Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Good Eats at Brixton Village

Brixton Village has been all the buzz amongst the foodie circles lately. Both Time Out London and The Guardian have both wrote excellent reviews about this little foodie paradise in Southwest London. Keenan and I have been to Brixton a number of times -- concerts at the Brixton Academy, Saturday lunches at Franco Manca, which we think is the best pizza outside of Naples, and the occasional run to our closest Argos (think: Montgomery Wards catalogue order) for all our miscellaneous household items. 

As I mentioned before, and I'll say it again, while Brixton is a colourful neighbourhood, it can be down right seedy especially at night. I seriously thought I was going to have my first-ever mugging experience as I walked up Brixton Hill to meet friends for dinner on a cold February evening. However in recent years, Brixton have gone through a series of gentrification starting with the renovation of Ritzy Cinema on the corner of Coldharbour Lane and recently transforming the once-neglected Granville Arcade, now called Brixton Village, into a bustling foodie market.


Setting the trend was Franco Manca who opened his first outpost in a tiny space in Brixton Market Row in 2008, and now has branches in Chiswick and Westfield Stratford. Several restaurants have popped up in Market Row since including Casa Morito, a Mexican taco bar that sells tomatillos, very exciting as  I can never find them in London except at Borough Market. Like Market Row, Brixton Village is a covered arcade with a mix of butchers, fishmongers, ethnic grocers, vintage shops, and a tiny restaurants with no more than 15-20 seats each. Walking through Brixton Village is a feast for the eyes and nose. We were overwhelmed with the variety of cuisines to choose from with no less than twenty restaurants and cafes packed in a square block. 

There's Mama Lan, a Beijing dumpling and noodle specialty shop; Elephant, which serves up samosa and curries thali-style for knock-out low price of £6; Okan, a Japanese okonomiyaki shop; French & Grace, whips up some lovely crepes; Bellantoni's for home-made pastas; two Colombian restaurants, El Rancho de Lalo and Restaurante Santafereno, both who source their meats from Carniceria Los  Andes butchers; much-loved Clapham brunch place Breads Etcetera with their tabletop signature Dualit toasters and blankets; and Brixton Village Grill for Portuguese-style piri-piri chicken. 

After an unsuccessful attempt (60 minute wait time!) to grab a table at Honest Burger, supposedly the best burger joint in town thanks to their 35-day aged patties served on sourdough buns, Keenan and I snagged an outdoor table at the family-run KaoSarn for delicious Thai food. We devour our dishes - a Thai noodle soup for me and grilled beef over rice for Keenan, both had the perfect blend of chili sauce, tamarind, and basil. Next door to KaoSarn was Take Two Grill, a jerk chicken joint grilling up meats in a kettle drum. It smelled so good that we were tempted to order takeaway for dinner but alas we already had dinner plans. 

Caffeine-addicts should not miss Coffee Federation for the flat whites, while those looking to satisfy the sweet tooth have plenty to choose from - Lab G for gelato, WAG Free for gluten-free pastries, or Cornercopia for Brockwell Park damson jam. It's also a great place to people watch if you can find a seat, and to buy some kitchen staples like herbs, onion, and garlic.

I hope this post is making you hungry. If so head over to Brixton Village to support the local Brixton economy. The market is open late on Thursdays and Fridays with live entertainment and repertoire of international cuisine to satisfy any appetite, all for probably under a tenner. I'm sure I'll be back to Brixton Village in no time given it is only a five minute bus ride from Clapham Common. And next time, I will get my hands on that The Federation from Honest Burger. 

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