Telephone: 020 7733 8855
Although the restaurant overlooks Acre Lane the door is in Branksome Road and even with these instructions it can be missed. There is a doorbell just round the corner of Acre Lane and a discreet notice. Gone is loved Upstairs and to replace it we have a bar with food with the unlikely and unlovely name of the Beast of Brixton. The first noticeable change is the speakeasy-looking door on Branksome Road is now open if you push it. Up the stairs you find the same two small rooms one with a bar and the other an extension with seating for about 20 people. The interior is different with only the long beige couches left on either floor from the previous owners. The walls are now covered with colours and on each floor there is a feature wall of silver or flock skulls. As I said an unlovely name and unlovely walls.
This is really a bar with snacks which are small or large plates. The bar has a few drinks options – cocktails, wine and beer – but limited doesn’t mean uninteresting. The cocktails are cheap by Brixton standards and so are the other drinks and they sell it in the right quantities, i.e. 125ml glasses of wine are available here.
Each week they are now going to have a pop-up chef. We missed the Japanese street food and were there on the first night of El Marinero. Pop-ups seem to be all street food that can be prepared in the very small kitchen on the top floor so they will probably be chefs used to a van at a street market. Again the choice is limited – about 6 small and 5 large plates. Plates is a misnomer as they are served in a cardboard box. As El Marinero implies this week it is Spanish fish dishes like whitebait, scallops and chorizo and squid. Large plates are served with spinach salad (well more of a garnish) and rice.
We chose scallops and chorizo and the squid with a small plate of fried chillies. The chillies are not for the faint-hearted. The first bite is sweet and warm but that is before you get to the seeds which are fantastically hot. In fact the menu did warn that it was hot but as we left we noticed they had changed it to “very hot”. They came with a sweet tomato sauce and a lemony mayonnaise. The squid was cooked perfectly with enough flaked salt and pepper to make it interesting. The scallops were also cooked well, soft but not slimy.
The chef came out and gave us an extra dish – whitebait – which was to the same high standard.
We drank a Verdita (coriander, vodka and green chilli) which was a shock at first but very interesting and not too much like an alcopop, a rum, sorrel and spiced hibiscus (which was too sweet) and a glass of white wine. The whole lot came to £30.00. So for a fast food and cocktail restaurant this is reasonable value. But this is not fine dining but the food was good and the menu will change each week so there will always be something new to try.