Christmas in Brixton

You may have started buying what you need to celebrate Christmas, but here’s our advice on how you might get through this festive season without leaving Brixton. The ingredients of a good season for our family include decorating the house, plenty of booze and a good Christmas dinner, with the leftovers providing the basis for most of our meals right up until New Year. Of course all the merriment is interspersed with the Christmas Eastenders, Dr Who, a few games on Boxing day and possibly a walk to Brockwell Park. It is now our 30th Brixton Christmas and so we do have a number of things in the loft and under the bed that contribute to our traditions but there are always extra things we add each year.

PRE-XMAS preparation

Decorating the house starts as soon as we can persuade one of our number to get the tree.  Our decorations hark back to earlier times with holly and ivy adorning the living room, as well as plenty of sparkly stuff. There are lots of options around Brixton for trees (see here on Urban 75 for suggestions). However, getting the holly and mistletoe was more of a problem until we found some at he flower stall outside the tube station (£3.00 for a holly branch, £1.00 mistletoe).

Our aim for the Christmas tree is gaudy, so no sophisticated one or two colours for us. Our version requires kitsch stuff usually home-made, inherited or gathered from our travels (a flamingo on a rubber ring drinking a cocktail is a personal fave), as well as multi-coloured baubles which are easy to find in Poundland and the 99p store. But you should definitely look at Pound & + at the market end of Popes Road which is an Aladdin’s cave of things you might never need except at Christmas – tip: make sure to check out the left hand aisle . Morleys have some sticks with red berries (to replace holly) and a great find for £3.50 is the string of lights fuelled by 3 AA batteries (extra) that you can put on plants.

Christmas booze is easy to find but we think the Advocaat for the snowballs comes from Tesco (Fill a high-ball glass with ice, one part advocaat, three of lemonade and a spritz of lime juice to taste -in that order) and M&S sells bottles of Prosecco for a festive but cheaper glass of bubbly on Christmas day (£8.00).  We think that mulled wine is best made from a sachet, as any recipes always verge on too much cinnamon or cloves (sachets found in Tesco) but add some orange and lemons from the market. Special wine to accompany Christmas dinner you can get from the Market Row Wines or Chix and Buck Ltd in Atlantic Road. They both always have good advice about the kind of wine to choose and you can also have a tipple to help you face the remaining shopping

Christmas food: For years I made our own gluten free gingerbread house, which introduced the children to new swear words as I dropped boiling caramel on my thumb. But I now realise that no-one eats it. So the last few years have seen the introduction of a kit and with Google translate you can even use a German one from Lidl. Just add extra sweets and a couple of little people and it really does look home made but without the blisters, which will last until the New Year. We are great fans of Lidl at Christmas, even before the TV ads. They sell cinnamon and chocolate German biscuits and we swear by their Christmas puddings. We buy extra for the rest of the year to make Christmas pudding ice cream. They also have packets of sugared almonds which look pretty on the table.

CHRISTMAS DAY

The table – candles from everywhere but they have coloured ones in Cornercopia and cheaper ones in Pound & + (the shop in Popes Rd market). Tablecloths and runners are good in Morley’s (top floor) and anything else you can improvise from the one pound shops like coloured doiles and gold centre pieces. But if you want to have a brightly coloured Christmas meal, then buy some material from Brixton Village and some coloured napkins from M&S or perhaps even make something from coloured paper from the Art shop above the Kingshield Chemist on Brixton Road.

We are meat eaters, but all the ingredients for vegetarian or vegan alternatives such as nut loaf and vegetarian thalis can be sourced in from some of the many fruit and veg stalls in Brixton. Desserts without suet or with vegetarian suet are also available – check out Brixton Wholefoods.

Starter: We sit down to a “little something” before we tuck into the main event, but it is less of a starter and more an amuse bouche. We have considered a number of options this year. Last year we had oysters which can be bought from Ilias Fish Shop 16 First Avenue in Brixton Village but we worry about the potential for accidents following getting pretty boozy throughout the day (we start at 10 am). Prawn cocktail is easy (the prawns from Wing Tai Supermarket in Electric Avenue are usually good value)  and so is a bit of toast and pate (choose from the different types in Cannon and Cannon with bread from Wild Caper in Market Row) but this year we may go for some Iberico ham from Brindisa.

The main event: We go for goose which provides the fat for roast potatoes for the whole year but does take a bit more attention. This year we ordered it from Jones the Butcher (see our post on butchers for more information). Vegetables come from the market or Cinco Quinos.

Pudding: You can make your own Christmas pudding but you should have thought of that some weeks ago. Ours will probably come from M&S or Lidl, although we never eat much of it as we are so stuffed. The more expensive ones from Waitrose are lovely but firstly, it is not in Brixton and secondly, its a waste on Christmas day. We save it for some other time.

Mince pies we sometimes have trouble with the choice in Brixton but we like the smaller ones. M&S are a bit too buttery and so this year we will probably go to Tesco’s for the main supply, supplemented with ones from the cake shops in Brixton Village or even make our own. Brandy butter is easy to make – butter, sugar and brandy to taste.

Christmas Crackers this years are from a great knock down sale last January but usually we go for the least tacky as the jokes are mostly awful (What is Santa’s favourite pizza? One that’s deep pan, crisp and even). You only need them for the hats and so some lucky sod can get the bottle opening key chain.

BOXING DAY

We have the leftovers of course, but this is supplemented by salads and a ham cooked to perfection in the days before Christmas. This year it will be bought from Dombey Meats 19 Market Row.

Chocolate logs, mince pies and the last of the Christmas pudding accompany the boxes of chocolates (try the posh ones in the Chocolate Museum, 197 Ferndale Road) and the delicious flat biscuits from Spain called Tortas Aceites which you can buy from Brindisa or A&C Continental Delicatessen on Atlantic Road. There are also some boxes of candied fruit and Turron (almond nougat either hard or soft) also from the Spanish and Portugese shops. Cheese, if French, comes from Champagne and Fromage in Brixton Village, except for our favourite Roquefort that we get from A&C in Atlantic Road. Cheese from the UK comes from Cannon and Cannon in Market Row

We also eat a lot of Clementines which come from a number of places depending on when we are eating them. For short-life tangerines (Christmas stocking variety) and Clementines then buy from the market, but if you need them to last a few days then make sure they feel solid. We do a few trials as some supermarket varieties have little taste or are bitter. We prefer Clementines just because of the absence of all the pips and this year we recommend Cinco Quinas who only stock them when are good enough. But we are also varying the fruit bowl with Chirimoya or Custard Apples, which are green, full of pips and are eaten with a spoon when they are soft. They have a subtle flavour but it supports farmers in Andalucía which produces Europe’s main crop – buy them from the stall on the corner of Electric Avenue and Electric Lane.

So no-one has to go far to stock up for Christmas but remember the food bank too – everyone needs a little special something for Christmas, so buy two and give one away.

 

 

 

Catering to special diets (1) Gluten free

This is the first in our brand new series of blogs on how to eat in Brixton and also cater to any special dietary requirements you may have. First up we are tackling a diet that has plagued one of us for many many years – how to eat gluten free.

With gluten free diets now being synonymous with celebrities, for our youngest writer her childhood was full of the struggle to steer clear from the dreaded wheat. Although home cooking meant meringue birthday cakes and rice krispie treat eggs for Easter (mum was a proper hero) when it came to eating out, gluten free never appeared as an option on menus. However this has drastically changed in the past few years with it being given the same status as vegetarian and vegan in some restaurants.

In Brixton of course there is the obvious Vozars which provides a fantastic set of dishes which are all gluten free so you don’t have to study the menu too carefully. But there are several other restaurants that provide low gluten meals without really advertising them, so we have made a short list and would be happy to add to it through suggestions from our readers. We have mentioned those dishes that are definitely low gluten or no gluten but there are always pitfalls, so we cannot guarantee no wheat. We also mention if they sell gluten free alcohol – this is beer as, of course, wine is fine!

1 Vozars – has a wide range of gluten free offerings from a Venison burger to Risotto cake. They also have desserts, like the best Victoria sponges I have ever eaten! They are light and smooth but not too sweet. The also offer gluten free beer too.

2. Ichi-ban Sushi - being a Japanese restaurant there is always a problem with soya sauce, however you can avoid this or ask if they have a low gluten option. This is one of our favourite restaurants which is now open on more days since Ichi-ban boy has taken over from his Dad. We particularly like the Donburi dishes and their homemade Teriyaki sauce as well of course as all the sushi.

3. Mama Lan – is Chinese so has the same soya sauce problem and there is an overall shorter series of dishes on offer to those who are gluten intolerant. We would recommend the spicy chicken wings and the ribbon tofu.

4. Honest Burger – now do a gluten free burger bun which you just ask for when ordering your burger (there is a slight price difference). It’s definitely one of the best gf burger buns we’ve ever had, and it doesn’t fall apart in your hands (horray!). We aren’t certain whether the chips are covered in flour – so please ask about that.

5. Wahaca - have a policy of telling you what to avoid if you have a high gluten intolerance level. This is completely different from providing a limited choice and we hope that others will follow this policy. They tell you to avoid the guacamole and the sweet potatoes (I think they coat them with flour when they fry them) but there are loads of things left to choose from. So try the steak and the corn tacos.

6. May Foods – It is easy to eat gluten free here as the main starch is cassava or yam. So be brave and try the Banku, the Kenkey (fermented corn dough) and the Jollof rice

Do let us know if we have missed any!

Wahaca

wahac08

address: Wahaca Brixton, 20 Atlantic Road, London SW9 8JA

telephone number +44 (0) 20 3763 6357

http://www.wahaca.co.uk/

We did say when we set up this blog that we would only review restaurants that were not part of a chain  … but we make the rules so we can break them. Also, the opening of Wahaca Brixton marks a further shift in what Brixton has to offer and does deserve some comment. It has taken over a large pub that used to be the Railway Hotel but was also part of the Brady’s chain of pubs and known as such by many locals. It was home to gigs, caucus meetings and other more shady goings on. There are some that still mourn its going but not so much by us. The beer wasn’t anything special; the carpet on the floor stuck to your feet if you rested for even a few minutes; and with the smoking you could cut the atmosphere with a knife. We spent many nostalgic and definitely misspent evenings there but, while there are different views about its loss in the eatinbrixton team, we do think that the new restaurant is an asset for Brixton. Continue reading

Butcher Shops in Brixton

Jones the Butcher,
Address: 1 Dulwich Rd, London SE24 0NT
020 7274 4629

http://jonesthebutcher.wordpress.com/

Opening Hours: Mon: 05:00 – 12:30; Tue: 05:00 – 12:30 Wed: 05:00 – 12:30 Thu: 05:00 – 13:00; Fri: 05:00 – 13:00; Sat: 09:00 – 13:00

Dombey & Son,
19 Market Row, Brixton, London, SW9 8LB
020 7274 1035
Opening Hours:: Tue: 07:30 – 17:30; Wed: 07:30 – 15:30; Thu: 07:30 – 17:30; Fri: 07:30 – 17:45; Sat: 06:30 – 17:45

Michael’s Meat Market
49 Atlantic Rd London SW9 8JL
020 7737 1069

There’s no shortage of places to buy meat in Brixton and we cannot claim to have tried them all. We are also not great meat eaters, at least when eating at home. Nevertheless, it’s time we had a look at butchers in our series of reports on Brixton food shops. The trouble is that while there are lots of shops selling meat, there are not that many I consider proper butchers. Also when you see a secondhand supermarket trolley full of carcasses being wheeled down Atlantic Road it does make you think of being a vegetarian. But there are places I have found that can be relied upon to provide value for money. Continue reading

Brixton Flavours Festival

So.Much.Food. From sushi and brownies to chicken and tortillas and crepes I have actually only recently regained my appetite after our gluttonous evening in preparation for the brand new festival Brixton Flavours. With the actual day not until Sunday 26th October we were invited to see what the whole thing was all about this week and also apparently to eat our whole body weight in food.

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Brixton Flavours states that it is a festival to introduce people to the wide variety of cuisines and restaurants that our beloved hometown has to offer. It was clear from the way the organisers spoke that that they were committed to making sure that they didn’t just go to the well-known haunts in town, but to showcase all that Brixton has on offer. This is something that we at Eat in Brixton are always striving to achieve so it’s brilliant to see others with such passion as well. The day ticket holders are invited to sample secret dishes not usually available on the menu from over 22 restaurants around Brixton (full list of those participating can be found here). You will also be given 15 Brixton pounds to spend in any of the participating restaurants, so incorporating the idea of boosting the local economy.

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Papi’s Pickles at Cornercopia

65 Brixton Village Market, Coldharbour lane,London, SW9 8PS

Book through Edible Experiences – http://www.edibleexperiences.com/p/216882085/Papis-Pickles/240001/South-Indian-Sundays-Brixton-Cornercopia

Breakfast 10.30 to 12.30

Brunch 12.30 to 3.30

In residence from 14th September to 2nd November

Papi’s Pickles have now joined a long line of guest chefs at Cornercopia. Appearing on Sundays Papi’s pickles offers a South Indian Sunday breakfast and brunch at reasonable times for the earlier risers and the laggards. The food is said to come from the Navaratri Festival, which means 9 nights in Sanskrit – Navaratri represents a celebration of the Goddess Amba and at this time of the year is referred to as Sharad Navaratri which is the most important festival. The reason for mentioning this is not only because the menu does but also because it comes with lots of dishes with different coloured peas and beans (black-eyed, mung chick, green moong, soya etc) which are integral to this celebration. All the food is vegetarian and gluten free or lactose free or both. There is a very limited set menu for both breakfast and lunch which offers either a coconut masal dosa with the spicy potato filling or two plain dosas. We chose one of each and shared but we advise you to have the filled ones unless you really do not like potatoes. Continue reading

Honest Burgers

HB01

Unit 12, Brixton Village, London SW9 8PR

www.honestburgers.co.uk

+44 (0)20 7733 7963

Mon: 12.00–16.00

Tues to Sat: 12.00–22.30

Sun: 12.00–22.00

Amazingly its nigh on three years since we reviewed Honest Burgers. We are not great burger eaters but, for a variety of reasons, we paid a couple of visits recently, so it seemed an opportune time to produce another review. A big change is that there are now six branches across London, from Tooting to King’s Cross. So the question is, does this mean they have taken their eye off the ball or will they still offer our previous judgement “… the best burger I have had south of the river”.

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