Brosh has now closed at its current site in Suffolk Parade due to relocation
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Reviews

Israel lite

Jewish food can be rather dense. But at Brosh, the Mediterranean influence brings a gentle touch to some solid favourites. Mazel tov! says Jay Rayner

Israel, though geographically a Middle Eastern country, started out, intellectually, as a European project. It was European Ashkenazi Jews (and American Jews of European descent) who led the campaign for its creation.
It was therefore the food of the Ashkenazi - chopped liver and gefilte fish, salt beef and latkes, cholent and borscht - which predominated there for many years. Like so many things associated with Israel, this was, of course, complete and utter madness. Who wants to sit in a parched desert state, beneath a broiling sun, eating food so heavy it has its own gravitational field?

Neurotic European Jews, pining for the taste of the old country, whatever the thermometer says - that's who. It would take waves of immigration and a certain cultural maturity to embed itself before Israeli food would shift to the far more logical cooking of the Sephardi - the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Jews.

Chef Raviv Hadad grew up on a kibbutz, soaking up the flavours of the Sephardi, and when he came to Britain, ended up working at the River Cafe and Moro in London - flipsides of the same Mediterranean coin. Now he has his own place in Cheltenham called Brosh, which is the Hebrew word for a kind of Cypress tree. (It is also, as it happens, the Armenian word for lips; pure coincidence, I'm sure, but I do so hate to waste a good bit of research.)

Though Brosh is not kosher, the Israeli influence is clear - particularly at the pudding stage. The savouries are more a grand tour of the Mediterranean and, for the most part, are very successful. The duff notes - a salad of braised wild garlic with anchovies and olives which was oversalted, and a 'kugel' of vermicelli and peas, which was solid but unremarkable - were far outweighed by the ones that rang clear.

A brik, one of those crisp filo pastry parcels the Levant has made its own, came filled with fine shreds of white crab meat, sensitively spiced to allow the fish its voice. A salad of barley, dried figs and pistachios was a smart combination of chewy and sweet. A rustling plateful of deep-fried whitebait with anchovies and a red onion dressing screamed out for a smack of chilli, but was still pleasing for all that.

Veal sweetbreads with a light cumin-infused batter showed an understanding of just how much of that spice you need to make your point, which is to say not much at all, and a piece of marinated lamb was crisp without and pink within.
If anything, the puddings showed even finer judgment. Haroset is a paste of dried fruits, nuts and spices, served as part of the Passover meal to symbolise the mortar the children of Israel were forced to use to build the pyramids, and in my memory has all the grace notes you'd expect of such a blunt culinary metaphor. Made into ice cream, however, it is a thing of wonder. A bitter chocolate cake, with a base of almonds and dates, was surprisingly light and tart.

Brosh is a rare creature: a restaurant of real character, serving food which is an expression of the chef's experiences. The room is simple enough, being just white walls and dark wood tables; but when there is so much personality on the plate, the fripperies of design become redundant. It's the food that matters - and that's the way it should be in a restaurant.

This review was originally featured in The Observer

A Winner at the Home of Racing

It's a convention in Hollywood films: the small family-run business that struggles when some soulless corporate giant opens on the same block. This week's restaurant, Brosh in Cheltenham, would be perfectly cast as the plucky underdog - a husband-and-wife-owned fledgling, with a Middle Eastern menu, where everything is made from scratch on the premises, right down to the cheese. The Goliath in our story is a mega-branch of the pizza chain Zizzi, which opened at around the same time as Brosh in a converted church across the road, and where you'd have to scratch around to find a dish on the premises that didn't include cheese.

It's a convention in Hollywood films: the small family-run business that struggles when some soulless corporate giant opens on the same block. This week's restaurant, Brosh in Cheltenham, would be perfectly cast as the plucky underdog - a husband-and-wife-owned fledgling, with a Middle Eastern menu, where everything is made from scratch on the premises, right down to the cheese. The Goliath in our story is a mega-branch of the pizza chain Zizzi, which opened at around the same time as Brosh in a converted church across the road, and where you'd have to scratch around to find a dish on the premises that didn't include cheese.

On paper, it's obvious who audiences would be rooting for - surely the little guy with the quirky menu, rather than the giant with the stained-glass windows and slightly creepy atmosphere of recent deconsecration? In practice, it hasn't quite worked out that way. Zizzi, which seats 140, is regularly packed to the choirstalls, with more of the hungry faithful queuing out of the door at weekends. Meanwhile Brosh, which seats just 40, is struggling to fill its tables at lunchtimes. Sometimes life just doesn't work out like the movies.

Brosh's owner and head chef is Raviv Hadad, whose cooking I admired at Bristol's Severnshed. Originally from Israel, Raviv worked at The River Cafe and Moro in London before heading west. His cooking at Brosh, his first independent venture, encompasses the various cuisines of the Jewish diaspora. It's Claudia Roden territory - Moorish, Arabic, Jewish and Mediterranean. The sample menus he sent me were enough to have me boarding the train to Cheltenham on my next day off. Salad of roast beetroot with yoghurt and mint. Golden chicken soup. Slow-cooked oxtail, butterbean and spinach with caramelised onion. Duck breast roasted with pomegranate molasses. Come on, admit it, you're practically on the train yourself.

It's not hard to see why the Hadads' three-year search for premises led them to Cheltenham's Montpellier district. A kempt Regency enclave of antique shops and restaurants, it's so picturesquely bohemian it makes Hampstead look like Toxteth. Brosh is handily situated between a butchers and a catering supply shop. There's a handsome sandstone church over the road - oh sorry, that's right, it's a branch of Zizzi - and a charming old cinema in the next block - ah, that's a restaurant too, I see. Brosh itself has a sunny front counter, where you can perch on a high stool and snack on mezze. The room then narrows into a long, dark dining area, which on the lunchtime we visited felt slightly austere, thanks to its bare whitewashed walls and wooden tables, a no-piped-music policy, and, sad to say, not many guests.

When the food starts arriving, though, the fun begins. We kicked off with a trio of Middle Eastern standards from the mezze menu - hummus, falafel and babaganoush (aubergine and tahini puràe) - all freshly prepared, delicately spiced and served with a springy home-made sourdough. My companion, a non-meat-eater, revealed that, amazingly, she'd never before encountered a falafel. Brosh's version, fluffy and parsley-green inside, with a crisp sesame-seed-coated carapace, was a winning introduction. Next, a salad of globe artichoke, fried in a light batter, then tossed with toasted almonds, and partnered with zingy, pomegranate-dressed rocket, coriander and mint leaves.
From a menu bristling with potential Dr Who villains - ftut, zatar and zug among them - my friend chose for her main course something called malawach; not an alien emperor but a fried Yemeni flatbread, rather like a paratha, which came with a simple herb-dressed salad of boiled egg and tomato, plus some fiery harissa (chilli paste).

Brosh uses local free-range or organic suppliers whenever possible, and much of the meat comes from the (conveniently award-winning) neighbouring butchers. My roasted maize-fed chicken was notably juicy and full-flavoured, and the accompanying heap of bulgar, minced lamb, courgettes and creamy little chickpeas had all the virtues of great home cooking, but was so obviously labour-intensive you'd never get around to making it yourself.
The dessert menu reads as temptingly as the rest of the list. Any intentions of shunning it melted when a display stand containing a sample of each pudding was brought to the table. As if she hadn't eaten enough fried pastry, my guest was inexorably drawn to the baclava, a loose, hazelnutty affair lightly bound in honey. A Passover-influenced ice cream, flavoured with fennel seeds, cardamom, honey and nuts, was also good.

You can probably sense a big Hollywood happy ending just around the corner, but before we get there, a couple of negatives. It seems weird to go to the trouble of making all the food from scratch, and then serve bottled juices. The carrot and orange concoction I tried was almost Fanta-ishly grim. And some of the pricing seemed a little bit off. It's fair enough to charge £14.95 for my chicken dish, but £11.95 for the pastry, egg and tomato surprise was a bit steep, when the ingredients can't have cost more than a quid.

Still, when it comes to a choice between eating in a small restaurant oozing heart and soul, and scarfing a pizza in a converted church, I can only urge the people of Cheltenham to go for the little guy. Brosh is the kind of place that could restore your faith in eating out.

By Tracey MacLeod - The Independent

This review was originally featured in The Independent

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Tracey MacLeod presents her highlights of the year
Brosh
This husband and wife-owned fledgling has a Middle Eastern menu, where everything, right down to the cheese, is made from scratch on the premises and uses local free-range or organic suppliers whenever possible. The cooking encompasses the various cuisines of the Jewish diaspora: salad of roast beetroot with yoghurt and mint; golden chicken soup; slow-cooked oxtail, butterbean and spinach with caramelised onion; duck breast roasted with pomegranate molasses. For dessert, the baclava is a loose, hazel-nutty affair lightly bound in honey; ice cream, flavoured with fennel seeds, cardamom, honey and nuts, is also good. Full of heart and soul, Brosh is the kind of small place with a quirky menu that restores faith in eating out.

This review was originally featured in The Independent

Evening Post - Bristol

Broshy
Bristol-based gastronauts will be familiar with the name Raviv Hadad from his days as the original head chef and partner of the Severnshed, on the harbourside.
Hadad knows how to cook, and he knows the importance of using local, free-range and organic ingredients.

When I discovered that he had just opened a restaurant with his wife, Sharon, I was on the next train to Cheltenham.
Brosh is Hadad’s first solo venture and he couldn’t have chosen a better place to open it. Brosh is in a row of food shops, bars and restaurants in an affluent part of town, a stone’s throw from Le Champignon Sauvage, which has two Michelin stars.

With just 40 covers in one room, it’s small and neighbourly. The interior is minimalist, with no pictures or mirrors on the white walls, just the flickering shapes thrown by lanterns. There is a sense of calm and serenity, as well as the alluring smell of a wood-burning oven.

North Africa meets the Mediterranean on the short, seasonal menu, which has five choices per course.

The wine list is almost as brief, with seven whites and seven reds to choose from. Our bottle of Bastide La Varrerie, Cote du Luberon 2000 (£18) was a powerful, full-bodied French red which stood up well to the highly spiced, aromatic food that was to follow.

A plate of warm, freshly-baked sourdough bread, olives and smooth, garlicky houmous arrived as we perused the menu; a nice touch, often neglected in lesser establishments.

The two starters we opted for were stunning. The sautéed tiger prawns (£5.50) had been cooked in white wine and allspice, which formed the sauce at the bottom of the dish, along with grilled courgettes, raisins and caramelised onion. The firmness of the large prawns, combined with the rich spiciness of the sauce, made for an exquisite match.
On the other side of the table, a handful of green-lipped mussels (£4.95) had been braised with leeks, fresh peas and herbs.

Main courses followed in a similar fashion. A enormous fillet of lamb (£14.95) had been grilled over charcoal and was pink, tender and clearly of very good provenance. It was accompanied by rice and a refreshing mint and cucumber salad.

My pigeon (£12.50) had been roasted whole and the pink flesh was full of flavour. It was a little difficult to negotiate with cutlery, though, and rather than suffer the indignity of sending the bird flying across the room, I rolled up my sleeves and started pulling it apart with my fingers. A warm fingerbowl with slices of lime immediately appeared to save me a trip to the bathroom. The pigeon was served with a combination of borlotti beans, cumin seeds and coriander, which worked perfectly.

A zesty chocolate citrus cake (£5.25), which was hailed as ‘like a Terry’s chocolate orange in a cake form’, and a slice of surprisingly light almond, fig and rum tart (£5.25), completed a meal that made me very glad I had heard about the return of Raviv Hadad before the rest of the West Country.
If Brosh continues to serve food of this calibre, it’s going to be full up for the foreseeable future, so book now. It really is worth the trip.
Brosh, 8 Suffolk Parade, Cheltenham, Telephone (01242) 227277.
Mark Taylor