It takes enormous amounts of hard work to seem effortless. There’s the dancer who can appear to hold in the air for a quarter of a second longer than is strictly decent, as if the rules of gravity don’t quite apply to them as to others; there’s the jazz pianist whose blurred fingers pick the perfect pattern from one end of the keyboard to the other; or the painter who can drop a line on to the canvas which is the very essence of the sitter’s profile, with barely a flick of the wrist.
They do not break sweat while doing so for one reason and one reason only: they did all their sweating elsewhere. They practised and practised again so that, when the moment came, you couldn’t see their workings in the margins.
There is a lot of that effortlessness in Brunswick House, the restaurant in Vauxhall run by chef Jackson Boxer, both in the food and the sense of place. I am probably now meant to apologise for not having eaten in the place before – it has been there a few years now – but as a south Londoner I think I can be excused. The 18th-century house it calls home sits on the roundabout at Vauxhall, an urban abscess which can rarely be a Brixtonite’s destination. I view the roundabout as an obstacle to be negotiated, a carousel only there to throw you out over Vauxhall Bridge into the big city beyond or down along the Embankment. Certainly the handsome building sits proud and unlikely among the deformed and Viagra-ed apartment blocks that have been seeded here at the once-unfashionable edge of the Thames.
Brunswick House, all brick and portico and history, is now in the care of Lassco, an architectural salvage company, which has filled one of the high windows looking out over the roundabout with the sheen of glorious copper pans. They could stand as a come-hither for all those looking to be well fed. Inside the restaurant side of the business, the decor has not so much been designed as assembled. There are old rugs, bare wooden tables, a few booths made from red-leather banquettes pushed into place and, dangling from the ceiling, myriad old chandeliers which stop you noticing the polystyrene tiles above. It works in much the same way the food does. Things appear thrown together randomly but make an awful lot of sense when they find their way into each other’s company.