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Sunday 21 June 2015

Pop Brixton

Just in case Brixton Village and Market Row weren't already enough of a draw, Pop Brixton's shipping container community campus has roared in to town and seriously upped SW9's food and drink game.

"Pop Brixton will house the next generation of local food and drinks entrepreneurs, retail outlets, workspaces for local business and artists, tech enterprises and a community event space, to be enjoyed by all. We are providing an affordable space for start-ups and small businesses, with 10 units available at 20-50% of market rate."

Before you start picturing Boxpark, this ain't no rectangular rollout full of sellout squares. It's a funky, spacious site with gardens and greenhouses, alleyways and alcoves, and all manner of gastronomic treats.  At ground level, you can find rapid response street food shacks and bars (more on that later), but you need to head upstairs to find Pop Brixton's magical mini-restaurants...

 1. Donostia Social Club - Basque tapas / pintxos bar

You might have spotted Paul & co. of Donostia Social Club in their blue and white Citroen HY van at one of Kerb's street food markets, but this is their first permanent site - and it's a beauty.  They've made full use of their shipping container, with counter dining stretching all the way down to the kitchen at the far end creating a wonderful, communal atmosphere.

I've been to pintxos-paradise San Sebastian (or Donostia in Basque) a couple of times but I'll have to return armed with Paul's top tips soon.  Until then, this is where you'll find me.  Start with piles of £3ish pintxos (snacks) - leftover cocktail sticks help to keep track of your gluttony.  Then move on to DSC's tapas menu, and look out for any specials scribbled on the walls. Wash it all down with fine wines and sherry, or craft beers from Barcelona Beer Company. Here are some of the most tempting dishes:

- Lamb Cutlets, Spring Onions, Confit Broad Beans, Anchovy Butter - £7
- Roasted Quail, Paprika Salt & Aioli - £6.50
- Seared Scallop, Pisto, Green Chilli Sauce, Almonds - £3.50
- Braised Iberico Pork Cheek, Butter Bean Purée, Herb Oil - £6.00
- Smoked Wild Pigeon Breast Salad, Pickled Green Figs & Artichokes - £6.50
- White Chocolate & Red Chilli Mousse, Pistachio Crumb - £5.00
- Leche Frita & Forest Honey - £5.00

Donostia Social Club at Pop Brixton

Richly Deserved's Jack making some tough decisions

Futbol, Tits & Beer. What's Else?

Seared Scallop, Pisto, Green Chilli Sauce & Almonds

Lam Cutlets, Spring Onions, Confit Broad Beans, Anchovy Butter

It's casual, fun, affordable, and bloody tasty. Donostia Social Club is one of the big hits of the year for me - up there with Bao and Blacklock.

Mon-Fri : 1pm -10pm, Sat : 12pm - 10pm & Sun : 12pm - 6pm


2. Hook Brixton - not traditional fish & chips

Hook's unconventional fish & chips have been getting rave reviews ever since they set up shop in Camden via Dublin and Brussels back in January.  You can read my write-up here for all the details as their second site in Brixton is more of the same - and that's a good thing.  

You can't really go wrong with their short & simple menu of twisted classics, but the special is always worth a look (think Ethiopian Berbere Spiced Pollock with Sweet Potato Ketchup, or Guinness & Squid Ink Haddock with an Oyster & Sorrel Sauce).  Each fancy fish comes with a generous portion of moreish chips and one of their special sauces (e.g. chipotle / garlic truffle / basil & chilli) that threaten to steal the show - get a load for the table and don't look back.  You'll also want their minted mushy peas and a side of sea spaghetti & samphire.  Bring stretchy pants.

Always wear a helmet for fish & chips

Literally pint-sized can of Rogue American Amber Ale (all the way from Oregon)

Jamaican Jerk Panko Hake with Chipotle Sauce

It's an absolute steal for a tenner - Barry & Simon are on to something with Hook, and I'm sure there'll be another site or two before the end of the year.  Their Brixton box is a no frills affair, much like Sutton & Sons in Boxpark, but it's all you need - grab an outdoor table if it's sunny to soak up the Pop Brixton atmosphere. Highly recommended.


3. Kricket - Indian Small Plates & Cocktails

Unlike Donostia Social Club, Hook and Zoe's Ghana Kitchen, Kricket is a brand new restaurant with no popups or street food appearances to its name.  Chef Will Bowlby (Cinnamon Kitchen) and business partner Rik Campbell have brought a bit of Mumbai to Brixton with their seasonal small plates and booze.  To avoid making any tough decisions you should probably just order everything as we did:

- Bhel Puri - Raw Mango, Sev, Tamarind, Yogurt - £4
- Samphire Pakoras - Wild Garlic Mayonnaise, Date & Tamarind Chutney - £5
- Kadai Spiced Padron Peppers - Pachadi, Crispy Onions - £5
- Keralan Fried Chicken - Curry Leaf Mayonnaise, Pickled Mouli - £6
- Pork belly -  Tamarind, Apple & Fennel Raita - £6
- Hake - Malai Sauce, Samphire - £8
- Vindaloo Bavette - Coriander, Cassava Chips, Burnt Onion - £8
- Grilled Lamb Fillet - Black Stone Flower, Smoked Paprika Raita - £8
- Gulab Jamum - Carom Seed Crumble, Clotted Cream Ice Cream - £4

Bhel Puri - Raw Mango, Sev, Tamarind, Yogurt

Bhel Puri - Raw Mango, Sev, Tamarind, Yogurt

Kadai Spiced Padron Peppers - Pachadi, Crispy Onions

Grilled Lamb Fillet - Black Stone Flower, Smoked Paprika Raita

Ali tackling the Grilled Lamb Fillet - 

If you only have space for a couple of dishes, don't miss the Bhel Puri, the Vindaloo Bavette and the outstanding Grilled Lamb Fillet.  

To drink, there's an intriguing quartet of cocktails to get through with Indian twists such as Old Naranji (Cardamom Bourbon, Marmalade, Orange) and Tiki Challo (Carom Vodka, Pear Brandy, Fennel).


4. Zoe's Ghana Kitchen - Ghanaian small plates

I haven't yet eaten in Zoe Adjonyoh's cosy container, but I did devour several plates of her contemporary take on traditional Ghanaian food when she popped up at The King & Co. in April (read full post here). Here's what Zoe has to say about her first permanent site:

“I'm so excited to be opening our first fixed dining space in Brixton, south of the river and close to where I grew up. We hope to become part of Brixton’s natural buzz and vibrancy, and to build upon this in coming years while spreading the love for modern Ghanaian cuisine!”

Expect to find the likes of Okra Tempura with Shiso Hot Sauce, Red Red Beans with Kelewele Plantain Chips and fiery Jollof Rice as well as Zoe's signature West African Peanut Butter Stew.


...and that's just upstairs.

Back on the ground floor, you've got 10+ more food options, some of which you may recognise from London's street food scene.  

* Takes deep breath * - There's Mama's Jerk Station (Caribbean street food), Miss P's Barbecue (Atlanta BBQ), Baba G's (Bhangra burgers), Made of Dough (Pizza Napoletana), Maria Sabina (Mexican kitchen), KOI Ramen (generous ramen pots), Kyonocho (Sushi and tea), Viet Box (Vietnamese salads), World of Wurst (sausage specialists), L'Amuse Bouche (Crepes), Supercute (Macarons & more), and Yumitub (Street Thai ice cream).

Many of these are packed into a bustling central alleyway, and you'll find yourself stopping at each stand on your way through.  Viet Box's décor is particularly striking, as is Made of Dough's pizza oven. Then World of Wurst have got draught German beers to lure you in; and you'll definitely get stuck watching Yumitub's bonkers (though painfully slow!) approach to creating ice cream from scratch using -30 degrees C cold plates, oreos and an ice scraper - 3 minutes is the record...

On the booze front, head for Brixton Port Authority for London beers, small batch spirits and organic wine, or to The New Zealand Cellar for a wider choice of vino without markups that you can drink anywhere around Pop Brixton.  There's also the Homegrown juice bar that occasionally falls off the wagon and serves up Bloody Marys and Espresso Martinis.  Sorted.

Maria Sabina pinata

Maria Sabina pinata

Mama's Jerk Station

Ali demolishing a Miss P's BBQ brisket bun

Brisket Bun from Miss P's Atlanta BBQ

Supercute Macarons

Yumitub - mad scientist Thai ice cream

It's not all about the food and drink at Pop Brixton, though obviously that's what I'm most interested in.  You've also got quirky shops (Queen of the Harpies, Make Do and Mend), gigs, film screenings, and art exhibits to keep you busy, and there's a whole lot more to come with large event, gallery and work spaces scheduled to open soon.

It may seem far off now, but Pop Brixton supposedly only have the site until October 2017, so don't waste any more time.  Hopefully it will be around for a lot longer than that though - Pop Brixton is an unmissable addition to our fine city's food and drink scene and another calling card for South West London. 

N.B. Most places only accept cash at the moment, though that does include Brixton Pounds.

Sunday-Wednesday: 9am - 11pm // Thursday-Saturday: 9am - midnight

49 Brixton Station Road, London, SW9 8PQ


Wednesday 17 June 2015

The Jolly Gardeners - Chick'N'Sours - Fu Manchu

Today on the blog - three completely unrelated new food & drink spots that I checked out in May.  I could try and segue between them, but it wouldn't be pretty.  

Read on for gastropub fare with an Indian twist from a former MasterChef winner; all the fried chicken and Negroni sours from DJ Carl Clarke; and a villainous dim sum and cocktail joint in Clapham North.

Friday 15th May - Dhruv Baker embarked on a career in food after winning MasterChef in 2010, gaining experience in Le Gavroche & The Kitchin amongst other top restaurants.  More recently he teamed up with Adam Pomaro to launch catering company Earlsfield Kitchen before deciding over a bottle of wine (or two) that they might as well go one step further and take over an actual kitchen in Earlsfield - that of The Jolly Gardeners pub.

I went down primarily to take some photos but ended up eating a whole lot of wonderful food with Jo The Sis.  A quick scan of the menu reveals standard pub items - pork belly, lamb, asparagus, steak etc. It's only after a second look that you start to spot Dhruv's Indian influences sneaking in - tamarind yoghurt, cardamom puree, turmeric and fennel better, and so on.  This is what takes The Jolly Gardeners dishes to the next level.

Our two starters were simply magnificent (and oh so photogenic - beware NSFW eggporn below). 

- English Asparagus, Soft-Boiled Burford Brown Egg, Bacon & Sage Crumble, Hollandaise - £8
- Spiced Crab Cakes, Shaved Fennel, Tamarind Yoghurt £8

You can't really go wrong with egg, bacon, asparagus and a tonne of butter - the Burford Brown egg was beautifully cooked and presented in a light crumb batter.  A generous portion of moreish crab cakes were elevated by shaved fennel and that tamarind yoghurt.

English Asparagus, Soft-Boiled Burford Brown Egg, Bacon & Sage Crumble, Hollandaise

English Asparagus, Soft-Boiled Burford Brown Egg, Bacon & Sage Crumble, Hollandaise

English Asparagus, Soft-Boiled Burford Brown Egg, Bacon & Sage Crumble, Hollandaise

Spiced Crab Cakes, Shaved Fennel, Tamarind Yoghurt

Pork Terrine, Pickled Vegetables, Honey & Mustard Dressing

We sought out more of Dhruv's unconventional flavours in our mains:

- Pan-fried Sea Bream, Turmeric & Fennel Butter, Coconut Green Beans, Cumin Sautéed Potatoes - £14
- 28 day aged Ribeye Steak, Teriyaki Glaze, Shallot Puree, Fries - £22.50

If you want your kids to eat their greens, invite Dhruv round for tea and tell him to bring his coconuts.  And if you think you've had steak and chips one too many times, I can highly recommend their teriyaki glaze twist, supported by a scene-stealing dollop of shallot puree. Delicious.

Pan-fried Sea Bream, Turmeric & Fennel Butter, Coconut Green Beans, Cumin Sautéed Potatoes

28 day aged Ribeye Steak, Teriyaki Glaze, Shallot Puree, Fries

Pork Belly, Carrot and Cardamom Puree, Curly Kale, Chimichurri

Portions are generous throughout, but do not under any circumstances skip dessert, however full you are. £7.50 may look a little pricey on the page, but once you've tasted Dhruv's bonkers creations you'll be going back for seconds.  Here are four of the best:

- Raspberry Mille Feuille, Chantilly Cream, Raspberry Sorbet, Raspberry Tuille - £7.50
- Chocolate Cake, Guinness Sauce, Hazelnut Brittle Ice Cream - £7.50
- Rocky Road, Blood Orange, Vanilla Cream, Banana and Black Sesame Ice Cream - £7.50
- Banana Tarte Fine, Sea Salt Caramel, Peanut Butter Parfait - £7.50

We demolished the bottom two on that list, both of which had even more fun on the plate than mentioned above.  It's real Willy Wonka stuff (though not quite to Parlour's level) that'll send you back on to Garratt Lane with a big grin on your face.

Chocolate Cake, Guinness Sauce, Hazelnut Brittle Ice Cream

Banana Tarte Fine, Sea Salt Caramel, Peanut Butter Parfait

Banana Tarte Fine, Sea Salt Caramel, Peanut Butter Parfait

Rocky Road, Blood Orange, Vanilla Cream, Banana and Black Sesame Ice Cream

Three courses at The Jolly Gardeners will set you back around £30-40 before booze which is a pricey night out at the pub, but Dhruv & co. are on to something special here and I wouldn't be surprised if awards and accolades start coming their way once the rest of London takes notice.  It's worth going well out of your way for, and I suggest you do so soon before word gets out.

Kitchen hours - Closed Mondays, Tue-Sat - 12:00-15:00 / 18:30-22:00, Sundays - 12:00-15:30

214 Garratt Lane, Wandsworth, London, SW18 4EA

The Jolly Gardeners -

Square Meal

Click to add a blog post for Jolly Gardeners on Zomato

Saturday 9th May - DJ turned Chef Carl Clarke has been winning fans all over London with his Disco Bistro Chicken Wings (Disco Wings for short) at various popups, residencies and street food events, but he's finally settled down in Haggerston.  

Chick'N'Sours is the newest member of Roy Walker's "say what you see" club that also includes Duck & Waffle, Burger & Lobster, and Meat & Shake.  Smoking Goat, Dirty Bones and Smack haven't quite got the hang of it.

Hard to read, laminated menus could do with an A4 upgrade

Much like Stokey Bears up the road, Chick'N'Sours is bathed in a mysterious, unphotogenic blue light that takes me back to Cindy's and Life, two of Uni's cheesiest clubs.  Thankfully the music is better. By the time we all arrive, it's pushing 10pm (after drinks at Original Sin and The Three Compasses), but we manage to squeeze nine around a table.  Carl & co. warn us that chicken on the bone has flown out, taking all of the burger buns with it, but that there's plenty else left to munch on. Game on.

We start off with a round of their £6 half-pint sour cocktails and a few £4 cans of Fourpure.  The Chick'N'Club House Sour is a winner with Gin, Sugar, Lemon, Raspberry & Chilli Vinegar, and Vermouth, and the Negroni Sour with Campari, Vermouth, Rosewater and Lemon also hits the spot. Much like at Chicken Liquor in Brixton, the idea is that the sour drinks cut through the richness of the chicken, "like vinegar on chips" says Carl.  I'd still lean towards the beers myself, but he's not wrong.

Negroni Sour

The first food to arrive was a zingy bowl of fried Szechuan Aubergine with citrus, chilli oil & sesame seeds.  It's a great foil to Carl's sticky Disco Wings which might just be the best in London with their perfectly balanced sweet and salty coating.  Pickled Watermelon, Peanut and Coriander is another stonking side - one of our number demands that we order a second portion after a single mouthful.  In fact, all of our little plates are a marvel, from the crunchy and moreish House Pickles to the fresh Yam Bean 'Slaw with Ginger & Miso Mayo.

Szechuan Aubergine

Pickled Watermelon, Peanut and Coriander

With no buns in the house, they instead improvise with lettuce as a vehicle for their "burger", though apparently this option may appear on the menu soon.  Either way, the Korean Fried Thigh with fiery Gochujang Mayo, Chilli Vinegar and Crunchy 'Slaw gets the thumbs up.  I meanwhile opt for the Guest Fry seasoned with Chilli Jam, Crispy Shallots, Thai Basil, Mint and Spring Onion - absolutely delicious but perhaps a little small for £10.  Last but not least, the chips arrive with a phenomenal St.Agur & Buttermilk dip.  It's a good thing they don't come round selling bottles of the stuff.

Guest Fry - Chilli Jam, Crispy Shallots, Thai Basil, Mint, Spring Onion

Fries with St.Agur & Buttermilk Dip

As the evening draws to a close, tasters of Weetabix Soft Serve are passed round.  It tastes of Weetabix alright, but is that something that anybody wants? I remain unconvinced.  

I'm soon distracted by Chick'N'Sours branded transfers that arrive with the bill, causing widespread napkin dabbing and transfer application amongst our group.  My skin seems more reluctant than others, but eventually accepts a botched attempt that reads closer to Chickn Soup.  It had better come off. In a nice touch, the bill presentation finally answers the age old question of whether the chicken or the egg came first.  

Weetabix Soft Serve with Toasted Weetabix Crunch

Don't leave without a few Chick'N'Sours transfers!

Chick'N'Sours in an eggshell - Fantastic food, dodgy lighting.

N.B. They are also open for brunch at the weekends, serving up "Son in Law Eggs" & Brunch Buns

P.S. No reservations on Friday / Saturday, get your name on the list and grab a drink nearby

Your best options are vino at Rotorino or craft beers from The Fox's vending machine and Beavertown beers from Duke's Brew & Que.

Mon - Closed, Tue-Thu - 6pm-10pm, Fri - 6pm-10:30pm
Sat - 12pm-3:30pm, 6pm-10:30pm, Sunday - 12pm-3:30pm, 6pm-9:30pm

390 Kingsland Road, London, E8 4AA

Chick'N'Sours -

Square Meal

Chick 'n' Sours on Urbanspoon

Wednesday 13th May - Back over in South West London, a late night dim sum and cocktail bar named after the villainous Fu Manchu has opened up in a railway arch by Clapham North.  

It gets a bit clubby for Matt The List's tastes, and cocktails were a mixed bag at the launch, but having an extensive dim sum menu available til late is definitely a bonus.  London bars are incredibly poor at providing quality, filling food with drinks - hopefully others will follow Fu Manchu's example.

For a in-depth look at the cocktails, head over to Highball Hoodoo's boozy blog.  We enjoyed the delicate Secret Essence of the Poppey Hill (Sake, St.Germain, Rose Liqueur, Lime Juice, Cucumber) and Blood of Fu Manchu (Eristoff Vodka infused with Chinese 5 Spice, 10yo Port, Ginger Purée, Oyster Sauce, Chilli Powder, Tomato Juice) but were left bemused by a Green Matcha powder-based Green Tea-Ni that shouldn't have made the cut.

If it's dim sum you are after, head down on a Sunday this June to take advantage of their £19.95 all-you-can-eat offer from 12pm-10pm (1.5 hrs maximum stay!).  The Chao You Sai Laan Fa (Salt, Pepper and Chilli Broccoli) was pretty excellent, and there are 36 other tasty treats to stuff your face with too.

Mon-Wed 5pm–11pm, Thu 5pm–1am, Fri-Sat 5pm–3am, Sun 12pm–11pm

15 – 16 Lendal Terrace, Clapham, London, SW4 7UX

Fu Manchu -

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