Shrub and Shutter

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address: 336 Coldharbour Lane, London SW9 8QH

telephone: 020 7326 0643

info@shrubandshutter.co.uk

http://theshrubandshutter.com/

This is a new venture – so new that it doesn’t have a large sign but just a discreet one fitted earlier on the day we visited. So when you get to Brixton Village, just keep walking down Coldharbour Lane but keep a look out, as it’s easy to miss. It lies in an unlikely position on a stretch that has plenty of restaurants (see our post about Majestic), but none of these are for the higher end of the food market. It’s opposite the Barrier Block, between a Morley’s Fried Chicken and a Fish and Chip shop. This is a new bar/restaurant with a narrow frontage but stretching back a long way so don’t be put off if it looks full from outside. The front part is really a bar with two tables for four and some bar stools around the edges. The back room has many more tables and is set for the evening dinner trade. It was opened by two entrepreneurs Chris Edwards and Dave Tregenza who have 25 years of experience in the industry. I don’t know whether that is by drinking or preparing the cocktails but they do describe themselves as drinks impresarios and we have to agree that they are very creative – more of that later. There’s been some discussion on the Urban 75 Brixton forum here.

We arrived at 7.00pm and sat in the front. We had just said goodbye to one of the family who has left to spend a year in New York, so were drowning our sorrows with a couple of cocktails. ss06The first was a “bandage of brothers” which arrives is a small neat glass accompanied by a bit of gun powder, a toy soldier and a plaster (snow queen vodka, poppy liqueur, wolfschmidt kummel, sherbet and  sweetener) – who can resist a drink which comes with  bit of gunpowder. Just throw it on the ground to produce a large bang and get rid of the day’s problems. It was a bit sweet for my taste but clearly meant for that alcopop market. Most of the wide range of cocktails are along these lies, complex but with interesting ingredients. Our second cocktail was relatively simple and, appropriately enough, was a “New York sour” (which was effectively a Manhattan with a red wine float) that came with a piece of toasted lemon. It was all frothy on top and delicious.

We were given water in some elegant glasses and contemplated the menu between sips. There is a selection of bar food, things called the beginnings, the middle and the end (which was only one dessert this week but we are promised at least three next week).

The cocktail creativity passes into the food as you choose from roast figs, curried aubergine or smoked haddock and pickled root for starters and a selection of wild mushrooms, seabass, wild roots confit, slow roasted pork belly or steaks and ribs. We shared a starter of figs wrapped in pigs belly (bacon to you and me), curd, and pistachio which was fantastic and the best part of the meal.ss05

There was a mix-up with the main courses, so the seabass with curried flavours and spinach arrived first with some wild roots (not ordered). The fish was really well cooked with crispy skin and a portion that didn’t fill the plate but was certainly enough for dinner.ss02

The second main dish arrived later and was the mushrooms with an oak and fern broth and caraway cracker. The broth comes steaming in a small glass teapot – not only looking adorable but tasting fantastic. Luckily we had a serving spoon to use to spoon it out. The mushrooms are very thick and juicy and were definitely a main course.ss03

This is not your cheap and cheerful restaurant but we think it might fill the space of the recently closed “Upstairs” (eatinbrixton restaurant of 2013). The cocktails (apart from at happy hour 5.00pm to 7.00pm) are between £7.00 and £10.00. Many contain ingredients that are surprising like jugged peas (for two people – so Richard take note we can share). It is said to contain: pea shoot and ham liquor, chicken stock, tomato consommé, lemon, asparagus and chicken skin as well vodka – sounds nearly a meal in itself. While we were there drinks passed by made in jelly containers and in surprising colours. They also have a small selection of wine by the bottle and the glass.

The food is not cheap and the total bill came to £60.77 including service. But we did not begrudge it at all as a bit of a treat and we will go back for more drinks, more food and another blast of Franz Ferdinand, the Clash or the very loud Hip Hop music.

If you are planning to eat later than 7.00pm we suggest you book a table.

Carioca

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address:   25-27 Market Row, Brixton,  SW9 8LD

http://www.primadonnabrixton.co.uk

This is formally Prima Donna and has now become definitely authentic Brazilian so it now has a USP (unique selling point).  It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and not much has changed except the menu since its earlier incarnation. There are a few tables inside and they are not crowded together so you can hear yourself think above the music – much more Brazilian than previously. There are also tables in the market corridor.

Breakfast is a full English or with a twist (smoked iberico pancetta, free-range scrambled eggs & baked tomato slices on ciabatta – showing multiple influences again as iberico is from Spain and pancetta from Italy). You can be very conservative with the hamburger made with Brazilian beef (seems a long way to go for that ingredient). But we arrived in the evening – 7.00pm to miss the crowds. There is a fixed price two course menu and we chose from that one as it had all the interest we needed. It also did offer an excessive choice, which is something we are both wary . For starters there were – spicy chicken wings. braised beef empanadas, beetroot and blue cheese salad and Pao de queijo with choizo (a sort of cheese roll usually made with cassava flour but we didn’t try this one). The main course were Feijoada described as Brazil’s national dish. A stew made from black beans cooked with an assortment of meat (chorizo, pork ribs, beef and pork); Chicken Caipira – braised chicken; Arepa, which is a flatbread made of maize filled (or they say stuffed) with pulled beef and vegetables; and finally Courgette, Potato and Leek Frittata, which is an explanation in itself. THe main menu also has more grilled items like spare ribs and steak and cassava chips.

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We chose the empanadas and beetroot salad to start and the Feijoada and Chicken as the main courses. The beetroot salad we cannot fault. It looked pretty on the plate and the salty cheese cut the sweetness of the beetroot and the little nuts (it said sunflower but they tasted like pine nuts). The dressing was aged balsamic vinegar and I thought all balsamic was aged so in the next iteration of the menu they need to say how many years for us to be impressed. The beef empanadas were hot in temperature but not in terms of spiciness. Empanadas look like small Cornish pasties but the pastry is made of cornmeal and they are fried rather than baked in the oven. I could have done with a little more spice and the beef was more “pulled” than braised, so it was a bit stringy. I still enjoyed them and three was really one too many but my companion wolfed down the remainder.

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It is very difficult to make Feijoada look pretty. It looks like a cassoulet and is a dish to use up those leftover pieces of meat in a filling stew. Traditionally it is served with white rice and oranges but here it came minus orange. This dish came with farofa  – according to Wikipedia this is an essential ingredient when serving Feijoada and typical recipes use raw manioc flour to be toasted with butter, salt, and bacon until golden brown. It tasted like corn and not that interesting but clearly authentic. The Chicken Caipira is again traditional and comes from the landlocked states of Brazil, especially Goiás. It consists of braised chicken which is seasoned with ginger, garlic and spring onion.  The meat was very easy to get off the bone and the sauce which has coriander in it went well with the rice. But the spices were definitely subtle and perhaps a little more ginger would have made it really zingy. Portions were large but not overwhelming and there was certainly enough on each plate for us not to even consider a dessert.

carioca02We washed this down with water, one capirinha, a beer (Brahma of course) and glass of wine. I didn’t like the first glass of tempranillo so they replaced it with a Chilean Merlot which tasted, as the description said, full of blackberries. The total bill came to £40.76 without service.

The definitive choice of name and menu means that more of South America is now represented in the Market and this complements the hefty Colombian presence in Brixton Village.

Cafe Le Euro

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address: Eurolink Business Centre,  49 Effra Rd,  London  SW2 1BZ
telephone: 020 7733 9346

This is a café on the way from central Brixton up towards Tulse Hill. So it’s a little out of the way and difficult to spot as it is within the distinctive white Eurolink Business Centre (previously Brixton’s Synagogue). The café is well advertised in the car park. It is a small light venue that is open for breakfast and lunch. They provide sandwiches for the people who work on the premises, which provides space for many small business units. This means there are likely to be a few people sitting around taking a break. We  decided to go for lunch and were greeted by a friendly face who explained all the menu and makes a few suggestions. The table tops are also double as menus, so you can review your choices while you wait. The walls also provide a bit of entertainment, so you can guess the country where each photo comes from while you wait.

The menu consists of cold and hot dishes, desserts and a selection of smoothies with a helpful list of calories with them. We chose from the hot menu which has a strong Italian influence – Spaghetti amatriciana, spaghetti pescatora,  Pollo al forno (Chicken with rice and vegetables) and a spinach and tomato or a lamb lasagne. We chose the pescatora and the vegetable lasagne. We were asked if we were happy to have the spaghetti spicy. This is hearty food – a large plate completely heaped with spaghetti and the lasagne was a large slab. The spaghetti was OK with enough fish of various types to justify the description although, in the event, not particularly spicy. The lasagne was more disappointing – it needed more seasoning and it wasn’t what was advertised on the menu – not a bit of spinach or tomato in sight. We were asked what we thought of the food and mentioned the menu change. It seems this batch was actually courgette and other stuff, so it was hard to see the filling as it didn’t stand out from the béchamel sauce. The saving of the dish was the reasonable helping of side salad, which had an interesting pesto dressing.

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euro02We drank a coffee and tapwater (which came with ice) but there were lots of smoothies to choose from.

We were absolutely full and didn’t finish either of the plates but we will probably only go back to try to breakfast for a little while and will certainly ask for more information about each dish. They seem to be a socially responsible as there is a post on Brixton Buzz about their contribution to the Macmillan Coffee Morning and the coffee was good, so it may be more of a place for a mid-morning snack.

The hot dishes were all £5.50 and because of the mix up with the lasagne they didn’t charge for ourcoffee, so it came to £11.00.

Brixton’s Favourite Restaurant – 2014 Winner

We polled the public (who follow this blog) to see what their favourite restaurant in Brixton was. Last year’s winner Upstairs has sadly closed (not due to a lack of custom). This was a surprise result as it was not in the vibrant Brixton Village but a few yards from Lidl on Acre Lane. This year the list of restaurants had grown so we had to cut it down to a reasonable list but incorporated some of our favourites and a range of cost and culinary offering.

Although we have tweeted the results we thought we would also mark it with a blog post too. As our readers know we try to ensure our anonymity when we visit a restaurant and therefore could not tell the winner in person. We decided to stop waiting for a selfie from the staff at the winning restaurant and have gone ahead with the post. If we do receive one we will insert it here.

We left the poll up for a couple of weeks and we would like to announce  that the winner was ……….dah, dah …. SALON………. Again the winner was not in Brixton Village but is in the heart of the market –  Market Row. Salon offers a choice of small plates to accompany a drink or a full set meal. It focusses on good local and well sourced produce which you can also buy in the ground floor deli (see our posts).  Like last year’s winner this is not cheap food but is clearly a favourite for those special occasions and the food is really good so worth the outlay. We have often noticed the birthday and anniversary celebrations and with the bigger tables and improved kitchen this is the place to choose.

Although Salon was the winner it was closely followed by a Brixton staple – Franco Manca. The place where there is always a queue but it doesn’t take long to get a seat and the pizza is definitely one of the best in London. Almost every restaurant on the list did get a vote so clearly they are someone’s favourite although the vote this year was more limited thank the last one as we put better security on it so restaurants couldn’t keep voting for themselves.

Even though Salon was the winner the coming Brixton Flavours – http://www.brixtonflavours.com/ – will provide a chance for all to showcase their wares.

 

Casa Sibilla

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Address: 67/68 Brixton Village, Coldharbour LaneLondon, SW9 8PS

Telephone number – 077 9249 2112

http://www.casa-sibilla.com/

email: info@casa-sibilla.com

Monday: Closed, Tuesday: Closed, Wednesday: 11am-5pm, Thursday: 11am-11.30pm, Friday: 11am-11.30pm, Saturday: 11am-11.30pm, Sunday: 11am-5pm

Casa Sibilla is an authentic Italian restaurant in the heart of Brixton Village. The market used to be full of sharks and fish of varying colours with vegetables that had to be boiled for days and then still seemed uncooked. It now has Italian restaurants – not only Italian but which actually say they serve food from particular areas of Italy. Casa Sibilla serves us food from Puglia and Piedmont. We have visited on and off but had not reviewed it for some time – so here goes. We booked – yes booked – on Opentable. This is certainly more organised than they were – or anyone is – in Brixton Village. Continue reading

Lidl, Acre Lane

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71 Acre Ln, London SW2 5TN

I wouldn’t describe myself as a great fan of Lidl, but for some things it’s really useful. I rate their parmesan cheese and some consumer tests have given high marks to their olive oil. And it’s cheap. There’s also the entertainment value in checking out what random items they’ve got on special offer for that week. Recently I bought a weighing machine for the bathroom and a blood pressure monitor at prices that, compared to those at regular shops for such items, are ridiculously low. Their fruit and vegetables are often good quality as well and for something like gazpacho you can get a really great value meal, without any compromise on taste.

Continue reading

Elephant

Elephant02Address: Brixton Village Coldharbour Lane, Brixton SW9 8PS

Telephone: 07715 439857

email: info@elephantcafe.co.uk

http://elephantcafeonline.blogspot.co.uk/

We discovered that on warm Friday evenings when Brixton Village is stuffed that there are always places to be found furthest away from the main entrance. These are a little warmer than the ones near the breezy entrance but you don’t have to wait for a table. When we came across Elephant it was almost empty with large and small tables available. It is too small to have many inside so they are all in the alleyway.

Elephant serves “authentic Pakistani street food” and has a short list on its menu but even so it is hard to choose. There are lamb or vegetable samosas which you can have with chickpea curry, a vegetable pakora and thalis vegetarian, chicken or lamb) and similarly curries.

Our favourite has been the vegetable thali so that is what we chose again. It comes as a round dish divided into spaces with dhal, rice, vegetable curry, a tomato salad and a cucumber raita. The vegetable curry is soft aubergine, sturdy potato which is not sloppy in an onion sauce. The flavours are fantastic nothing fancy like a coriander seed hitting you between the eyes but all clear and yet subtle. All the grains in the rice fell away from each other but on top it was a little crispy. The dhal was hot with chilli and with a good sprinkling of garlic. This is comfort food but was also really full of flavour – despite the sweated brow mostly caused by the ambient temperature rather than the spice.

They serve water and a variety of soft drinks including lassi and masala chai – they are BYO …but they ask for a £2.00 supplement per person if you do bring your own wine or beer. Now for an expensive bottle of wine that might …just might ..be OK but if you just bought a £1.00 bottle of beer then this is really extortionate and we did point that out.

The bill came to £17.00 without any drinks – we just stuck to the water.