IMG_4160by Elisa Freeling

Opened just a few months ago in Brook Green, Mustard is a brasserie that bills itself as British-centric healthy fare, seasonally sourced from across our fair isle. Lots of restaurants would like to think they’re bringing a ‘fresh new approach to the high street’, but in my date’s and my recent experience, Mustard actually succeeds. (Yes, I could have said, ‘Mustard cuts it’, but that would be too easy, no?)

If you’re not familiar with it, Brook Green is a little neighbourhood tucked between Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush, and you’ll find Mustard on its high street, Shepherds Bush Road, where a Café Rouge used to be. When we arrived around 7:30 on a recent Friday evening, there were only a few tables to spare (we had a reservation) and the restaurant was pretty much full by 8pm. The crowd was an eclectic mix of people and ages, including a few older kids, and tables are well-spaced so that you needn’t worry about eavesdropping.

Staff were friendly and helpful; when we asked for wine recommendations, our server gave us some good advice based on our mains selections. Our choice was conveniently available in a carafe—perfect for when you don’t think you can polish off a whole bottle but want a bit more than a glass.

The first thing that struck us about the menu was the intriguing ingredients; seemingly simple and classic dishes came with a twist. A ‘welcome’ (smaller than a starter) of poppy seed bloomer came with seaweed butter (£2.95), the starter of crispy free range pork belly was joined by spiced crab apple sauce (£4.75) and a prime rib burger had the option of treacle-cured bacon (£11.90). The British beat was evident as well, with regional name-dropping throughout the menu, from Cornish to Cumbrian, Devonshire to Sussex.

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The second menu feature worthy of note (for vegetarians and those who love them) was not only a plethora of ‘V’ symbols dotted around for all the veggie options, but a whole vegetarian section titled ‘The Allotment’. If you’re a herbivore or have a good friend who is, you know what a pain in the arse it can be to dine out with them. Nine times out of ten there is exactly one veggie main on the menu (or two, but one sounds terribly bland). You scan for the V and that’s what you’re getting whether it appeals or not. How lovely to have several scrumptious-sounding dishes to choose from.

My dinner date started with a salad of raw shaved vegetables (available in two sizes, for £5.95 or £3.50, and the smaller was plenty for her). The dish included heirloom beets, radish and seeds in a tangy dressing, and she found it quite tasty. I ordered the salad of goat’s curd with dandelion, hazelnut and rosehip (£6.25). The bitterness of the dandelion was nicely offset by the sweetness of the caramelised hazelnuts and the creamy curd.

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My main dish, pan-fried woodland mushrooms with braised lentils and pearled spelt (£9.95), was (deliberately) served warm, not hot, and was homely comfort food. My partner’s sirloin (£17.50—if you’re on a budget, consider going veggie!) was a bit more to medium than the medium-rare she had asked for, but she informed me it was nevertheless succulent, and the accompanying chips were well cooked and crispy.

For dessert my date ordered the warm rhubarb crumble (£5.50), and the server obliged her request for clotted cream rather than custard. She is a crumble aficionado, and was somewhat disappointed by what she found to be too much crumble overwhelming the fruit. When my flourless chocolate cake arrived (£5.95), it was immediately obvious I’d been greedy and should have shared. Nevertheless, I bravely persevered and conquered nearly all of it. I would have preferred ice cream to clotted cream (unlike my date, I didn’t think to ask), but the cake was chocolately deliciousness.

We were there for a grown-up night out, but the children’s menu looks promising as well. It includes safe bets like pasta with cheese or tomato sauce and fish cake with chips and peas as well as a couple of dishes for more adventurous eaters—root vegetable cheese crumble and roast chicken salad with chips. Each is priced at £5, and for a bargain £1.50 more you can treat the kids to vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce for dessert. Next time I plan to check out breakfast, which ranges from a smoked haddock, spinach, kale and potato omelette (£7.25) to mushrooms, green herb oat pudding with a fried egg (£7), alongside standards such as fried eggs on toast with pepper and chives (£4.50).

The intention is for more Mustards to sprout up—the web address already uses the plural. Meanwhile, this Brook Green brasserie, with its focus on fresh, local and healthy yet delicious dining, is worth trekking to.

Mustard is open from 9am to 11pm Monday to Saturday, and from 9am to 10pm on Sunday. For the full menu and other info, visit Mustard’s website.

Elisa Freeling
Author

Elisa moved to London a decade ago from San Francisco, where, in pre-children days, she was the managing editor at Sierra magazine. She lived in Brook Green, Notting Hill and Chiswick before settling in Northfields, where she lives with her book-loving daughter, architecture-loving son, and thickly moustachioed husband.

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