We kept hearing good things about Brixton Market from south London friends, so we thought we’d get ourselves down there for a proper evening of eating and drinking, led by local gal Rosie Birkett, who edits Four magazine, blogs at A Lot On Her Plate, and does her own bit for the Brixton food scene with London French Dip.
Following a period of neglect, the two covered markets on Coldharbour Lane, Brixton Village (aka Granville Arcade) and Market Row, have come back to life over the past couple of years, thanks to concerted efforts from Brixtonian entrepreneurs and the Space Makers social network. ‘Between them, the markets offer huge diversity in terms of food,’ says Rosie. ‘You’ll find Osakan street food at Okan, artisan Brixton sourdough at Wild Caper, Trinidadian lager at Fish, Wings & Tings, and English ham at Cannon & Cannon.’
Market Row Wines
20 Market Row, @MarketRowWines
Brixton’s first independent wine store, launched by Dave Simpson in May. Half of his fast-moving selection of some 50 to 60 wines are bio or natural, and most bottles are priced between £8 and £12. Our interest is piqued by manzanilla sherry en rama, and dry Pedro Ximenez, both from Equipo Navazos. You can also drink right here, by the bottle or glass, at a handful of tables in the arcade, and there are BYO nights – BYO food, that is.
‘My favourite thing to buy here is the Picpoul de Pinet from Domaine de la Mirande, £9.99,’ say Rosie. ‘I’ve taken a bottle of this to Kaosarn (see below) a few times – it’s fresh and acidic, and a good foil for Thai dishes.’
Cannon & Cannon
18 Market Row, @cannonandcannon
Joe and Sean Cannon are purveyors of artisan British charcuterie and cheese, expanding their wholesale business (est. 2010) into a pair of retail outlets at Borough Market and here on Market Row. Downstairs, you can buy Welsh fennel salami, Kent beer sticks (£1.60 a go), Cornish air-dried lamb, Scottish wild venison chorizo, and great British cheeses such as Stichelton, Binham Blue and Swaledale. Upstairs is a licenced dining room, where you can share a platter (you choose what goes on it), or order hot dishes, such as artichoke hearts with Blue Vinny cheese and walnuts, with beers from Kernel or English wines to go with them.
Rosie says: ‘It’s amazing to have a place doing just British charcuterie – it’s very specialist, really. You can call in and pick up delicious porky snacks for picnics in Brockwell Park, and bring an empty bottle and fill it up with delicious table wine from Borough Wines. Unbelievably, this is also Brixton’s first proper cheese shop. The sharing plates are made with wonderful British ingredients.’
Seven at Brixton
7 Market Row, @sevenatbrixton
If the open-fronted ground floor of this cocktail and pintxos joint looks and feels warm and low-key, with a few fun design quirks, the upstairs warren of rooms goes for it, decoratively speaking. The short cocktail list offers terrific value, with piña coladas, margaritas and daiquiris all on for a fiver; wines and sherries by the glass, and beers, are mostly pitched around £3.50.
‘This is considered the best place for cocktails in the market,’ says Rosie. ‘I love what they’ve done with the space – they’ve been really creative with reclaimed furniture, holding up tabletops with vegetable oil cans, and using old Coca-Cola crates as stools. It’s open from 8am for breakfast and coffees, and gets busy later on. It’s great craic: the staff are friendly, and it’s inclusive. They’re clearly independent and have made it work without having a big budget.’
67–68 Brixton Village, casa-sibilla.com
We might have walked past this trad-looking Italian deli if Rosie hadn’t been firm about including it – more fool us. The antipasti are deliciously authentic, prepared from scratch, and the pasta is all home-made. One word of warning: the pace is slow, so don’t count on grabbing a quick bite, even if you’ve only come for a few nibbles.
Rosie says: ‘The chef is from Puglia, and really respects her raw ingredients. I like it here because they serve authentic Italian aperitifs, including my favourite, the Aperol Spritz, and everything, even the fried dough snacks they bring you, is made freshly to order.’
96 Brixton Village, 020 7095 8922
Along with Honest Burgers at Unit 12, this is one of the Brixton Village enterprises we’d already heard tell of – to be fair, mainly from Rosie, who says she comes here so often it’s ridiculous. The menu isn’t long, but manages to offer a handful of less familiar dishes, as well as your pad thai, green curry and so on. And dinner here is brilliant value, even more so because it’s BYO. Expect to queue.
‘I must come here once a week at least,’ says Rosie. ‘I’m addicted to their consistently good, authentic Thai cuisine. My favourite dish is the grilled half chicken served with sticky rice and green papaya salad. The massaman curry is good, too; just make sure you ask for decent levels of spicing. Gisele is the hostess with the mostess – Kaosarn gets overrun, and she’s brilliant at seating everyone and looking after her guests.’
Five more of Rosie’s Brixton Village favourites
Unit 18, @MamaLans
Fantastic Beijing street food
French & Grace
Unit 19, @frenchandgrace
Middle Eastern/Mediterranean salads and stews
Japanese okonomiyaki pancakes
Fish, Wings & Tings
96 Coldharbour Lane
Caribbean street food, ‘elevated’ beyond just jerk chicken
For amazing salted caramel gelato