Brixton Village & Market Row was one of my first discoveries when I moved to South London and it remains one of my favourites. Brixton is an awesome place. I’d heard a few not-so-great things about Brixton in the past but nowadays the pavements are full of people and there are often various buskers playing away, creating a soundtrack as you walk along.
Not far from the high street, you can find Brixton Village and Market Row, two covered arcades stuffed full of little restaurants and cafes, along with a few small quirky shops. These are not all the cheapest places but some are pretty reasonable and they are all very good. They are generally quite small with only a few options on the menu but this just means that they focus on doing what they do offer well.
Brixton Village Grill
I was tempted by Brixton Village Grill from the moment I saw the benches outside packed with people munching on huge portions. It seemed like my kind of place. The grill serves up hearty food (much of which is chargrilled) which is a fusion of English and Portuguese. I went for the Chargrilled Spare Ribs and, for the mere price of £8.25, I was given an almost infinite amount. Okay not actually infinite, but there were so many that even I couldn’t finish my meal – and that hardly ever happens to me. The ribs were not only huge but they were good. Admittedly, I would have liked some kind of sauce with them but they were still probably the juiciest and meatiest ribs I’ve ever had. They tasted unlike any others – and I’ve sampled a lot.
If you’re not looking for an actual meal, Burnt Toast is a good option as, in addition to its big breakfasts (which I haven’t had the pleasure of sampling yet), it also does some lovely coffee and cakes, which are displayed in the window (where their names are also written) so you can pick out your favourite, which is easier said than done. I thought the coffee was pretty good but, as much as I drink coffee, I admit that I am no authority on it. What I do know, however, is my cake. And this was good cake. My milk chocolate and white chocolate muffin was rich and practically melted in my mouth. On my next trip, I went for the carrot cake, with a good layer of cream cheese frosting slathered through the middle. It was also truly amazing.
Casa Sibilla is an Italian restaurant that mainly serves up cicchetti – Venetian tapas. the menus suggest 2-3 dishes per person. Usually with tapas, I err on the side of caution and order the larger amount suggested but, since I was only there for lunch and the dishes were not cheap, my group went for six between three of us: lamb meatballs, harrisa and yoghurt, zucchini fritti in tempura, pork cutlet with gratin potatoes and pancetta, bruschettine with tomatoes, king prawns in devil sauce and vegetable croquettes. It was all pretty good but the pork and prawns were particularly great, and since I am not a massive prawn fan that is saying something.
Admittedly, the service here was quite slow, and I received the second half my dishes significantly later after the first half arrived. This wasn’t ideal but thankfully the arcade is quite a nice place to sit (it kind of feels like you’re on holiday- or at least somewhere other than London) so haven’t to sit there for longer wasn’t the worst thing in the world.
I wanted to try Honest Burgers for ages before I made it but there always seemed to be quite a queue and I am always too hungry to wait long. Then, finally, I spotted a lack of queue and so darted right in. I started off with a homemade lemonade, which was quite refreshing and served in a jam jar with a green and white straw, before moving onto the Honest burger, with red onion relish, bacon, cheddar cheese, pickles and lettuce. My beef burger was nice and tender (they are cooked medium unless requested otherwise), my brioche bun was sweet and the bacon was smokey. The relatively large amount of red onion relish was a little overpowering (I would have liked to substitute some for some more cheese) but it was still a great burger. However, the highlight was the generous helping of crispy rosemary fries (complete with the potato skin still on) that the burgers are served with. These are rightly renowned for being amazing.
I have since been to the branches of Honest Burger in King’s Cross and Covent Garden and ordered the Tribute burger, with bacon, American cheese, burger sauce, mustard, pickles, onion and lettuce. This is probably my favourite.
Due to its pancake-based menu, Senzala Creperie may be an obvious brunch option but the pancakes served are so stuffed that it probably works for any time of day. The decor inside is somewhat Brazilian-inspired but menu is filled with a large variety of both sweet and savoury French crepes and galettes. I went for the savoury English Breakfast option, filled with cheese, mushrooms, bacon, tomatoes and topped with a fried egg. It was one of the most expensive options and there were dishes with similar fillings for a bit less but I knew what I wanted. I did think that the amount of mild cheese did mask some of the other flavours of my pancake fillings but it was still pretty good and you certainly get your money’s worth filling-wise.
As soon as I saw people being served burgers that were basically the size of my face from The Joint, I knew I needed to get there asap. Instead of patties, the meat is all slow-cooked and pulled – just the way I like it. I went for the BBQ burger (£8.50) with 16 hour slow cooked pork in a brioche bun, with candied apple bacon, slaw, salad and BBQ sauce (it also came with chicken and in wrap-form). Obviously, I ordered extra cheese with that. The waiter recommended that I cut my burger in half and provided cutlery. Obviously therefore I picked it up with my hands and ate it whole. It was messy but it tasted too good to care. The pork was delicious and perfectly cook, although unfortunately the taste did get a bit absored in the thick bun. Perhaps the flavours would come through better in the thinner wrap but I still did not remotely regret my choice.
As I sat down at WAG Free (wheat and gluten free), I noticed some very tasty sounding options on the main menu but I was just here for coffee and cake. I went for a cup of Earl Grey tea and a Brazilian cake, with white chocolate, pineapple and coconut flakes. That’s not something I’d usually order but the menu seemed to be Brazilian-inspired and the waiter seemed pretty enthusiastic about it. My tea was served up in a mug, as tea should be (teacups aren’t nearly as comforting and teapots generally hold way more than I want), and with tea leaves in a stick with holes in so it could diffuse into my tea. It was fresher than a tea bag but without any bits floating in my drink. The coffee was also served as a strong expresso with steamed milk on the side so you can put in as much as you want. My cake was also tasty. I was unsure about pineapple (if I’m going to splurge on something sweet then I generally don’t want fruit anywhere near it) but the combination actually worked really well.
CHICKENliquor is part of the MEATliquor chain. It’s venue in Market Row feels quite Southern USA, with its fried chicken-themed menu and street art design. The menu had several options for how you could be served your chicken: wings, boneless pieces and burgers. I went for the Parma Chicken burger (£8.75), with serrano ham, mozzarella, marinara sauce and sprinkled with some toasty bits of parmesan cheese. The combination of flavours was lovely, but I must admit this isn’t my favourite fried chicken. The batter was quite thick and soft (instead of thin and crisp) but the chicken was tender. It works fine in a burger, along with other toppings, but I was less of a fan of the plain chicken pieces (£6.50). Fries (£3) have to be ordered separately but do consist of enough to share between two. I recall them being quite salty. The salted caramel milkshakes, however, are amazing.
Each table comes with a whole kitchen roll (it’s like they were admitting that there was no way you were going to leave the place not covered in food) and with bottles of mayonnaise, ketchup and hot sauce which I think is the sign of a good restaurant. I don’t want no small sachets, I want enough to smother my food.
I have never actually been to Franco Manca’s Brixton branch (the original restaurant in the London-based chain) but I’ve made it to the one in East Dulwich and it is too good not to mention here. Franco Manca is famous for its sourdough pizzas, considered by many in London as the best in London. I had to queue for a short while to actually get in (apparently this is a common occurrence) but thankfully not for too long.
The menu was short and sweet and I quickly spotted my staple: ham and mushroom (Gloucester Old Spot ham and wild mushrooms in this case, with buffalo ricotta cheese, for only £6.85). This one came with only a “little tomato” but the waitress offered me the option of more (75p), so I took it – after all, tomato is a key pizza ingredient in my book. I still didn’t get loads but my dinner was more than reasonably priced. I must admit, the ricotta cheese was a bit much for me and so, although very good, I’m not sure my pizza quite lived up to the hype. I’M SORRY I FEEL TRULY AWFUL FOR SAYING THAT – I am in a clear minority.
If you’re looking for a sweet treat in Brixton, you cannot go wrong with Ms. Cupcake serves up an array of vegan-friendly cupcakes. There are several different flavours including Ferrero Rocher and, the one I went for, Jaffa Cake. My cupcake came topped with a thick layer of icing and a moist sponge. The orange flavour was there but it was subtle and nicely complimented the chocolate. The Flatmate ordered a Red Velvet and commented that the sponge was the best bit of hers. I think opting for a flavour which has a flavoured icing is probably the key.
Seven At Brixton
Seven at Brixton is a Spanish tapas bar, but I have only been there for the cocktails. The entrance is guarded by plastic strips, like those you’d see in a butchers ro a factory, and through these is a relatively hipster bar. The furniture is mismatched and includes a desk (where I was sitting) and a church pew. The bar itself was decorated with shelves stuffed with old books. The lighting was dark, the music was loud and the inside was warm. The cocktails are surprisingly cheap for London. I opted for a Vanilla & Passion Cooler, which consisted of Licor 43 (no I don’t know what that is either), Sprizzato, passionfruit juice, lime, orange and lemonade, for the mere price of £5. It wasn’t small either and came with one of those flying saucer sherbet sweets. Bargain.
I ended up at Valhalla at around 5.30pm on a Sunday, after many other places had closed. Valhalla serves Scandinavian themed food and sweets. I spotted the multiple meatball options for breakfast and lunch but, since I only had half an hour before the placed closed, I just went for the cinnamon bun but made a mental note to come back during the day. Since it was the end of the day, meaning the pastries needed to be used up, I was given two cinnamon buns instead of one. Perhaps they would have tasted better fresh but, still, they were nice and I got two so I was happy. My vanilla chai latte was also delicious.
Since I’ve done this alphabetically, I didn’t mean to leave the best until last but that is basically what has happened. The first brunch I went for since becoming a Londoner was at Wild Caper and I haven’t found any better since. The restaurant sells Eastern Mediterranean food but also does some classic breakfast and brunch options. As well as being busy on a weekend morning, Wild Caper is quite small, so I had to wait around a bit for a table. That wasn’t much of a problem. Firstly, Market Row is undercover so it wasn’t cold and, secondly, I also got to wait around in the midst of all the freshly baked bread on sale. It smelled good but didn’t help with my increasing hunger.
I splashed out a whole £6.95 on the option with grilled smoked Gloucester Old Spot back bacon, poached Clarence Court free range eggs & Hollandaise sauce on toasted sourdough bread. It was incredible. I also had a nice pot of Earl Grey tea, with actual tea leaves. It was not a small pot and it went very well with my tasty, tasty breakfast.