Bread is a Breed Apart

“I’ve never seen so much seafood in one meal – are you sure it’s not for two people?”

London is a busy city with busy people doing their business on a daily basis – even Sundays, which is where we went on a trip up the Shard to look down on our hometown of Bermondsey and have lunch at Borough Market, where we found Brood, alfresco-conceived by Mark Stembridge, who served food of the highest order, writes Michael Holland.

We were initially attracted to an extraordinarily long but fast queue that wound its way back to the market. Excited, we walked along it, thinking it might have something to do with an event in Southwark Cathedral, but it headed down Green Dragon Court, and we began to sense various aromas waving our way, and just like the cathedral bell beat one for lunch we witnessed a fantastic theater with cooking in an open kitchen on the banks of two railway arches where stews, paella, burgers, hot dogs and a whole world of food were prepared for the customers.

Luckily for us, the queue was for the busy people who wanted something hot on the go so they could continue their sightseeing, and we found a table where we ordered mulled wine, merlot and a coke.

It was at the table that Mr Stembridge introduced himself, and I could immediately see that he was one of your own, so it did not take long to figure out that we were growing up at opposite ends of the spectrum. Jamaica Road. Mark, I quickly discovered, is from a Tooley Street family of restaurateurs and chefs and has traveled the world and worked in the catering industry.

Mark then gave us the back story for Brood, which he established in 1999. In 2018, he decided to call in the Rotherhithe company, Rose Design, to make major renovations, inside and out, where service, menus and uniforms also got a design renewal. Covid obviously did not help, but all the planned work is almost finished, and this new look Brood is very up and running.

In our cozy corner by the cathedral wall and heated by our hot toddies we were ready to eat and our meals arrived in no-nonsense hot boxes that we could have taken away or been seated. We sat and I listened to three other reviews of the food while making my own: ‘I have never tasted squid cooked so perfectly’; ‘How can you make lamb so tender?’; ‘I’ve never seen so many seafood in one meal – are you sure this box is not for two people?’; “I can not eat all that – I take the rest of it home for my tea,” said my no-nonsense mother, while our resident teenager just made grunts, which we have come to recognize as sounds of appreciation.

The squid was really about the best I can remember tasting, the lamb was really juicy and the hot boxes are packed full of rice and salad along with the meat or seafood. In addition, I have not even mentioned the shrimp. There were so many that the teenager’s grandmother, who wanted to lose an arm instead of giving up a shrimp, deliberately handed them out: ‘Taste these bad boys,’ she was going on while nourished by a glass of red.

Brood buzzes, it’s right in the mix of market life, with the cathedral as a backdrop and its newly renovated railway vaulting the heart of the restaurant.

The dinner menu is far more extensive than the lunch, which caters to those on the go, so we are already planning a return visit to once again see these stars from the Culinary Theater perform an evening show. Mark explained that he has combined his own experiences with his mother’s extensive knowledge to create a new, exciting dinner menu and includes family favorites from his team’s various home countries.

I can’t wait to get back there and try Brood’s premium alfresco dining once again.

Bread, 1-6 Green Dragon Court, Borough Market, SE1 9AW. – 0207 403 7500

4 people £ 76.80

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