We have been saving up our trips to cocktail bars around Brixton, so this list is not a hangover-inducing single night out. They were spread across several weeks, often on a bleak Friday night after a very long week. Brixton as a cocktail destination is becoming a bit of a thing, with proper restaurants finding life a bit of a struggle, most notably shown by the sad closure of Nanban.

ABV Brixton – Pop Brixton

First trip was to a bar in Pop Brixton, ABV, sister to Wood and Water in Coldharbour Lane. It is only open Wed to Saturday but they do have happy hour 5.00pm to 7.00pm. Slide into the dark shipping container and sit at a dinky table to escape from the loud crowds deciding whether to watch football, eat a hot dog or just mooch. It is a lovely haven with the hum of conversation to allow a slow unwind. Cocktails are named eclectically with no clue to the array of ingredients, but the waiters are really helpful so you don’t jump at one that would definitely challenge the palate.

Our two choices – a philosopher and an Alphonse – came in lovely little delicate glasses – a glass heavy or light makes all the difference to the taste. the drinks were around £11-£12 and we lingered over ours. The bill was £25.31 with service and we will definitely return again to try some of the other amazing cocktails that were on neighbouring tables.

Hacha – Market Row

Escape to Tulum is a bar you reach by some very steep steps. It is Mexican-themed bar (Agaveria) so expect a lot of tequila and mescal. It has a bar with tall stools with tall tables which are challenging at the best of times but definitely after one or two cocktails. But thankfully it also has comfy sofas. Rattan and metal are the main material with a sprinkling of plants and for some reason a full-length painting of the back of stark naked women. Not really to my taste – they should have gone for an adornment with a more vibrant Mexican theme. We booked (a necessity) and soon filled our little coffee table with drinks and food as the service is swift.

We ordered Mirror Margheritas – the house specialty has won awards including being voted 7th in the world by Timeout and the top cocktail in 2020 by CLASS Bar Awards. We chose a classic which has Patron Silver Tequila, Hacha sour mix, cane syrup and grapefruit zest and the Mescal Mirror Margherita which has the same ingredients except for The Lost Explorer Mezcal, kaffir lime, salt and eucalyptus. There is a reason why the classic won the awards and we will stick to that one in the future as it was our favourite.

We were a bit peckish, so we also ordered guacamole and elotitos (sweet corn served with cream and cheese). The sweetcorn was hot and went down well although requires a lot of finger licking. The guacamole was smooth and made a good lining for our next round of drinks – a Mole espresso Martini and Yucatan Sunset. Both were sweet and the martini was weird as of course it had a dose of bitter chocolate and enough sugar and caffeine to keep you going all night. The sunset was much more delicate although again very sweet. Take our advice before you order the second drink – the first should definitely be their Mirror Margherita and the second could be one of their other award-winning drinks like the Midas which has coconut infused Vivir Silver Tequila.

Drinks are around £10.00. Our bill with service was £63.00 so a dent at the beginning of a Friday night. We will go back with friends to introduce them to our favourite tipple, but perhaps only one.

Sea Garden – Market Row: visit 1

Sea Garden is in Market Row and we have visited twice and both times had something to eat. The first is reviewed here when we sat down to eat a hearty meal but got thirsty waiting. So we ordered two drinks that came with a slice of dried fruit and an oyster. On the left is a Spiced Pineapple Margherita which is based on El Tequiuleno Blanco and a secret pineapple reduction topped with dried pineapple. The one on the right is a Sea Dog Martini – described as a dry Tarquins martini, stirred with Vermouth & complimented with an oyster and citrus – and that was exactly what it was. Both came with dry ice and in darkness that provided added mystery and sparked our taste buds. See the previous review for the bill.

Sea Garden – Market Row: visit 2

Our second visit to Sea Garden was because we hadn’t booked anything and all the ones we tried on a Friday evening were full. Luckily Sea Garden have a bar as well as a restaurant so we sat in the other half and watched the chef at the grill …..and didn’t regret a second visit. We ordered two gin and tonics that came with straws which was very lucky as they were hefty critters and required hands-free drinking.

The difference you might ask – we honestly cannot remember that far back (or it might be one of those amnesia-producing infusions). We do remember the names “Gin Mare” and “Manly Sea and T”, but except that one was saltier than the other and had some samphire ……… Both were delicious, refreshing, long and icy – what more could you want from a G&T. We also got a bit peckish and despite not intending to eat so early (6.30 pm-ish) we ordered some anchovies and bread. The bill came to £35.44 and there was a 20% service charge. So again this was a place for a treat.

Three Eight Four – 384 Coldharbour Lane

We hit 384 at about 7.00 and promised not to spend more than 30 minutes – who were we kidding! They did move us from our bar table as we waited for the rain to stop – it never did so we kept drinking. Another Margherita, a Roku Gin Martini (Japanese Gin which appears more and more frequently and whose virtues are extolled by bartenders). The options for cocktails are totally dependent on the bartender who asks about the type of spirit and your tastes – ours were for salt around and in everything. The dried lemon in the Margherita we thought was a waste of space, but we were told to let it stew for a bit and then twist and break it to release a sharp tang to the drink and your tongue. Otherwise, it is just like a piece of floating bark. Not satisfied with these drinks we moved tables and order two more – a Vesper just as James Bond would have made it (you do get a choice of Vermouth, but Lillet is the classic) and a Buffalo Trace Old Fashioned.

We did get peckish, very peckish when we saw the menu. We ordered Houmous (with homemade rose harissa, pimenton roasted chickpeas & pickled courgette), warm flatbread (with garlic & fenugreek oil, nigella seeds & parsley), and finally a bowl of really tasty aubergine fries with pomegranate molasses, soy yoghurt, mint & pomegranate. This was not a small amount despite being all on the starter menu. We demolished all this with our second drink and wound down for the weekend.

384 also sponsor good deeds and charities, and celebrate significant events with signature cocktails – I wonder what the Coronation will be like? In March and April, they are raising funds for Bloody Good Period and IMECE Women’s Centre with 50p from each cocktail going towards these charities. They are also celebrating women for International Women’s Day with three cocktails where they highlight a marketer, a whisky blender and a distillery owner and manager – all women. Cocktails are about £12.50 each (less before 8.00pm). So despite the bill coming to £77.06 (12.5% service and that was well worth it), we felt good about the evening having contributed to a good cause while sitting in the convivial company of the bartenders and in the warm and dry. Do book if you are thinking of joining them – we were just very lucky.

Fishbowl – the posh takeway


Address: 5 Atlantic Road, London, SW98HX

Phone: 020 3995 5299

Open: From 3:00 pm (Deliveroo)

Website (Deliveroo):

Instagram (Order by DM): #fishbowl_brixton

We recently reviewed this black owned restaurant (see here). We gave it favourable write-up and concluded that might even try the lobster for a special occasion. Well the special occasion arrived.

We ordered again through Deliveroo. We wanted to order the expensive menu, so we rang them direct, just in case they were going to run out – they advise to order relatively early, as they have a small kitchen and give their restaurant customers preference during the evening rush.

They have prawn, calamari or squid and chips on the relatively short menu, but we ordered the whole lobster boil bag (lobster, king prawns, shell prawns, crab, potatoes, blue swim crab and corn on the cob) at £60, plus some sweet potato fries. Continue reading

Whiskey Tumbler

Address: 401 Coldharbour Lane, SW9 8LQ

Telephone: 020 3298 2358

Although we are still working on reducing the number of open bottles in our home tavern, we thought it would be good to support a new Brixton bar – so here we are. Saturday night, early and we dropped by for a quick cocktail. But this is a whiskey and bagel bar – the spelling of whiskey tells you it is an Irish bar – we also noticed the Irish potato crisps.

We looked at the list which you need to read carefully for the description or the history. But this is meant for the connoisseur, as they give you little information on the ingredients. If in any doubt, just ask the bartender when you order – they will also give you a choice of gin or whisk(e)y (bourbon, rye etc.).

We chose a classic Perfect Manhattan (has dry as well as sweet martini) and a Corpse Reviver. I can’t remember whether the latter was a no.1 or no.2. They arrived in a neat little Mad Men glass. Both delicious, although we missed checking that it would be a cherry in the Manhattan.

In terms of C19 compliance – they have spaced seating and we had a clear plastic screen by our seats but none of the waiters had masks on. I would definitely advise they think carefully about that so that they protect us and them. Waiters are one of those front-line services where you meet lots of different people so increasing the chance of catching coronavirus.

We will visit – early in the evening to avoid the rush and taste their delicious cocktails again.


Fishbowl – the takeway


Address: 5 Atlantic Road, London, SW98HX

Phone: 020 3995 5299

Open: From 3:00 pm (Deliveroo)

Website (Deliveroo):

Instagram (Order by DM): #fishbowl_brixton

This is another black owned restaurant that got in touch following our Instagram post on black businesses in Brixton – see here. So we decided to give it try on our Friday night takeway slot. They don’t have their own website and we ordered through Deliveroo. But their own Instagram bio says you can also order via DM. We ordered earlier in the day so cannot comment on how quickly the food will arrive.

It’s one of the earlier businesses to open in the renovated arches in Atlantic Road. It’s not your usual fish and chip shop and in normal times the emphasis might be as much on the cocktails as on the food. But they do have prawn, calamari or squid and chips on the relatively short menu. If you want to splash out (no pun intended), then order the lobster boil in the bag (lobster, king prawns, shell prawns, crab, potatoes, blue swim crab and corn on the cob) at £60, or the Boil in the bag crab (snow crab, king prawns, shell prawns, potatoes, blue swim crab) at £30. We decided on a more modest choice – Tilapia and new potatoes with special fish sauce and a portion of squid and twice fried chips. Continue reading

Cattivo Hall

207 Ferndale Road

020 096 2236



Monday: Closed
Tues-Thurs: 12 noon to 12 midnight
Fri-Sat: 12 noon to 2am
Sun: 12 noon to 11pm

We usually give a new restaurant a few visits before reviewing, but this place caught our eye on a cold Friday night. They were in their “soft launch” phase – the whole kit and caboodle will be open tomorrow (Tuesday 16th October), when it will have a longer menu including desserts. It is part of the same chain as Canova Hall (link, link and link), which is just across the road. This is a restaurant and bar also but takes a slightly different approach to decor. Gone are the cosy banquettes and the French Bistro feel, but what is left is the same industrial style, with lots of room for standing and drinking. Downstairs (and yet to be explored) is a cocktail bar with its own Gin distillery.

But we visited for the food, although by way of a cocktail and glass of wine. Food on the menu was hearty, and with large proportions it will certainly line your stomach for the Friday night revelries and probably divert any potential hangover. Menus online seem to be more extensive, with some sharing plates.

The foreshortened menu consisted of spaghetti and meatballs (beef, spicy pork and ricotta), a vegan dish and some fried items including potatoes, squash, peas, parmesan fries and focaccia. We settled for spicy pork and ricotta meatballs, and although we thought about ordering a side dish, we were glad we hadn’t when we saw the size of the plates of pasta.

The spicy pork was spicy but not overpowering with some chili in the tomato sauce too. We missed the promised gremolata but liked the taste of the sicilian sausage.

The ricotta meatballs were much softer than the beef but equally tasty. We  missed the gremolata again and wondered what the ricotta salata was (advertised on the menu). We did have cheese and they didn’t offer any extra Parmesan. But I don’t think either of us minded.

We washed all this down with water and a glass of Primitivo and a Professore cocktail (Del Professore Madame gin, Kamm & Sons aperitif, Campari) – so a sort of Negroni with a large ice cube and we were glad to see the absence of a straw. A clever engineering touch was the shaved orange peel jammed into the side of the ice cube thus successfully preventing it from freezing your top lip during drinking. We would like to congratulate the barman (or woman) who invented this – patent it now.

We paid £42 including the drinks which were almost half the bill. We have another booking for Friday to try some of the other specialties on offer.


Shrub and Shutter 4


address: 336 Coldharbour Lane, London SW9 8QH

telephone: 020 7326 0643


We have visited Shrub and Shutter [see here, here and HERE] but it has been a year so again, we visited to inspect the cocktail menu and we were impressed. The service is great, no hassle about choosing a drink – it takes a while to read through all the lists and the waiters and bartenders are very knowledgeable. if you don’t like the look of the list then they will make you something bespoke. It is easy to overlook as it doesn’t have a big sign. It lies between Camberwell and Brixton on Coldharbour Lane. Keep going after Brixton Village and it is on the left hand side near a Fish and Chip shop and Okan Ramen. Continue reading

Fox Bar and Chickenshop

Address: Piano House, 9 Brighton Terrace, London SW9 8DJ

Telephone: 0203 859 1130

This is a review mainly about cocktails but it includes the food too. I have relied on my dinner companion and photographer to nudge my memory. I hadn’t seen this friend for a long time, so we decided to celebrate in the Fox Bar before eating. So, as we didn’t want to appear too eager we arrived at 5.10 (it opens at 5). We were the only customers but it was relaxed and the service was fantastic. We have covered here before (see here) so this is more of an update.

After ordering a couple of cocktails (Earl of Gimlet – Gin- Bergamot – Grapes), we were then offered free celebratory glass of Bollinger by one of the bar staff,  as it was his birthday present. Then we had another couple of rounds of cocktails (Reynold Reserve – Tequila – Islay Whisky – Apricot and also a Red Hook – Rye Whisky – Bitter – Maraschino).  We well and truly tested the drinks menu!  – all drinks were great, not too sweet and very aromatic.

Feeling peckish and not being able to make too many choices, we ventured only a few feet away to the restaurant, where surprisingly we were not the only one’s present. We each ordered a Dirty Burger (succulent deep fried chicken in a burger bun) and both of us were converted – deep fried chicken is a real winner. The meat was succulent, not too much sauce and anyway you could ask for more of the hot stuff. We both decided the bun was superfluous but the crunchy greens were really enjoyable and made us feel healthier.

My memory from thereon is more than hazy, we moved onto another of our favourite bars in Brixton (Three Eight Four), where our taste in cocktails diverged with my friend opting for a dry Gin Martini and I went for a classic Vesper.  The mixologist did us proud producing two very good classic cocktails, although by this time I’m not 100% sure either of us were in any fit state to call ourselves a connoisseur   I think two Vespers/Martinis contributed to  a staggering walk home and I have now downloaded the Drink Aware App and trying to stick to 14 units a week. A more purist lifestyle will also help with the credit card bill. The advice from two people who should have known better is, go to Chickenshop but a beer is all you will need for a good night out.

SW9 bar and restaurant

sw9_01Address, 11 Dorrell Place, Brixton SW9 8EG

telephone: 020 7738 3116

Opening times:

Monday – Friday: 10:30am to 11:30pm

Saturday – Sunday: 10:00 am to 1:30 am

This is not to be confused with the sushi bar on Brixton Road, which is from the same stable. This is the restaurant and bar behind M&S, at the end of the alley way just off Brixton Road. It has been here for years (we even went in an earlier incarnation, when it was the Brixtonian) and has evolved into a bar with food. See a previous review from more than five years ago, here. Happy hour (when we visited) has cheap cocktails but they still serve food to slow down feeling tipsy.

Decor is bar style with more low level seating and a few chairs that allow eating easily at the tables which are round and square and scattered. So choose a sofa or a table for the more substantial meals. Most people were drinking with snacks but we opted for the standard menu as the special board was unavailable on Monday.

So after ordering a margarita and a vodka martini, we had fried squid with chili sauce and steak and chips with grilled tomatoes. Both come with a bit of salad, so you can feel a little bit healthy. The squid was crisp and appropriately starter sized. sw9_03

The steak came on a wooden board making it even higher on the table, so the low seating was definitely not a good choice. But it was suitably “medium”, as requested, and had great seasoning. The tomatoes were also well cooked, so they were sweet, tart and easy to eat. Just as well, as it you have to juggle to keep everything on the board. The potatoes in the chips had the skins on them and were a bit soggy, perhaps because they came in a metal dish. sw9_02

After two vodka martinis and a margarita (£5.00 each at happy hour) we had a bill of £35.50. Our view – well the menu was limited but we enjoyed the food and drink. It is not a place for a quiet drink but it is open on Mondays, which is a bonus for us.sw9_04


Fancy Funkin Chicken

ffc01441 Coldharbour Ln, Brixton, SW9 8LN, UK

020 7733 0108

Instagram @fancyfunkinchicken

This new place, only opening in September, describes itself as a late-night chicken shop, serving a southern American spin on fried chicken, along with a dedicated cocktail menu. It will also host a range of DJs every weekend but this probably means in the evening. On Sunday lunchtime we just enjoyed listening to the background music, which was mostly classic soul.

For old Brixton hands this is, of course, the premises occupied by the much-missed Phoenix Café, a classic ‘greasy spoon’ of long-standing, before it moved further down the street and then vanished. It was always rather poky and, even following a total reconstruction from the foundations up, it’s still on the small side. There are some cosy four seater booths on one side, opposite the bar, but most of the seating is on stools at high bar tables. It’s also a little on the dark side, which I suppose gives it some atmosphere.

I’m not sure what constitutes south American fried chicken and the food on offer is pretty Brixton generic – i.e. much like stuff you can now get at many other places in Brixton. There are the inevitable chicken burgers; crispy fried chicken wings of course, with a choice of sauce varying only in how spicy hot they are; and, somewhat randomly, waffles. If this place is going to succeed it needs to stand out by the quality of the food, rather the uniqueness of what’s on offer. One plus is that the meat comes from ‘free range happy chickens’, although quite how they know the chickens were happy is unclear.

There were three of us and the dedicated vegetarian had the Jackson burger – described on the menu as a ‘veggie patty, roast beetroot, sweet potato, black bean and wild rice with a blend of herbs and spices’ served in a sesame seed bun with cheese, lettuce, onion and mayo. This received a definite thumbs up, marking an improvement on the usual tasteless beanburger. The bun also maintained the structural integrity of the dish


I had the chicken wings with the middle-ranking sauce, described as “having a little kick”, which was quite hot enough. The wings were oddly small but properly crispy, despite being served smothered in the sauce. I chose the smaller serving size, supposedly six, although there were more.


The third choice was boneless chicken pieces (chicken nuggets in other words), served deep fried in breadcrumbs with a “secret spice mix” and BBQ sauce. The sauce was given a positive review, with a deep savoury smoky taste, although the chicken itself wasn’t really as interesting as it should have been.


ffc05For sides we had a portion of fries, a dish of coleslaw and waffles. The fries were fine, if not outstanding; the coleslaw was as we like it; and the waffles were a bit odd, mainly because we were expecting savoury potato waffles, but were served ones made with flour and served with a sweet sauce. The portion size of the sides cannot be described as generous but, in the event, we had plenty to eat.

The service was attentive and appropriate action was taken when there was a delay due to a problem with the waffle machine, i.e. we were given our drinks (passionfruit juice, ginger beer and a coke) for free. We passed on a pudding (a limited choice), as well as cocktails, (a good choice). Altogether, without the drinks, the bill came to £30.50 before adding a tip.There’s been a suggestion that Brixton is becoming a giant food court and this places fits into that model. It’s going to have to work hard to develop its own identity as a food destination, or else it’s going to end up as just another place to have a drink and socialise.

The Rum Kitchen

The Rum Kitchen

443-445 Coldharbour Ln, London SW9 8LN

Mon – Fri: 4pm – Late
Sat & Sun: 11am – Late

In the flurry of openings in Brixton this summer lands the next location for The Rum Kitchen, this time on Coldharbour lane. With sites already in Notting Hill and Carnaby Street, it describes itself as a “Caribbean eatery that bends the rules”. Now when it comes to Caribbean restaurants coming to Brixton there has been some controversy. Turtle Bay was marred with condemnation of its cultural appropriation when it opened last year, with its “RASTAFYME” photo booth and criticism over the restaurant chains unfair tipping service, so there would always be caution in another chain opening. However, it seems there was no need.

Continue reading