Open everyday from 12.30 pm to 11 pm: except Tuesday 6-11 pm
This is not the first time we have visited Franzina Trattoria; you can find our other reviews here when we ate in and here for when we had a home delivery. On this occasion, we went with two friends, so we could try more dishes. We went on a Tuesday after the bank holiday for the Queen’s funeral and it was relatively empty, as were all the restaurants down Coldharbour Lane. The decor has not changed, stripped back and with most tables not too rocky – a perennial problem across Brixton. There is a reasonable menu on one side of the table mat and on the other side is the drinks, making it possible to re-check what you were eating. There is also an extra menu of specials which is also on the blackboard. This Sicilian-style trattoria serves small plates (some not so small) and homemade pasta with various sauces.
If you thought this was just a drop-by following a night out that involved too many cocktails and beers, then think again. This is definitely an upmarket kebab house in what was the vegan cupcake establishment. There’s a wall of glass bricks hiding some of the kitchen, with tables (some very rickety) and chairs spilling out into the side entrance to Market Row.
You probably need to book, as we had to beg for a table at 6.30pm and only had 40 minutes to order and eat. The menu has starters or sharers, mains and potentially a dessert, but we were not hungry enough to even look. It’s one of a small chain (5 currently) but the menus differ between locations. The paper menu did not reflect everything on offer and offered drinks that were unavailable. So don’t be too downhearted there are likely to be surprises, if your chosen tipple has run out.
We concentrated on main courses, but the starters/sharing plates were salads, breads and a variety of chips with a cheesy fondue to dip them in. Most main courses are meat, with a couple of veggie dishes (paneer and aubergine). We chose from the pork and chicken varieties – I had a Dirty Bab (menu description was almost an essay – a very naughty Pork Ribeye Shawarma, slow-cooked for 15 hours with chilli pork jus, sweet pickled cucumbers, fries, chermoula mayo & our signature fondue sauce).
My companion had a Free-Range Fried Chicken Shish Kebab – with no description at all!
Meals come in a wooden box with wooden cutlery, which you definitely need if you are lining your stomach for a good night out and wearing your party best. Trying to put the bread around the filling is clearly a skill that we have yet to fully master, at least until you have eaten some of the insides. Each layer of the kebab was a surprise including the hidden fries inside the Dirty Bab. The sweet pickled cucumber provided a bit of bite and the pork was definitely a step up from most kebabs, soft and a little sweet from the mayo. The fries were (I suppose) to be dipped into the little tub of fondue, but by the time I had thought of it most of them had disappeared (again a good bit of bite if you eat reasonably quickly). So I spooned out the cheesy sauce – it was delicious and full of… calories.
The free-range chicken kebab was equally stuffed and required careful manipulation to make it manageable. Not totally sure what was in there but red onion and fresh coriander were spotted, which helps any dish. No chips with this choice, but there was enough to share with the Dirty Bab.
We drank a beer and a lemon and cucumber drink that was refreshing but sweet – maybe a touch too sweet. The whole meal came to just under £40, so definitely not a cheap eat.
We do hope that you will not end up in a local hospital as an inpatient, but if you or a relative do then this is a review for you. One of us ended up last year in St Thomas’s and recently one was admitted to King’s. Neither admission was for a life-threatening illness and the current one at King’s is a broken bone (tourist-related injury from a notorious fracture black spot in Sicily). My advice is to look at your feet and not the fantastic view when descending from the Juno Temple. But back to the menus.
My expectation of hospital food really relates to school dinners, soggy veg and prunes every other day so read this with a view to my very low expectations. But King’s has a fantastic menu. It extends to six A4 pages – see a couple of examples below. Lots of options, including surprising vegan ones like apple crumble and custard. The choice is pretty overwhelming at first until you get the hang of it. There are sections for starters, fish, pork, chicken, beef and vegetarian or vegan. In comparison, St Thomas’s has a much narrower choice with much less detail.
Back to King’s where the food is cook-chill (most hospitals have this system) run by key workers who provide an essential ingredient to NHS care. Cook-chill means it is cooked, off-site usually, and reheated on the ward. This method does have an effect on the make-up and taste of the dish. Fish and chips for instance are not battered fish, it is breaded. The chips are mostly flabby as you might expect as they get steamed like all those Deliveroo orders from fast food outlets (see here as an example). You always get a vegetable – peas with the fish and chips – and luckily you get a spoon to chase them around the plate.
My favourite dish so far is the fish mornay – steamed fish, root vegetable mash and mashed potato (a particular favourite of mine) with a cheesy custard over the fish. The fish is fine – occasionally overcooked, but the cheese adds seasoning. I would like a bowlful of the mashed veg – carrots, swede and other roots. The mashed potato is not stuffed with butter, but it is smooth and generally not like wallpaper paste. My fellow patients also recommended the tomato pasta and beef curry.
There are lots of desserts including fresh fruit. For a tried and tested and really delicious one try the apple crumble and custard. The apples are caramelised just right, but not too flabby, and the crumble has a bit of a bite – I suspect some fibre to keep you regular. Although the custard is a bit thin it makes the pudding much easier to eat.
For those who want lighter fare try the tomato soup. It is real tomato soup like you might make from scratch at home, and although I am partial to Heinz (my go-to when under the weather), this was tastier, not as sweet, and felt a lot healthier as it wasn’t as smooth.
Breakfast is a bit of a mystery as I was nil-by-mouth on several days until the clinicians worked out that they couldn’t fit me into the theatre, so I had limited opportunities for early morning eating. Porridge and black coffee were passable. The porridge a bit on the sloppy side and the coffee a step up from conference coffee, but a long way from Costa. But this is a minor quibble as on the whole everything was much better than I thought King’s would be. As meals break up the day, it was a pleasant surprise that they tasted good too.
The catering staff are really helpful in making a choice and will dig something out if you missed the ordering time. All this food was at no cost, although I still hope none of our readers get to sample it.
Whipped is a new addition to Brixton Village. It is on a corner opposite Le Brixton Deli on the way to Lost in Brixton. There is another shop in Covent Garden. They focus on four things – baked cheesecake, cookie dough (never understood this), blondies, and brownies. The choice is tough, even though we decided to only look at the cheesecake, but there is a really helpful person who can help you meander to a choice.
The decision is fruit or not (blueberry, apple crumble etc) or nuts (peanut butter) or caramel (on most of them but there is Dulce de Leche as well) or chocolate (comes in most of them but there is red velvet, cookies and cream with white chocolate)……. and these are the ones I can remember. Lots of choice, so an excuse to go back for more.
We chose apple crumble and peanut butter. The slices are as American as the choice – very large. We got them to takeaway and we advise on more sustainable packaging especially as it was really hard to open the plastic containers without getting your hands all creamy.
The apple crumble had a good dose of apple and was delicious.
The peanut butter was a tower of delicious flavours – crunchy bottom, a dark chocolate brownie then baked cheesecake and topped with a fluffy cream with peanut butter oozing – a very good idea as peanut butter can be very cloying. It was topped with colourful mini Reece’s pieces for crunch and an extra burst of peanut butter.
We have commented on the size – we ate them for a delicious, but totally unhealthy dinner. We advise that you buy two and share over two dinners if only to save on the waistline and avoid leaving any on the plate. They cost £10.00 for two.
Hidden in Electric Lane, so no-one visits but just orders takeaways or deliveries. They have a “handler” who collects the delivery orders, so that the restaurant is not crowded with the delivery people. It is red and white, has a long open kitchen with very busy people frying, putting on toppings and bagging up. Of course there is the limitless soda fountain and the rather lethal milkshakes. Everyone knows what Five Guys offers – its “famous ‘boardwalk style’ fries, (hand-cut on site each day and cooked in 100% peanut oil), add spice for Cajun fries. In the entrance to the restaurant bags of potatoes are piled up and on the blackboard they give you the name and place where they come from for the days chips, as we call them. For us they came from Myrtle Grange Farm in Yorkshire. They also have burgers, Hot-dogs and Sandwiches.
We are not going to describe the endless combinations of burgers, but assume they have everything you want, same goes for the beef hot dogs and sandwiches include a BLT, grilled cheese and a veggie offering. The list of milkshakes also seems endless.
We chose a Hot dog (with tomato, mustard and pickle), a bacon burger (with pickle and relish), one portion of chips (sorry fries), a soda and a malted vanilla milkshake. Drinks come first, so beware of the milkshake which while absolutely delicious can fill you up before the main event. In terms of calories you are likely to expend more on sucking through the paper (!) straw than take in from the drink.
The meals came slowly as it was 6.45pm and clearly everyone in Brixton was hungry so the takeaway and delivery orders were rolling in. But that gave us time to see the choreography. There was one other couple in the restaurant eating very slowly and the two of us. We were glad to eat in as this sort of food doesn’t travel well, as it steams inside the packets.
We were full before we were half way through, but we doggedly pressed on. This is something that you need to try every now and again – cholesterol willing. The bread was sweetish, the chips definitely different and the meat just right. We were full and happy and took our remaining drinks with us for the long walk home.
We visited this restaurant shortly after it opened as there was a buzz in Brixton Village. It is a simple, very understated venue with an open kitchen and tables and stool (you might be very lucky to get a chair). Seating is limited inside, so we sat in the alleyway. No blankets are provided, so in chilly weather wear a coat. The place was crowded with people waiting for tables or takeaway, but we managed to arrive at just the right time and slid onto a two-person table. Be prepared to wait, but waiting just means looking at what others have ordered, so it is a benefit and people didn’t have to wait long. This is part of a chain (3 locations) and Brixton does have a slightly different menu, but not much. It describes itself as providing traditional Cantonese roast meats, lo mein (tossed or stirred noodles) and dim sum. Meat runs throughout the menu with varied forms of duck, chicken or pork. These can be served alone or combined with noodle soup, preserved vegetables or variations of noodles. You can also choose wontons, dumplings, fishballs or bao. They have a few vegetables, and I mean a few, so vegetarians should probably shy away.
We chose what was described as a Brixton Special – the Three Treasures platter (Duck, Char Siu, and Crispy Pork) with jasmine rice and pak choi – washed down with Brixton lager
The meat (and we are not big meat eaters) was fantastic. The duck (in the middle) was crisp and unctuous (always wanted to use that word), the pork (on the left) was indeed crispy and the char siu (on the right) was slightly sweet and aromatic. Rice and pak choi were added to make it to the status of a meal and helped to soak up some of the juices on the platter. The pak choi was crispy but not too difficult to eat with chopsticks.
The bill came to £40 including a 10% service charge and included two beers (£9.00). It provided what it says on the menu and was really tasty. We definitely will visit again to try some of the other offerings with less of a meat content, now we know they are all tasty. We also might visit for a late lunch, which will allow more lingering without the guilt of seeing hungry people hanging around.
This is the place we all knew as “Three Little Birds” which has changed its name, some of the menu and a little of the decor. It isn’t so dark as it used to seem although the menus especially for drinks are written in a faint, and very small font. The waitress told us to use our phone torch as that is what most people did. Maybe the sensible thing is to just change the font as the solution is a little intrusive to your fellow diners. This is now a restaurant rather than a bar. Diners sit pretty close which has pros and cons. Are they looking Covid-peaky? Against which you can play off the benefit of seeing what they ordered and the size of the portions. Our neighbours were very helpful – and as this is a small plates menu – size definitely matters. But first the drinks as we have no photos. We ate in January, but even though one of us stuck to the no alcohol rule there was an voluntary amendment of Saturdays off. So we ordered a St Elizabeth Martini and a Dry 75 – we won’t describe them as they may have changed but they lasted throughout our meal. We abstained from Vegan January – one step too far on this occasion.
On to the menu – small plates with nibbles. Nibbles are what you have waiting for the main event so we skipped them and went for the dinner small plates followed by dessert. As you will see they are very pretty and some are really tasty, but do not go in hungry before your pay packet arrives. This is strictly for those who do not look at the cost of the dishes.
The menu has a Jamaican feel with ingredients and dishes you would recognise and some that are definitely new on the same plate. We started with slow -cooked goat croquettes with plantain ketchup which had a bit of a kick and some goat cheese croquettes that came with a beautiful beetroot flower. These were dishes that we thought you ought to try – crispy but with good flavour and the slight saltiness went well with our drinks.
We then ordered the seared duck with cavolo nero and, although there was a promise of plums we didn’t see any – it was more sweet potato, but we were not arguing with that – it was delicious. There was also a promise of Jerk, but it wasn’t a highlight and we didn’t miss it. Although this is a small plate there was easily enough for three – especially if one of the three likes Cavollo Nero (I don’t). Then we ordered a Brixton staple – described as salted cod but was definitely ackee and saltfish with breadfruit and tomato – and no chili – however we also liked that too.
We also ordered baby carrots – described as with jerk butter – again we didn’t notice the chilli. There was another dish but we now can’t remember what it was. We knew that we were already full, but for our readers we ventured on to the dessert menu – should really have shared. We ordered from the short list a cheesecake with limoncello curd and ginger together with banana bread. They were completely contrasted with the light cake against the heavy cheesecake – we had to roll home.
We did warn you about the costs – alcoholic drinks cost about £11.00 plus. The total bill came to £100 which is a lot for anything other than a celebratory night out. The food was good, no more than just good – it was excellent – and there was a Jamaican flair from some ingredients, but it has moved away from the hot depth of flavour that Caribbean food has to offer. But for those who want a slow intro this is definitely for them. We will go back but will take more people – a small plate is for three and then the bill will be cheaper.
Upstairs at the Department Store is a members club that offers a social space and opportunities to discover new friends. The joining list seems to be long as one of us waited a few months before finally being admitted. We are not clubbing people – any sort of clubbing people – but this place offered us the opportunity to book some social spaces for private hire and some spectacular views over Brixton (summer only). The bar is always packed and the restaurant offers a range of interesting food and is linked to the two on the ground floor – Canova Hall and Bellefields (both reviewed in this blog). We went with Brixton friends so we could try as many things as possible, but that wasn’t how it ended up.
Two of us chose gnocchi and the other two the beef tatare. The gnocchi comes with beurre noisette, a parmesan crisp, and wild mushrooms. Gnocchi are always a bit hit and miss – these were light and fluffy, and dare I say it this early into the menu, one of the best things we ate. The beef tartare came with a cointreau cured egg yolk, caponata and a sesame crisp with a sprinkling of pink leaves. The dish was fine but the main complaint was – where is the beef? It was more of a veggie tartare – nice but an affront to the trades description act.
Again our group went for just two dishes – the filet mignon and the duck. The beef came with spinach, brioche, porcini hash browns (delicious) and what was called a “truffle demi-glaze”. All these extra ingredients were good, but the beef could have been rested for longer as it was a bit tough despite having the right sharp knife. The duck was similar – needed more resting and a bit more of a crisp skin.
We liked the spinach and chips and those plates were empty at the end of this course.
We did order desserts but forgot to take a photo. Posh apple crumble, sticky toffee pudding, and an even posher creme brulee. We liked them all.
We washed everything down with sparkling water, a bottle of red wine, 2 glasses of white wine and a sherry. All of which were expensive (£77.50) but we did choose an expensive-ish red. The total bill came to £326.81 for four including a service charge. But this was a whole meal, lasting a few hours and very relaxed. If you choose alcohol wisely then the bill will be significantly reduced – about £62 per person. Members only can make a reservation so you may be treated as a guest. In that case do not turn it down.
Just in case you are thinking about an Indian takeaway – then consider this one
If you look for this restaurant on food delivery sites (Just-Eat) it will be the one called The Brixton Cafe. They serve a long list of tasty treats and if you are hungry you will definitely over-order – but then reheated the following day is good too.
We ordered via Just-Eat but you can order and pick it up. The menu we chose follows but there is enough to choose from without being overwhelming: Punjabi samosa chaat (crushed samosa on a bed of chickpeas), tandoori broccoli (see later), Alleppey vegetable curry (with raw mango and coconut), bombay aloo (with cumin), lamb hyderabadi dum biryani (speaks for itself), bread – lacha paratha – and a dessert – watalappam
This is a short description because it was all delicious. We have ordered again, but this time left out the tandoori broccoli – it was a bit hard and not enough of the tandoor spices stuck to this vegetable. Pomegranate seeds gave a sweet burst to some very hot dishes. They do not hold back on the spicing – even when a dish is described as moderately hot so have a tissue or three handy.
The watapallam is a steamed egg custard with jaggery (cane sugar), coconut milk and cardamom – a sweet treat which was very welcome.
The bill came to £52.38 but gave us three separate meals. We have already returned and it remains on our list for the future – well done for introducing another good Indian to Brixton.
We have tried to get a table by just dropping by and didn’t have any luck so this time we booked online for lunch. Saturday lunchtime is not so busy and there were tables (inside and out) and counter service while we were around. This is a minimalist restaurant – a few photos on the walls and a bar along the wall. It is in the space that used to be Seven. It started in a market elsewhere and moved to Brixton in the summer. The website says that the pasta is made daily with Italian zero zero flour and all the sauces are made in- house and that fresh pasta goes better with butter based sauces and fillings (they say).
They have antipasti, pasta (all fresh of course) dolci (desserts) and even a kids meal section. We chose some foccacia and polpettine di melanzane con bagnacauda di peperoni (aubergine balls with pepper sauce). The foccacia was crispy and salty on the outside and came with olive oil and we wished we had had more to dip into. The aubergine was very good but mainly because the sauce was delicious – I want to know the recipe.
The black pasta with mussels was fantastic – salt might be added as the only salt is the anchovy in the sauce – but that is a little niggle.
We drank the house red and a blood orange San Pellegrino – water came from the tap. The food came to £32.75 and because i was not at all keen on the biscuit addition to the pasta, they offered a free dessert, but by that stage we were too full. We can’t remember what the drinks cost. We will be going back, but will choose wisely and check for potential sweet additions to the pasta mains.