A takeaway from a local outlet, eaten in Brockwell Park, has been a real treat during lockdown, even when the weather has been inclement. Some of these outlets have sprung up but may only last a little while as lockdown ends. This is a description, not a competition and we don’t know when some will stop providing an al fresco lunch – although given the hopes for better weather, perhaps they might like to continue to feed those going into the park.
We normally enter the park from the Brixton Water Lane entrance, so our reports focus on what during lockdown became “Sandwich Corner”, with some interesting new choices. Obviously, there are other options near the other entrances, especially the one in Herne Hill. You could also buy sandwiches from Sainsbury’s, or even go for an old-fashioned kebab.
The trend was led by Maremma, who worked out early on that they had to show some initiative, given the pandemic. We have liked it as a restaurant (see here and here) and, unsurprisingly, their sandwiches were excellent.
Then we went to Il Sovrano, an excellent new Italian delicatessen. The address is Tulse Hill, but it’s down at the Brixton end. Don’t get confused and head off towards West Norwood. This place deserves an entry of its own, so watch this space. But here we really wanted to have their truffled beef sandwich, which is simply stunning. Perhaps it’s too good, as on the occasion of our review they’d sold out. So we had to have a salami and mozzarella wrap instead. Still tasty.
Finally there’s Naughty Piglets. Again, a top local restaurant (see here and here) offering a takeaway option during lockdown. They transformed themselves into a Burger Bar with a range of interesting options, as well as the classics. But this wasn’t a M*******d’s. We chose a char siu pork bun with Korean mayo plus chips. Here the culture clash worked to everyone’s advantage. And maybe our appetites are shrinking, but one meal was plenty for two of us. So the cost of £12 was reasonable value.
We have written in the past about how to shop locally at Christmas (see here and here). But Brixton has changed so much in recent years, so we thought we would give you an update. This is just a few ideas, as there are now so many great shops to choose from – although we would like Lidl back for their German biscuits and Stollen. It is the time to invest in a little something special, but of course it is also a hard time for many people. You can buy a child a toy by going to Kids Out (See here), or donate to the Brixton and Norwood Foodbank (link here) with money, or put items into their boxes in local supermarkets.
[STOP PRESS: Lidl Acre Lane now due to open after refit on 17th December.]
Pudding – well you can go for some interesting ones in M&S, now that Lidl in Acre Lane is closed until January (or go to the one in Stockwell). [See STOP PRESS above.]
Vegetables – why not go for a box from En Root (see here) £25.00’s worth of surprises (although we will let you into a secret – there’s always a pineapple). There’s also Nour, of course.
Cake – indulgent in the L’Atelier Patisserie, providing chocolate logs (see here) as well as proper french patisserie in Market Row. We still haven’t found the best rum cake. so if anyone knows where to buy one please send us the recommendation.
Fruit – well, for tangerines/mandarins, custard apples and persimmons (my personal favourite), we recommend the My Village shop at the corner of Electric Avenue and Atlantic Road. They also have some small bananas, but they are quite expensive. Note that anywhere you buy mandarins, it’s buyer beware – sometimes they look good but taste awful. Even the same stall can’t be relied on every week.
Alcohol – well there are the little cans of made-up cocktails in M&S or you buy a bottle in The Wine Parlour (89 Brixton Village), or from Salon Wine Store. Our favourite recommendation is a bottle of Palo Cortado – a nutty dry, but dark, sherry – a great accompaniment to opening your Christmas stocking.
Where to get yourDecorations
We have lost many of the shops selling decorations, but there is still the Brixton Party Shop in Brixton Village that sells paper plates, balloons and lots of other paper items you can use for Christmas. The Arts and Crafts shop upstairs at 387 Brixton Rd (over Kingshield Chemists) is great for coloured paper, so you can make your own paper chains. Please use it, as it’s an underused resource.
Tinsel is sold in all those hardware shops along Atlantic Road that sell large pans and colourful plastic bowls – just look up and it will be hanging there.
Red paper napkins from Tesco.
Tablecloth from Morleys, or a Table runner and napkins with silver reindeer.
From Poundshop there are the stick-on snowflakes – £1 for a set of 6. They are plastic, but ours have lasted for 5 years and are coming out again this year.
And some ideas for presents
Granville Arcade (Brixton Village)
If you want some really colourful fabric shopping bags (£5.00), or a dress or a headband, then go to African Queen Fabric shop in Third Avenue (aka little Africa).
The same alleyway has lots basketware for the table and for your laundry. Another shop there sells blue and white enamel plates and bowls that are often sold at a higher price in expensive kitchen shops.
For children’s books stop off in Roundtable Books (see link here) – only one customer at a time in the shop, but we are told they are very helpful.
Soap and Candles – always a good choice – then go to Cornercopia – Soap is only £2.00 so good for a Christmas stocking. Soap dishes can come from Artisan Stories (£12)
Of course there is the Jewelry shop (Rose and Thorne), the clothes (we can’t keep up as the open and close frequently) and the delicatessens (like Guzzl) selling everything you might want and consumables are definitely a plus this year.
I have always wondered if there was something I could buy from the Voodoo shop – but it would be ironic and I don’t have any friends who would understand the joke. There is also a shop on the corner of Electric Lane selling incense and smelly candles, which has a good range.
There are Toys, headbands again, hats, leather satchels and little gifts all along this Arcade. But you can also buy someone delicious food from the Salon Delicatessen.
Pop Brixton: There’s Japanese knives (with instructions) from Kataba Japanese Knifeshop ( see link here). Or some wine from the (mainly) New Zealand wine shop, Specialist Cellars – they do delivery (see link here).
Loved Again Limited is a secondhand shop 140 Stockwell Road SW9 9TQ for some beautiful secondhand vases or decorative objects or treat yourself to a turn of the century desk or dining chairs.
Top floor of Morleys sells Charbonnell and Walker chocolates at a 20% discount (I’ve hinted at the egg nog ones). Lower floors also sell make-up of course and the kitchen department has almost everything you might need to prepare a slap up Christmas dinner.
Quirky vintage and artisan or vintage clothes, and decorative pieces for the house can be found at 61 Acre Lane. Choose from an upcycled sari sun dress or shirt or a timeless set of cocktail glasses. See https://www.quirkydovetail.co.uk/
This is another post in our occasional series about food shopping in Brixton. By Brixton Market I mean the more traditional street market; the actual stalls in Electric Avenue and Popes Road (Brixton Station Road deserves it’s own entry). It’s just enjoyed/suffered a makeover but the six or so food stalls, mostly selling fresh produce, amid the others with a mix of hats, hardware and other stuff, are still there. It might even still be recognised as a traditional street market by your genuine costermonger, keeping up the ancient tradition of closing down by 5:30 pm or earlier, as well as observing early closing day on Wednesdays. Continue reading →
You may have started buying what you need to celebrate Christmas, but here’s our advice on how you might get through this festive season without leaving Brixton. The ingredients of a good season for our family include decorating the house, plenty of booze and a good Christmas dinner, with the leftovers right up until New Year. Of course all the merriment is interspersed with the Christmas Eastenders, Dr Who, a few games on Boxing day and possibly a walk to Brockwell Park. It is now our 31st Brixton Christmas and so we do have things in the loft and under the bed that contribute to our traditions but there are always extra things we add each year. Continue reading →
Kumasi is a city in Ghana and the capital of Ashanti. It gives its name to Kumasi Market in Brixton Village, one of a trio of stores in Third Avenue selling mainly food and goods from West Africa. Together with the African Queen Fabric store, it’s like a little bit of Africa in the heart of Brixton. I have intended for some time to cover one of these stores in our series of posts on food shops in Brixton but I always found them a bit daunting. The dried and smoked fish is particularly exotic. However, I’ve occasionally chatted to the shopkeepers, and found that they are really helpful in explaining what they have on offer.
So, the intention in these posts is to buy the ingredients at a Brixton store and to make a typical meal. As we have reported before, we have been to Ghana and enjoyed the Ghanaian food at May Foods – see the report here – but this has been my first attempt at actually cooking the food. It has been more of a challenge, as many of the key ingredients are less familiar to those of us with a European background. This is particularly true of the key part of any true Ghanaian meal, the carbohydrate.
The dish I’ve gone for is chicken in peanut sauce served with banku and spinach. I’ve used an amalgam of different recipes. All of the main ingredients have come from Kumasi Market, apart from the chicken which came from Jones the Butcher.
The ingredients for the chicken in peanut sauce are: 1 kilo of chicken (legs, thighs and wings are best); 3 tbsp vegetable oil; 1 large onion, chopped; a 3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced; 6-8 garlic cloves, chopped roughly; 1 kilo of sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks; 1 can of chopped tomatoes; 1 litre chicken stock; 1 cup groundnut paste/peanut butter; 1 cup peanuts, roasted; 1 tbsp ground coriander; 1 teaspoon cayenne; Salt and ground black pepper; and lots of chopped coriander as a garnish. Most of the heat in the dish, and in an authentic version there’s plenty, comes from the ground black pepper. I
The first step is to brown the chicken and put to one side. Then fry the onions, adding the spices when it has softened. Finally you put everything in the same pot and stew until the chicken and sweet potato is all cooked – check after an hour. After it cooled a bit I removed the bones but this is a matter of taste. The finished article probably benefits from being left to stand for a while, before reheating. You can garnish with lots of coriander.
The accompaniments were banku and spinach. The banku is balls of fermented dough and takes a bit of getting used to, as well as being hard work to make. I did make my own, with a mixture of readymade cassava and corn dough bought from Kumasi and it was an education in itself. However, my tip is to buy it readymade from May Foods in Market Row. It should also be understood that the term spinach applies to almost any green leaves. I just chopped and washed mine and fried it in garlic infused oil.
Everyone enjoyed the chicken and spinach but views were mixed on the banku. We found a little goes a long way. It would be good with rice of course.
You may have started buying what you need to celebrate Christmas, but here’s our advice on how you might get through this festive season without leaving Brixton. The ingredients of a good season for our family include decorating the house, plenty of booze and a good Christmas dinner, with the leftovers providing the basis for most of our meals right up until New Year. Of course all the merriment is interspersed with the Christmas Eastenders, Dr Who, a few games on Boxing day and possibly a walk to Brockwell Park. It is now our 30th Brixton Christmas and so we do have a number of things in the loft and under the bed that contribute to our traditions but there are always extra things we add each year. Continue reading →
There’s no shortage of places to buy meat in Brixton and we cannot claim to have tried them all. We are also not great meat eaters, at least when eating at home. Nevertheless, it’s time we had a look at butchers in our series of reports on Brixton food shops. The trouble is that while there are lots of shops selling meat, there are not that many I consider proper butchers. Also when you see a secondhand supermarket trolley full of carcasses being wheeled down Atlantic Road it does make you think of being a vegetarian. But there are places I have found that can be relied upon to provide value for money. Continue reading →
This is a Portuguese butcher in one of the railway arches in Atlantic Road, so vegetarian readers might wish to stop right here. For some time I thought that the name was “Talho Acougue”, because that’s what it says most prominently above the shop. But this just means “butcher butcher” using two terms for the same thing, depending on what variety of Portuguese is being used. The shop sign also displays the flags of Portugal, Brazil, Madeira and the UK, which also suggests something of the background. Continue reading →
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.
Bad Boys’ Bakery is a social enterprise based inside HM Prison Brixton. Their website gives the full history. It was set up by Gordon Ramsay in 2012 to train bakers on the inside so they might find work on their release from prison. Every Saturday since February they have been selling their wares in Brixton. They didn’t have a full setoff things when we arrived at 2.30pm because they sell out fast. But if you get there early enough you will see cakes and pastries such as Lemon Treacle Slice, Lemon Treacle Tart, Chocolate Pecan Nut Brownie, Marbled Chocolate Chip Brownie, Caramel Pecan Pie, Carrot Cake Loaf, Raspberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake, Lemon Drizzle Loaf and Banana Bread. Our favourite is the Lemon Treacle Tart as the acidity of the lemon makes the breadcrumbs and syrup less cloying. One goes a long way at 510 calories but delicious all the way through. They also produce bread with seeds or without, white, wholemeal and the usual sourdough. If you want to know all the ingredients then look up their website and you will see the .
Their cakes are not cheap but they are well worth it – £7.50 for a cake loaf but there are loads of slices in it. There is also the warm glow from contributing to a worthwhile outfit – although that may be the golden syrup.