Five minutes with… Melanie Brown

The founder of The Laundry in Brixton on moules-frites with Marco Pierre White and why coriander is a statement herb

Food and Drink 17 Jan 2020

Melanie Brown
Heirloom carrots, ricotta, toasted dukkah, coriander at The Laundry
The Laundry, Brixton
Smoked fish bacalhau, potato crisp, chives at The Laundry
Hereford beef tartar, fermented chilli, prawn oil, egg yolk, bonito, triple-cooked beef fat potato chips at The Laundry
All of the pumpkin: coriander seeds, herbs, fresh horseradish at The Laundry

Tell us about The Laundry, what makes it unique?

The Laundry is great at any time of day. You can come in for breakfast, for coffee, dinner, a plate of charcuterie, a cocktail or a glass of wine. I was inspired by the big bistros in that respect, to be an all-day destination, but we’re doing it with a distinct New Zealand flavour.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Trust your instinct. So many times in the restaurant business you’re firefighting problems and you have to react in a way that is calm and level headed. Whether it’s a customer, staff or operational problem, you have to see both sides and react quickly.

The Laundry - an all-day destination in Brixton with a New Zealandish twist.
The Laundry – an all-day destination in Brixton with a New Zealandish twist.

Who is your role model and how have they influenced your work?

I don’t have just one role model. So many people give me inspiration on a daily basis. There are lots of restaurants that have been inspiration for The Laundry and restaurateurs from around the world influence me too. I am really inspired by being able to be led by this ever-evolving industry and its amazing people.

What ingredient can you not live without?

Coriander. I love it and I put it on everything. I found a coriander-hating group on Facebook with 500,000 people and I couldn’t believe it! Coriander has such a pungent attitude, it’s a real statement herb. I like to use it in guacamole, along with fish sauce, it completely transforms the dish.

What item, apart from your passport, can you not travel without?

If I’m going on holiday then I’d have to say my daughter, I couldn’t travel without her. And also Instagram: I’m relatively big into Instagram as it’s so important for communicating our brand to people. However, I do sometimes wish I could just turn it off permanently.

Where is your favourite place to eat out in London and why?

I really love Naughty Piglets in Brixton, just round the corner from The Laundry. It’s a small place run by a couple including a French woman who really loves natural wine. I think their crab salad with peanuts is one of the best dishes in London and I quite often sneak in at 9.45pm for a late-night glass of wine and bite of crab.

What do you do on your days off?

I sleep. And I like to be in my recently renovated house – I love to cook and to teach my daughter to bake. I grow a lot of herbs and I tend to my garden, a lot of homely stuff.

What are your passions outside of food and wine?

Understanding the impact we have on the environment. It’s only since opening a restaurant that I’ve come to see the scale of how much waste there can be. I am passionate about finding out the things we can do as humans to change and restore the planet for future generations.

If you could choose anyone, who would be your ideal dinner party guest and why?

Marco Pierre White, he’s a legend. We’d have something basic like a pot of moules- frites with a bottle of something French and classic, such as Chablis.