in terms of flavour. The dish as a whole was fine, but Louise was writhing around, practically snogging her pork belly and Making A Scene. I felt like I’d been saddled with the attractive but vapid waif while she got the sexy Nigella of starters.
The list of ‘Allotment’ mains, however, got me all hot and bothered. The waitress clearly knew her stuff, so I just did what she said and ordered the Pan-fried Woodland Mushrooms with Braised Lentils and Pearled Spelt (£10.95). Visually, it’s like an upside-down salad, with lamb’s lettuce placed titillatingly over all the good shit – the gastronomic equivalent of a burlesque dancer’s giant feather fans. (The hidden mushrooms, lentils and spelt are, of course, the bedazzled nipple tassels.)
I had the raw shaved vegetables with mustard dressing (£3.95) on the side, which wasn’t strictly necessary as my mushrooms already had a smattering of salad, but I couldn’t leave without having something mustardy, right?! It was a colourful mix of beetroot and fennel with a beautiful mustard dressing, definitely more special than the standard salad I’d whip up at home. (And thank goodness. Nothing irks me more than ordering a side salad in a restaurant and being served a flaccid bowl of iceberg.)
(Okay, I clearly have a bee in my bonnet about salads, but I have to get this off my chest. Salads are not boring, they can be awesome (see above) and a lot of restaurants need to step their game up. Say no to limp lettuce and raw red onion, bring on the revolution!
Ahem. Louise’s main came from the ‘Seasonal Favourites’ section of the menu, the Half Roasted Free-Range Chicken with Dill and Wheat Berry Gravy (£12.95). There’s no knocking the portion size, that’s for sure (is that really just half a chicken?!) The sauce was oil-based and herby, like a dill-based pesto.
The dish comes with chips but Louise asked for creamed mash instead (listed as a side at £3.25), which was a triumph. I mean, okay, we all know that potato with butter and cream is a good thing, but this really was great. It wasn’t greasy and swimming in butter, and it didn’t feel like you were drinking hot lard; it somehow still felt quite light.
The only think I will say about Louise’s chook is that it felt a bit incomplete without more sides. The chicken is wonderful, sure, but it definitely needs some vegetable matter to go with (no, potato does not count). There are plenty of awesome sides going, of course, but it would have nice if they’d at least have thrown some peas at it.
Louise is a crumble addict, so there was no question that she’d go for the Gooseberry and Gin Crumble with Vanilla Custard and Hints of Lavender (£5.95). Then it was my turn for a When Harry Met Sally moment, all over my Almond and Orange Cake with Sour Cream (£5.95). Bugger tradition; if I ever get married, I want this as my wedding cake. Almond, orange and sour cream: an unlikely but victorious threesome. Who knew?
Mustard, 98-100 Shepherd’s Bush Road, Brook Green, London, W6 7PD
Author: Carla Juniper
Carla is a proud Putney-dweller and newly-minted vegetarian. She loves pickled beetroot and experimenting in the kitchen, especially when accompanied by a very large glass of wine, which is known to aid creativity and culinary prowess. In her spare time she uses her degree in Illustration to create bespoke digital portraits (you can check our her work here).
She also sucks at the flying trapeze.