Chain reaction: You can get same at M&S
20 June, 2019 — By Tom Moggach
THIS is a gloomy time for restaurant chains, with high street names such as Jamie’s Italian biting the dust.
My spirits lifted, however, with an email sent to this newspaper written by the daughter of a local chef.
“Let your dedicated readers know of our success of 28 years, which is no small feat in the current climate,” it read.
She’s dead right to be proud of this achievement. Her father Simon Bradley has spent nearly three decades cooking in the basement of Bradley’s, his smart neighbourhood restaurant in Winchester Road, Swiss Cottage.
My godson lives a few doors up and it’s his favourite place for a special occasion.
The restaurant, it’s fair to say, has changed little in recent years – which is part of its charm.
There is one large and lofty dining room, split over two levels and dominated by a gleaming metal column slap bang in the centre.
An exhibition of abstract paintings runs down one wall.
I love the retro, fine dining touches: the amuse bouches and petit fours; the French waiters; classic dishes such as Vienna Schnitzel Holstein; and the tinkling trolley of digestifs.
Regular customers tend be an older crowd who appreciate quality cooking. Main courses hover over £20; Sunday lunch costs £32 for three courses; the set menu is a very reasonable £24.
We ordered from the latter. The menu mirrors the seasons, including a lovely dish of roasted peaches with prosciutto and goat’s curd and a velvety asparagus soup.
Both of our mains were well assembled, including a tender chump of lamb with luxurious dauphinois and neatly trimmed fillet of plaice draped over a bed of buttery Hispi cabbage and fresh peas.
For pudding, we fought over a crème brûlée infused with raspberry and orange.
What’s the secret to Bradley’s success? “I don’t want to be the next one to reinvent the wheel,” Bradley admits.
The chef works hard to keep overheads to a minimum, sourcing meat from Barrett’s in England’s Lane and fresh produce from Ted’s Veg and Wild Organics, traders at Swiss Cottage Farmers’ Market every Wednesday.
Bradley believes that the business climate for restaurants is especially perilous for the mid-range chains offering casual dining.
“I think people have wised up the fact that what they were being offered was not value for money. There was nothing exciting about them. You can buy similar stuff from Marks and Spencer.”
He still works gruelling shifts, often from 8am to 10pm.
“I still enjoy it and this is what I always wanted to do,’ he said. “I always wanted to cook.”
Running a restaurant is increasingly complex. The hospitality industry in the capital relies heavily on workers from the EU.
Costs are rising for quality ingredients with a weakening pound, especially those imported from Europe.
“You go to France and I’m flabbergasted by how much they pay for their food there. Yet the restaurants are so busy.”
25 Winchester Road, NW3
020 7722 3457