Brixton – Washington DC

address: 901 U St. NW,  WASHINGTON, DC 20009
telephone: 202-560-5045

http://www.brixtondc.com/

Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery? We decided to see if it was after noting a post on Urban75 (here) that there was a Brixton bar and restaurant in Washington. We were also interested in the ‘gentrification’ issues that the bars in this area had generated, as they seemed similar to those being discussed in Brixton blogs.

The Brixton is a “concept” bar with food. It was opened by a company called Brixton that herald from San Francisco and they make clothes. We believe (the barman told us) that they were originally from South London. But this is not any part of South London that we have been in. The surrounding streets were part of a mainly black community (so that’s the same). In fact Obama chose Ben’s Chili Bowl which is just along the street from the Brixton to emphasise his black credentials and there is a monument to Afro-americans who fought in the War of Independence. The area is now being “gentrified” with new businesses mainly being run by white entrepreneurs – hence the discussion thread on Urban75.

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Veranda

Address: 30 Acre Lane, London SW2

telephone: 020 7733 2335

email:  info@veranda-london.com

http://veranda-london.com/

Veranda describes itself as a restaurant, cocktail bar and art gallery – and they are right. The entrance is a small hall (so people can be stopped if they are not invited) and the first part of the long room is  the bar with small tables and some (but not much) comfortable seating. Most people cluster at the bar. At the back are the same small tables but now covered with white linen table cloths with white linen napkins. These tables are overlooked by the disc jockey who peers through an opening surrounded by a picture frame. In fact it took a couple of minutes to realise that this was not part of the art gallery on the surrounding walls.  The gallery on our visit contained paintings – some predictable – red shimmering vistas and African images – but some very interesting photographs of people and landscapes.

We usually talk about the food first but this is not in the rules and the cocktails are prolific and between 5 and 8 some are cheaper than usual (£4.50 vs £7.50)pm and luckily we arrived at 7.30. The cocktail list is actually a book. We didn’t count but there must be more than ten a page and down the margin there is a very helpful guide of how long the drink is using glass shapes. This alleviates the difficult task of trying to guess from the ingredients. We chose a rose and fresh lychee martini and a beer (hard to find at the back of the “book”). The martini was like a martini because of the shape of the glass and smelt very strongly of rose and tasted of lychee. It was also very pretty with a cherry at the bottom of the glass giving the cloudy liquid a rosy glow. I suspect it was very alcoholic (it also contains gin) – it is very difficult to tell in this alcopop. It was lovely but I doubt that I could drink too many because of the sweetness but there are lots more to choose from.

For the food we would have had several of the things on the menu as there was gourmet oxtail, jerk chicken, 3 fish curry, curry goat, and more and more. We chose a plate to share starting with ackee and saltfish parcels. There were three of them (we were warned) – small packets of fried filo pastry. We liked them but the ackee was a bit lacking but the taste of saltfish came through and it was an easy way of eating them. Our plate was the Veranda Supreme which had curry goat and ital curry both in a crispy pastry basket and jerk chicken and Escovitch fish. This all came with rice and peas, coleslaw and fried golden plantain. The fish was hot and spicy – particularly the lavish chilli. The jerk chicken was soft and the sauce was hot but not too fierce. Altogether a good tasting choice but next time I will go for the goat curry. It was complexly flavoured and not too hot so all the flavours came through. Rice and peas — well what can go wrong. The plantain was sweet and had been made sweeter by a syrup. We did share but we didn’t manage to finish the plate.

There were few desserts available – only one – apple and mango crumble. This was not like any crumble we have ever had. It was a hot and sweet sauce and covered with a biscuit crumb topping which arrived with a small portion of delicious ginger ice cream. But on the whole we wouldn’t order this again. The mango was completely lost and perhaps they should just stick to apple.

The night we were there we were waiting for a famous visitor – Sir John Holt – who didn’t arrive while we were there but despite the preparation needed for this from the waiters they were still charming to us. We ate from the a la carte menu but if you book in advance you can eat a mid-week feast cheap (14.50 for two courses or 17.50 for three courses). Our meal was £25.00 per person including the drinks (a cocktail and three beers). We didn’t book but t was not that busy before about 8.15 – after that time you would need to book.

KAFF

address:64-68 Atlantic Rd, Brixton SW9 8PY

telephone: 020 7274 5373

email:  info@kaff-bar.co.uk

http://www.kaff-bar.co.uk

Open since September this little cafe/bar offers free wifi and is open across the day and at the weekend offers live music and djs until 2am. It has comfy sofas and small tables and during the day is laid back with laptop users and buggies. It gets fuller in the evenings and particularly the weekend. The service is friendly and helpful. The food is Caribbean but they have an arrangement with Ichi-ban Sushi which is jus down the road to extend their menu at the weekend. The Caribbean food is made by Julie – who cooks off site as there is no working kitchen as yet. This is still a work in progress.

During the week its coffee and cakes (mostly Jamaican) or beer, rum and Brixton brewed ginger beer (hot and cold) and Po-Boys (filled baguettes with salad) and a select Caribbean menu. They serve all the usuals – jamaica patties, jerk chicken, goat curry, rice and peas with cabbage or callaloo in cheap “mini meals”. But we chose a meat plate to share. This is probably something that would go down well with beer rather than our choice of an Americana and banana flavoured hot chocolate but it was after exercise and 4.00pm so not really alcohol time. The plate was easily enough to share and included three different small patties (meat, fish and veggie), barbecued wings, plantain and dumplings  – all served with chilli or sweet chili sauce. All, except the dumpling, were great. There was enough sauce on the wings and they slipped easily off the bone, the plantains was sweet and the patties interesting. But It takes a lot of sauce or liquid to make a dumpling to go down. I won’t be ordering a banana flavoured hot chocolate again either.

This is a cheap place for food – not overwhelming in size or cost. On Fridays they even have two pints for a fiver. It was about £6.50 per person for our meal and drinks. We liked the ambiance and will certainly return probably still for coffee and free wifi but also for the free cake club on Sunday – just take along your own cake to compete.

Bamboula

BamboulaAddress: 12 Acre Lane SW2 5SG

Telephone number: (020) 7737 6633

http://www.bamboulas.net/

You would have thought that Brixton was full of Caribbean restaurants but it isn’t and they only really began appearing as real restaurants rather than jerk chicken take-aways about ten years ago and only relatively recently have they been well used and not on a knife-edge of bankruptcy. Bamboula is someone’s Caribbean dream with its green and yellow bamboo and grass hut decor. Unfortunately it was raining and not the warm shower but the relentless stuff that wets all the way through. However, the restaurant made up for that by being cheerful and with welcoming staff. It was a Friday evening and reasonably full – not difficult as it is small with about 8 tables and a bar. The clientel were couples and groups of young women with  high proportion of people from the Caribean which gave us the confidence that this was the real thing. The menu was short enough to be interesting but not overwhelming and it has an unusual list of soft and mixed, mostly rum based, drinks that the Friday nighters were quaffing.

There is the usual Caribean fare of jerk chicken and ackee and saltfish. We chose goat curry and chicken but there are vegetarian options too. The curry was tasty and was accompanied by callaloo rice (like spinach) but the chicken was a bit dry. The portions were large, so large we could only manage a main course. Not particularly expensive – about £12 for a main course and a soft drink (soursop juice). So if you are intending to go to the Ritzy stop in for a quick and filling meal. If you are around for lunch they offer an all you can eat  – I don’t know if that would not be much of a bargain as only a little goes a long way!

This is a quick addition to the review – we do not want to change any of our views on the food in this restaurant but on our last visit we saw a change in the service so thought it should be noted. We visited just before Christmas with a group of six people early in the evening before going to the theatre for the festive outing. We wanted something quick before hopping on the tube. The food was fine and we got to try more chicken and lamb options but the service was definitely not with a smile. Given the time of year we would have hoped for some facial expression and all we got was surly which was enough to put you off your meal. Restaurants are a service industry and they rely on   return custom. Good service doesn’t overcome bad food but if there are two restaurants which are equally good then service may make all the difference. We want you to thrive so please make sure that this improves.

Etta’s Seafood Kitchen

Etta's Seafood KitchenAddress: Unit 46 Brixton, Village, Coldharbour Lane, London SW9

Contact:  sheryldon1@yahoo.co.uk

We are always glad to give restaurants a second chance and this certainly saved Etta’s. We first visited when it had just opened and things were a bit chaotic and the food wasn’t really that good – lots of bones to work around and the curry sauce was the same on everything. So what has changed? The tables and chairs are the same (beware of some chairs as they are a bit
rickety). But it is all brighter and flowers have appeared on the tables and some are even outside in the middle of the alley. They are as helpful and as laid back as before but now they seem to know what they are doing.

It still looks a like a work in progress but perhaps that is what a pop-up restaurant has to feel like. The interior is bright and cheerful with a new mural of giant fishes. We think the menu has changed a bit and the food has certainly improved. We chose the fish and chips, fish curry and a large crab. The fish was definitely in Etta’s tasty batter (light, squidgy and
with something like chives or cayenne) and all the chips were crispy. The fish curry said it was “mild” – curry isn’t supposed to be bland but it did have a chilli bite to it. The crab choice was not for the faint hearted and probably not for someone with little patience and a lot of hunger but it was tasty and again had curry sauce lingering. Only rice and peas give away that
this is a Caribbean restaurant.

It was all rather jolly – even a large birthday party on the day we went. There is no alcohol but they offer fresh sorrel or fresh ginger beer. There is a one pound cover charge for BYO and they do provide appropriate glasses so wine doesn’t need to come from a tumbler. Again remember to bring it from home.

The price is right about £10 to £20 per person

Negril

Address: 132 Brixton Hill, Brixton, London,  SW2 1RS

Telephone: 0871 971 4491

Negril is a Jamaican restaurant with seats inside and outside if its warm. Just up Brixton Hill with the same food you would expect from an authentic Jamaican restaurant – jerk chicken, ackee and saltfish. We had chicken (not as hot as we thought it would be but the chilli sauce certainly made up for it.) pumpkin curry (also not hot) and a chicken wrap. All homely and delicious. But there are other less traditional dishes on the menu and they cater for Vegans. As usual – one main course is enough. The last time visited we ventured into the rum and raisin bread and butter pudding – one portion and three spoons. It was certainly enough to prevent us eating for next couple of days. They have breakfast specials and a Negril platter for those who can’t make up their mind about what to choose and want to dabble.

They have no alcohol license but are happy for you to bring your work and they charge a corkage – the same price, however many drinks you bring. The choice of places to buy alcohol if you forget is pretty limited but beer is what goes best.

The interior is bare tables and old school chairs but the outside looks lovely with benches and tables. Unfortunatley the rain kept us inside but we have been past in the evening when the lights and the weather made it look very inviting. The place for a reasonable meal but it does get booked up so ring to ensure space especially at the weekend.