Restaurant review: The Brook, Wallington

By - Tuesday 13th June, 2017

Go west for fine dining in a Wallington venue that’s making a name for itself

84 Manor Rd, Wallington SM6 0AD

Time from West Croydon: Overground 11 minutes then  10 minutes /  157, 35 minutes

Photo by Fat Gay Vegan, used with permission.

I’ve been hearing a lot about the Brook. Since it re-opened a few months ago following a major re-furb, Croydonians have crossed the Sutton border in numbers to eat, drink and be entertained. What could all the fuss be about? My partner Paul and I made the trip one Friday evening to find out.

The Brook is a restaurant and bar on a neutral stretch of road just along from Wallington station, smaller than I’d been expecting, but light and bright with a big glass frontage. The inside’s in neutrals too, except for a cool wall of vinyl in the bar, and there’s a cinema, recording studio and performance space somewhere: the place hosts acoustic gigs, open mic nights, quiz nights and choir rehearsals. Our table was upstairs by a wide open window, welcome on a very warm evening, and ‘welcome’ was also the word from the lovely, friendly team of people who looked after us.

I’d landed a big piece of freelance work that day, so we kicked off with celebratory prosecco: to be honest, if I hadn’t got the gig, we’d probably have ordered it to cheer ourselves up. It was biscuity and crisp, though it could have been a tiny bit colder.

The curry had a slow, tangy heat and a rich, lush sauce

Dipping board.
Photo author’s own.

We’d checked out the menu online and liked what we saw, so we’d tried to lunch lightly to save space – but just hadn’t tried hard enough. Paul’s buffalo cauliflower with a blue cheese dip was a big bowl of florets in well-spicy batter, plenty for two to share, while my dipping board (mixed crudites, antipasti and delicious sourdough bread with oil and balsamic vinegar, houmous and olive tapenade) would have satisfied a teenage boy for a good hour: there was that much food on it. This was a simple thing done really well, with crunchy veg, tangy tapenade and sun-dried tomatoes for that retro ’80s flourish, all presented on a long wooden slab. (Paul’s joined a Twitter-based protest movement 128,000 strong, angrily demanding the return of plates to London’s restaurants, but I’m not feeling all the crockery drama and eat off whatever I’m given).

Mains for him was beet (sic) burger, served up with cheese, dill pickle, mayo, mustard, slaw and fries, while I picked sweet potato and coconut curry. This was delicious: the dish had a slow, tangy heat, its chunks were solid with flavour and the coconut sauce rich and lush. It came with cauliflower rice, savoury and gorgeous although tasting (or I thought so) more of mushrooms. I’m not at all a quitter with food, but couldn’t finish my mini poppadums after that. Paul gave up on his fries before the end too, although he’d happily have eaten them all.

The kind of pudding that makes you moan

We weren’t beaten yet, though, and decided that a pause (and a cocktail) might help speed up digestion. Satan’s Little Helper was Courvoisier, Cointreau and amaretto on ice… heaven for scenery, but go to hell for cocktails, especially for this one. It wasn’t quite as bad-ass as the Jerry Lee Lewis, though, a great ball of fire in cocktail form with a crusting of ginger round the rim of the glass. Goodness gracious, it was great.

Sweet potato and coconut curry.
Photo author’s own.

We were still up for the dessert menu so we shared a sundae shot of caramel and chocolate ice-cream with a cherry. This was the kind of pudding that makes you moan with joy (and gets a lot of likes on Instagram). Enough: we carried our swollen stomachs out to the street and fell into an Uber.

Oh – by the way, the Brook is a vegan restaurant, even down to the wine. It isn’t that important. By which I mean – for you it might be, so if ‘no animal products’ is your thing, you’ll love this place. But you’ll probably just love it anyway.

And it will love you back: vegan food tends to be healthier without trying, for you and for the planet (less saturated fat, less cholesterol, a smaller carbon footprint for each dish) but there’s no hair-shirtiness* here. You don’t find yourself saying things like “for vegan food, this is okay”.

Vegan-curious? Vegan-serious? This is just a great place to eat

Sundae shot.
Photo author’s own.

The Brook breaks veganism’s connection with ‘worthy’, and does it in style: from “I can’t believe it’s vegan!” to not thinking about it at all in a couple of hours. For the vegan-serious, the vegan-curious and the  incorrigible carnivore – this is just a great place to eat.

*Except for the cheese. Vegans can’t do cheese. They think they can… but that’s because they don’t eat cheese so they’ve forgotten what it’s like. They’d honestly be better off not trying: why be an dodgy imitator of someone else when you can do your own cool thing? No vegan cheese is like actual cheese: the flavour’s all wrong and the consistency is weird. This also applies to ‘cheesy’ dips.

Liz Sheppard-Jones

Liz Sheppard-Jones

Writer and editor. Views personal, not representative of editorial policy.

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  • Charles Barber

    Sounds like a great place to take my almost pescatarian daughter. I’m going to search hard for the biscuit undertones in my next prosecco. The free ones at the Centrale roof-top party this evening didn’t quite have enough of a short-breadian tang, but then I’m not really that fussy. The trouble with plates is they need washing, so I’m thinking of setting up a rival twitter feed Twitter@WeWantBananaLeaves. They could come over with the fruit and be a valuable addition to the compost heap after eating..

    • Liz Sheppard-Jones

      That made me laugh, Charles :) Enjoy the Brook! Banana leaves are nature’s plates x

    • lizsheppardjourno

      That made me laugh :) Enjoy the Brook. Banana leaves are nature’s plates ;)

  • Katherine Eng

    However vegan cheese has non of the cruelty, so it’s a winner.

    • lizsheppardjourno

      I agree with you entirely, Katherine :) I’ve recently heard about milk starting to be defined as ‘inhumane’ due to conditions on some dairy farms, and awareness of this has a long way to go. My own has increased in recent years and as a result I am changing the way I eat.

      My point about vegan ‘cheese’ is similar to the discomfort I feel when I see ‘vegan chicken’, for example, on a wrapper. This description maintains meat-eating as the norm and implies that the product is imitation food (it’s like apologising for it). Instead, I would like to see present levels of meat consumption de-normalised and a different way of eating regarded as normal. So I think plant-based food should be defined as what it is; there are no such things as ‘vegan cheese’ or ‘vegan chicken’ and there don’t need to be.

      Also – the idea that ‘vegans don’t like food’ is still common (despite the current wave of interest) and putting up with something that’s pretty unpleasant ‘but it’s a good thing so eat it’ plays right into that. Plant-based food is delicious – the Brook is proof of it – and if it isn’t delicious, don’t bother :)

      • Katherine Eng

        I’m glad that you’ve become more aware of the cruelty involved with dairy. I understand where you are coming from, but imitation products help a lot of people to transition to the vegan lifestyle and the more widely available these products are, there become less excuses to be vegan. They attract a lot of people to plant-based eating, because it’s easier. If someone told you that you could be vegan and eat the same exact way you did before, cook all the same meals, but just replace animal products with the vegan versions, a lot of people find that more attractive (not just because of convenience, but for example the textures and familiarity) However from personal experience some of these mock burgers that literally try and imitate for example pulled pork, become far too real for you when you are well into a plant-based diet and you find yourself unable to touch them! They are really good for the transition though, as a lot of new vegans could feel like that are missing out and begin to miss those all-too familiar tastes.

        I think it’s interesting that people feel that way about veganism, for me food was always much more bland and uninteresting as a meat dairy and egg eater! And I remember that cheese tasted amazing, I was hooked on the stuff. But when you make the full connection to animals, you realise that taste is not above another being’s life and happiness. Cheese is still a processed food at the end of the day, just as vegan cheese is.