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|
|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
Pop Brixton - www.popbrixton.org