Saturday 30th August - Here comes another evening of food & drink in Brixton, but did we end up at Seven or Craft as usual? Cast your votes now.
Team Brixton assembled at Market House, a Brixton bar bringing in the crowds with smartly chosen food residencies. We went along to try out Nanban, Japanese soulfood from 2011 Masterchef Champion Tim Anderson (the youngest ever winner at 26). His stint as manager of The Euston Tap (beer haven) and multiple collaborations with Pressure Drop Brewing are of more interest to me!
One problem with food residencies for chefs is not having total control. I say this because Market House weren't very interested in fitting us in without a booking, despite there being an hour and a half window on some empty tables. Eventually we decided to just sit down on one and force through an order, and *shock horror* everything arrived within 15 minutes and we were out within an hour. Other groups were turned away - throwing away money. And since when do trendy, hipster, popup, food residency thingamajigs take bookings? I can't keep up.
Making our minds up quickly, we ordered four bowls of ramen, bypassing tempting sides of Karaage and Ackee & Saltfish Korokke. To drink, I was hoping to get a special Pressure Drop Nanban Kanpai on the side (wheat beer with yuzu, grapefruit and orange juices) but they were fresh out. However, my Nagashima Iced Tea (with smoked black tea liqueur, patron tequila, peach schnapps, jasmine syrup, lemon juice) was an excellent replacement, especially at £5.
I thoroughly enjoyed my comforting bowl of Kumamoto Ramen (rich tonkotsu broth, pork belly, tea-pickled egg, fried garlic chips, burnt garlic oil, fermented greens etc). Perhaps I'll tea-pickle my eggs this weekend, any tips? Are greens still one of your five-a-day if they are fermented? Who knows.
My companions all went for Brown Stew Chicken Ramen (thick and spicy tomato-miso broth, pulled chicken, fried shallots, pickled Scotch Bonnets, slow-cooked egg, and miso-pickled Daikon), which was a much more filling affair. In fact, two were defeated by it! I prefer my ramen much less thick personally, but the flavours were good.
|Brown Stew Chicken Ramen|
No time for their famous Whippy-San ice creams, or shots of Shochu, it really was a flying visit. I hope Nanban settles down in a permanent location soon - I'll be back for some more thorough research. Keep tabs on them via their Facebook page or Twitter.
Next stop was the soft opening of The Shrub & Shutter, a new cocktail bar from Chris Edwards and Dave Treganza (aka cocktail consultants Salts of the Earth).
We were warmly welcomed with a Nuclear Daiquiri of sorts (with an apple sour ice cube / sweet at the bottom) and an impressive plate of snacks, a hint of small plates to come once fully open.
After a quick skim of the menu, we ordered our first round.
Bandage of Brothers (snow queen vodka, poppy liqueur, wolfschmidt kummel, sherbert, sweetener, gunpowder) came with a little army man attached via a plaster, and a banger to throw on the floor at any time - the element of surprise and all that. All good fun, though I'm not entirely sure how the super sweet drink connects to the title.
The Shrub & Shutter intrigued Luke with blowtorched fennel & chlorophyll bitters garnishing a glass of gin, green chartreuse, maraschino, cucumber shrub and toasted fennel sugar.
Lauren opted for a No Stone Left Unturned - effectively a sour with a choice of spirits and rotating flavour based on the stone fruit of the day (cherry in this case).
However, I feel I made the best choice with Does A Bear Shit in the Woods? - St George's Terroir Gin (made with pine), Akvavit (distilled Scandinavian spirit), pine bitters and mancino ambrato vermouth served with smoked salmon on the side. I can't resist a "spirits-focused" drink and this Scandi gin martini twist was right up my street, and the salmon (working well with the pine) was an added bonus.
|Blackboards for all to use take up one wall|
For round two, Caroline ordered pudding in the form of Wonka Bar - gin, vanilla ice cream, chocolate soil, truffle, gold leaf and truffle bitters. The finer ingredients seemed to get lost in the mix but it was a very drinkable boozy milkshake.
Luke's Little Miss Sunshine was one of the more conventional drinks on the menu - an attractive sunny Bloody Mary with Beluga Vodka, Isle of Wight yellow tomato, tomato water, roasted balsamic shrub, celery, spice & seasoning - very tasty at all times of the day.
Vegetarians should steer clear of The Deer Hunter - woodford bourbon, orange, romeo y julieta bitters and birch sap, with a hunk of venison on the side for good measure. Boozy and delicious.
Dare I say it, I think I won round two as well. You Can't Handle Chartreuse arrived in a wonderful bath-shaped glass (don't go stealing them now!), with chilled gummy bears and neat squares of green chartreuse jelly on top. If only bathtime always involved Portobello Road gin, Del Maguey mezcal, yellow chartreuse, pineapple, lemon & elderflower.
|Does a bear shit in the woods?, Bandage of Brothers, Little Miss Sunshine, Wonka Bar|
|The Deer Hunter, The Shrub and Shutter, No Stone Left Unturned|
|You Can't Handle Chartreuse|
All the while we were serenaded by a jazz trio who squeezed themselves into the corner of the relatively small back room. Live music will be a regular occurrence, think ragtime / blues piano.
Our third stop on Coldharbour Lane (efficient eh?) was Three Eight Four, a small plates restaurant and cocktail bar from those clever folk at Seven.
Seven has made it on to Matt The List an unprecedented three times, as almost every Brixton trip seems to involve a couple of their fantastic £5 cocktails, so expectations were high for Three Eight Four. The fact that the bar was at full capacity when we arrived only added to the anticipation.
Thankfully, a large group soon left and we crammed in at the bar. They won me over instantly with their well-lit bar surface, how novel to be able to read the menu and actually see your drink. It's a good-looking place in general, which is no surprise given Seven's funky décor.
Cocktails are competitively priced at £6-£7.50 a pop, except for the rather special Mr.Flambastic at £8.75 - Blackwell's dark & Red Leg spiced rums mixed with Cointreau, shaken with flambéed peaches in Gran Capataz brandy, theatrically created at the end of the bar.
I went straight for a Smoked Manhattan - Pikeseville Rye with Punt e Mes, Luxardo Maraschino, stirred & smoked on the spot to great effect. I wasn't so taken with the Negroni Sbagliato - Campari & Punt e Mes, stirred & topped with sparkling red wine. Very much an acquired taste, aggressively bitter and almost medicinal.
Caroline chose well with Bombay Kitchen - Opihr Indian spiced gin & Koko Kanu rum, coriander, mint, tabasco & mango juice, with a side of papadum & chutney. It arrived in a cezve, a pot usually used to make Turkish coffee. There was just the right amount of tabasco, and the normally dominant cardamom heavy Opihr played well with others.
Last but not least was Tart'n Tide - Auchentoshan lowland whisky, stirred w/ Licor 43, Cointreau, lemon & honey, over a seaweed infused ice ball. We ordered two of these which came out rather different to one another, perhaps an extra splash of Licor 43 found its way into one of them, but both were very enjoyable. Don't let the seaweed put you off, order this if you like a boozy whisky cocktail.
They've created an interesting little menu and there were some real winners in there, and at £7 they represent great value, though not quite enough to knock Seven off its perch as my favourite Brixton bar. Classic cocktails are also available, alongside well-chosen wines and beers, and some old school American soft drinks (e.g. Dr Pepper Vanilla Float, Dad's Root Beer).
The food will have to wait for another time, but I'm sure you won't go far wrong with the likes of reuben sliders, slow-cooked beef brisket, 'nduja with ricotta on bread, and pear & pecorino salad.
One more thing to quickly mention. We wandered round the corner in to Brixton Village to have a quiet drink at Sean's Bar to finish, which is usually housed inside Rosie's Deli in the evenings, only to find that Sean is no longer there. Apparently, he is looking to open up again in a new space in Brixton soon, though he is keeping busy with Sean's Thai Bar in Balham in the meantime.
Anyway, there is still a bar there, now run by the Rosie's Deli staff, and not a lot has changed. It's still a fun, relaxed spot for simple mixed drinks, beers and wines with some tempting food available for those that need it. Prices have gone up a little bit, but nothing drastic. Luke and I enjoyed bottled beers from Brick Brewery (Peckham) and the local Brixton Brewery, whilst Robyn had the world's biggest Aperol Spritz (£6). A cosy spot to end any evening.
Rosie's Deli is open all weekdays 'til 5.30, Thursday, Friday, Saturday evenings 'til 11, Sunday 10-5
Brixton: Nowhere near as good as Brixton thinks it is.
— Tweat_Up (@Tweat_Up) August 29, 2014
Each to their own, I guess. Definitely wrong though. Brixton is great.
Oh, and we might have popped to Craft Beer Co afterwards very briefly. What can you do?
Oh, and we might have popped to Craft Beer Co afterwards very briefly. What can you do?