Home Food & DrinkRestaurants The Delightful Brush Grand Café at art’otel London Hoxton

The Delightful Brush Grand Café at art’otel London Hoxton

by Neil Davey
Brush Grand Café

If, like me, you’re an occasional visitor to the Old Street area, you’ll have noticed the slow rise of the art’otel. This metallic black cylinder seemed to have been under construction for years and, the last time I ventured past, while there appeared to have been progress, it still seemed some way from the finished article.

So you can imagine my surprise when the offer to come and try their restaurant – their “Brush Grand Café” in fact – landed in my inbox about a fortnight later. The cynical side of me rubbed his petty hands together in glee. A new, under-tested hotel restaurant attempting all-day dining in the manner of Delaunay or The Wolseley? The madness! The folly! I mean, you don’t wish ill on any restaurant but the cynical reviews are so much more fun to write than the gently positive and, well, perhaps hotel restaurants, with their inbuilt resilience and necessity, are fairer game than the independents.

The Brush Grand Café

Thus, alongside my companion, a man of similar age, outlook and many years of direct hospitality experience, I sharpened my pencil, took my seat and, together, we started to craft hilarious, sarcastic and cruel lines to take this young pretender down a notch or two. And then, dammit, we had one of the most thoroughly enjoyable, straightforwardly decent meals of recent months.

Saying that it’s not all positive. The art’otel is one of those places that locates its toilets in a dark spot downstairs and uses slightly esoteric/subtle labelling to distinguish between the rooms. If you’re approaching desperation, that is not the time to make it harder for a punter to identify where to wee.

And, er, that’s about it in the “cons” column. Saying that, some might find a couple of the front-of-house team a little inappropriate but we enjoyed the brusque honesty and directness. As I returned from the loo, the guy who’d pointed me in the right direction announced “That was quick!” “Well,” I replied, “I’ve done it before,” and, to his credit, he laughed. He was similarly straightforward and open when we talked wine, shaking his head at a couple of options and guiding us back to our initial choice of house red. “It’s good for the money,” he shrugged. And it was. Indeed, it’s one of the better, robust sub-£30 spends in recent memory…

Food at The Brush Grand Café

For the most part, we were looked after by the charming Isobel (or possibly Isabel or Isobelle or one of the other spellings of that name), who was a little more traditional in approach, but every bit as helpful. From the menu – a well-put-together list of classic dishes and appealing items – she guided us to the steak tartare (“our most popular dish”) and the Goldstein smoked salmon and rye bread, and explained that the flatbreads were suitable for sharing. So we shared the gruyere, bacon and caramelised onion one. Was it the best flatbread of our lives? No. Was it very, very acceptable for the £12 they charge? Absolutely.

The same could be said of the tartare. Initial disappointment that it came pre-mixed rapidly vanished due to it being very well pre-mixed. There was sweetness, richness, a well-judged flicker of heat on the back end… and the accompanying sourdough toast, from clearly brought-in but as-good-as-it-needs-to-be bread, was actually toasted. As in crisp, warm, a deeper shade of brown than when it started. See hotels? See?! It IS possible…

The Brush Steak Tartare Charlie McKay

That, one suspects, is the key to Brush Grand Café’s appeal. It’s as good as it needs to be. Someone in the kitchen has an eye for sourcing – the presence of North London’s Goldstein salmon is a clue to that – and they’ve assembled a team that can cook it all dependably well or, indeed, assemble it on a perfectly acceptable piece of tasty, as-good-as-it-needs-to-be, brought-in rye bread.

Mains continued this theme. For me, the small portion of Wiener Schnitzel (and how good to see a choice of small or regular), with cucumber and dill salad, and parsley potatoes. For my decreasingly cynical colleague, 250g of Charolais ribeye, with green peppercorn sauce, braised shallot, and watercress.

Despite throwing up the restaurant’s other big flaw – no horseradish – both dishes were, well, good. The ribeye was requested as “exceptionally rare” and that’s what arrived: tender, beefy, well-sourced and well-seasoned meat. The schnitzel was also enjoyable: good veal, good coating, good frying. The lightly pickled cucumbers did their lightly acidic thing, and the spuds – while more mustardy than parsley – rounded it all out in a highly satisfactory manner. A shared side of green beans was simply further confirmation of the kitchen’s competence, with beans just the right side of squeaky, glossy with butter and topped with a very punchy garlic crumb.

Brush Food Selection 5 1

Desserts proved an impossibility and were shunned in favour of the final drops of house red. The madeleines smelled great, however, so we trust you’ll admire us for our brief moment of willpower. Almost as much as we admired Brush, in fact. There are a fair few places that could learn from this mantra of good produce, good cooking and good value. Welcome to London, Brush Grand Café. I suspect on this form, you’re going to be here a while…

The Brush Grand Café at art’otel London Hoxton
1-3 Rivington Street
United Kingdom


  • Neil Davey

    Neil is a former private banker turned freelance journalist. He’s also a trained singer, a former cheesemonger, once got paid to argue with old women about the security arrangements at Cliff Richard concerts and almost worked with a cross-dressing wine importer. He now basically eats for a living but, judging by the state of his shirts, isn’t very good at it.

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