Meet Melanie Brown, the ched restaurateur behind Brixton’s acclaimed The Laundry. With a background spanning from Raymond Blanc’s ‘Le Petit Blanc’ to Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, Melanie’s journey embodies a fusion of culinary mastery and wine expertise. Her innovative spirit led to pioneering moves like curating the UK’s first 100% New Zealand wine list at The Providores and launching the award-winning New Zealand Cellar. In 2019, she unveiled The Laundry, a vibrant neighbourhood bistro and wine shop where her Swiss heritage and European travels inspire bold-flavoured, hearty-style dishes. Teaming up with Executive Chef Sami Harvey, Melanie ensures every dish reflects genuine, honest cooking with a modern twist.

Tell us a little bit about your journey from working as a pastry chef at Raymond Blanc’s ‘Le Petit Blanc’ to launching The Laundry. How have your various experiences shaped your approach to running a restaurant?

I think The Laundry is a culmination of the various restaurants and kitchens I have worked in, starting from my first apprenticeship at The George Hotel in Christchurch, New Zealand. Every piece in the journey of hospitality shapes you, and guides you – you have to be like a sponge at every turning point to learn how to adapt to the challenges along the way.

Focus and determination, along with a good amount of passion, is what keeps me in this industry, and the pure joy that creating experiences around food and wine brings. Earlier in my career hospitality professionals didn’t persist with ensuring the next generation of professionals understood the commitment to the industry; I now make a conscious effort to ensure the younger members of my team are given that time. It helps to shape the next generation through patience and passion, which as a result, has shaped how we run our restaurant.

Being a fast learner – that’s a skill you need when you approach this industry. There are so many variables, and you have to be open to change – some days on a minute-by-minute basis! I like to think of all of the charismatic women and men I’ve had the pleasure to work with who have contributed to the framework of The Laundry, and I hope that I can provide that approach and support to our newcomers who have the same dream, that are slowly creeping into our restaurant now!

Could you share a bit about the inspiration behind The Laundry and how you’ve integrated your expertise in both cuisine and wine into its concept?

As a trained chef I’ve always been fascinated by flavour, how to treat it, how to find it, and how to deliver it. I’ve travelled a lot and explored many different cultures, and my Swiss heritage has given me access to all types of cuisines across Europe. I adore the ‘food’ culture found across the continent, we don’t have the same intent in New Zealand – it is the heart of a home, and the heart of an experience. For me, The Laundry was created to honour everything about hospitality; from lighting and temperature to the decor and music we play, to the delivery from both our back and front-of-house teams. I never wanted everything to be brand new and you can see that in our regular pilgrimages to markets (here and Paris) to source cutlery, and knick knacks that bring our space to life. It’s all about the story. 

The all-day menu at The Laundry seems to reflect a commitment to genuine, honest cooking. Can you share some of the key principles that guide your culinary philosophy? 

After completing my chef apprenticeship in Christchurch, New Zealand, I was fascinated by famous chefs such as Escoffeur, Michael Roux and Marco Pierre White, and the respect and commitment they had in their kitchens. Service was ever so traditional, and recipes were followed strictly. I relished this practice, however the practicality of seriousness was a tad too much for The Laundry. We’ve taken traditional frameworks and applied different ingredients and practices, with just the right amount of sass. 

You’re passionate about New Zealand wines – what are your current favourites? 

I just frickin’ love NZ wine. There’s something about a sense of place with Kiwi wine that always captivates me. I guess it’s that unique terroir and proximity to the ocean (providing a cool breeze which is the backbone of acidity and style in wine). Always a top favourite for me is Neudorf from Nelson New Zealand. I love a Chardonnay and the team at Neudorf knows how to produce the very best examples, pure, refined and just the right amount of depth. It’s pure heaven. If I’m not sipping Chardonnay with garlic prawns on the BBQ, I’m partial to some North Canterbury Riesling. Some guys that are doing it well are Black Estate. They’re part of a ‘new wave’ of New Zealand family-run wineries that are committed to biodynamics and produce earth shatteringly brilliant wines. These two are my summer go-tos.

As a chef-restaurateur, what are some of the challenges you’ve faced in running The Laundry, and how have you overcome them? 

Some days it feels there are more than some! The biggest challenge (after COVID) is people: staff, customers, suppliers. Learning how to manage people whilst in a tricky period really builds character! I’ve had to learn pretty fast and remain calm. I guess I’ve always stayed true to the experience for our guests and our core business values – once you have these aligned and you’re confident in your offering these challenges seem nominal. On a serious note though, price hikes and Brexit were certainly challenges, we couldn’t predict the impact of those on our little, independent restaurant. Relentless work from our team kept us on the front foot. You can never become complacent in this industry. Every day I’m grateful for the challenges as they keep me on my toes! 

The Laundry offers a concise selection of wines, aiming to guide guests to try new varieties while also providing classics. How do you curate the wine list to achieve this balance? 

The most important thing for me was to have familiarity, but we need to keep things concise, right?! We also want to create a certain confidence for each guest; if they have confidence in most of the list they’re going to be more open to exploring a recommendation or trying something a little off-piste, but if you have an entire list that’s off-piste there will always be a certain amount of resistance.  Having travelled extensively, there were some classic varietals I knew we couldn’t go without – Pic Poul, Soave, Rioja, Pinot Noir – so unearthing some producers that aren’t so familiar gives our list a sense of diversity. The fun part, however, comes in slipping in those lesser-known varietals – Viognier, VAlpolicellla, Rhone Blends – these are the wines that bring our list to life. 

What are your go-to restaurants in London? Anywhere you want to visit?

Love: Maison Francois, Bistro Freddie, Bouchon Racine, French House…. for me these exude approachable yet casual dining foray. For me, it’s always about the entire experience, not just the food, and not just the beverages – delivering a memorable experience is second to none. 

For more information on The Laundry, see here

374 Coldharbour Ln, London SW9 8PL