Hot Cross Buns

Despite living together for many years, we have a great divide in our household. One person believes in the old ways – traditional ways – where Hot Cross Buns are only eaten on the Friday Bank Holiday before Easter – that’s why it is Good Friday. The remainder of the household believes that they are to be eaten as soon as they enter the shops and some even put away in the freezer for when you want “a little something with a cup of tea”.

This year there was a compromise mainly because we visited M&S and saw their new varieties. It was never going to be possible to try them all on one day without feeling very ill afterwards, so this is a review over a few days. The M&S varieties are shown in the main picture. The telltale sign that they can be called Hot Cross Buns is the cross on top ……. although the traditionalist thinks that all should have fruit and spice for the real McCoy……. that discussion took more than half an hour.

Your intrepid reviewers risking their waist (and their credibility) have decided to taste the lot. But there are other varieties so we included a whole research team who ventured far and wide and bought two packets of hot cross buns from – Lidl, the Co-op, Morrisons, Aldi, Sainsbury’s, Asda, M&S and Gails. We also bought some from a local bakery in Brixton. It turned out that some members of the team were nubies – never having tasted a hot cross bun before and some had tasted and didn’t like them – but read on we had a few converts.

What do you look for in a Hot Cross Bun (apart from the cross, the fruit and the spice – argument still going on with the traditionalist). It needs to smell like a hot cross bun and toast like one too. So a light toasting is required which means watching the toaster or grill very carefully. Then it needs butter or a non-dairy spread of your choice. This is important as most hot cross buns are vegan – even though M&S sells a vegan variety. All this means that it can’t be too dense, it has to be soft and airy, a shiny top (burns easily) and not too sweet (this was the key factor in decisions about which was best).

So here we go – We are starting with traditional where we had representatives from – Asda, M&S, Aldi, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Co-op Limited edition and a local bakery. This wasn’t a tasting based on a Latin square design (for the statisticians among you) so this is just their comparison test with A.N. Other bun. Everyone who had the M&S one liked it better than others but the Lidl one was also good especially after toasting. The Co-op one had too much fruit. No-one who had a choice chose the one from Sainsbury’s. It was described as too dry, which was also a fault of the one from the local bakery. The Asda one was OK, which is not a ringing endorsement. The Morrison’s one was too dense and didn’t have enough spice. The Aldi one was chosen by someone who isn’t keen on hot cross buns, so chose them because they were smaller (I don’t think that is a realistic endorsement).

Now we are going to take a look at the other varieties with a cross on top. The sweet ones are – M&S salted caramel and chocolate, Asda “scaramel”, M&S apple, M&S blueberry, M&S extra chocolately, Gails Candied Orange, and M&S Gluten free and Vegan. If you are going to call something by a specific name then it needs to live up to it. All managed that except the Asda salted caramel which didn’t have enough caramel. The M&S salted caramel and chocolate was unsurprisingly described as sickly – you really do need a sweet tooth. All the others got a positive vote by anyone who tasted them. The gluten free one achieved “structural integrity” so it could take butter and didn’t fall apart like many kinds of gluten free produce. The blueberry was recommended for anyone who doesn’t like raisins. The M&S extra chocolaty was described as “well balanced” – I think that was the bitterness of the chocolate so it wasn’t too sweet. The apple and blueberry really smelt of apple and blueberry when you open the packet – making them inviting.

But it doesn’t stop there – M&S expanded into non-fruity, not-at-all sweet varieties. We tried the cheese and chilli and the cheese and Marmite. You probably do need to like Marmite, but it just adds saltiness to a cheesy bun and I liked it but this was a split decision……. guess which side the traditionalist was on. If you like chili then this is just the right for a rainy lunchtime watching Bargain Hunt.

We don’t really have an overall winner to offer – if you have a sweet tooth then you will be looking forward to a happy Easter with lots to choose from. If you thought you didn’t like Hot Cross Buns then there are more varieties to try and we did have converts to the fruity-but-not-raisin varieties. If they are in the shops we do advise freezing as you may want to eat one on May Day and they will vanish from the shelves until 2022. In my view their appearance should herald the spring like the John Lewis advert announces Christmas

Fishbowl – the posh takeway

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Address: 5 Atlantic Road, London, SW98HX

Phone: 020 3995 5299

Open: From 3:00 pm (Deliveroo)

Website (Deliveroo): https://deliveroo.co.uk/menu/london/brixton/fishbowl-brixton

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

New Tings – The takeaway

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Address: 112 Acre Ln, Ferndale, London SW2 5RA

Phone: 020 7095 1517

Opening hours:
Monday              8am–8pm
Tuesday              8am–8pm
Wednesday        8am–9pm
Thursday            8am–9pm
Friday                  8am–9pm
Saturday             10:30am–9pm
Sunday               Closed

We are continuing our takeaways via Black-owned businesses and we came across New Tings on our walks down Acre Lane. It’s relatively new but it’s popularity was clear as the queue is always long. The service is a little slow but that is to your advantage as it leaves longer to consider the menu options, which are manifold. There are main meals with hard food, main meals with boiled food and when inside there are many options including obviously jerk chicken or lamb, ackee and saltfish, callaloo and the list is endless. You can get an idea by looking at uber eats – see here – but don’t rely on getting it from uber eats, just phone if you want to skip the queue and they will have it waiting for you. They are also so popular that they do sell out of some dishes; so ackee and saltfish was running out by the time the queue had moved inside.

The queue is pretty well ordered and, while we waited, a crying child was offered a lollipop to keep her quiet. Most people had face masks but not all and, although it is a bit difficult to space yourselves out, it was an orderly queue.

We ordered jerk chicken, curry goat and as only a little ackee and saltfish was left, they topped it up with callaloo. All came with rice or rice and peas and some plantain or banana. You can get the food heated up or cold so you can put it in the microwave or oven yourself. We chose cold and we had plenty not just for that evening, but also for an extra lunch later in the week. Interestingly, the spicing tasted hotter the second time around.

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We can definitely say we will be returning. The jerk was subtly spiced, so you could taste everything, without having just that big dose of chili. The plantain was nicely caramelized and the rice and peas …. well we have already identified the best, but this one is certainly a close second.

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We didn’t order the meals with food but we would have had a lot more left over, as they include more starchy vegetables. They also have a selection of sweet drinks like Tru Juice. The whole three dishes came to £22.59 and we will certainly be going back to soak up the atmosphere of a slow queue and to provide us with at least two full meals. The pepper prawns looked a must and we might even try the fruitcake next time.

 

 

 

 

Fishbowl – the takeway

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Address: 5 Atlantic Road, London, SW98HX

Phone: 020 3995 5299

Open: From 3:00 pm (Deliveroo)

Website (Deliveroo): https://deliveroo.co.uk/menu/london/brixton/fishbowl-brixton

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

Refill Caribbean Cuisine

Address: 500A Brixton Road, SW9 7AW
(It’s actually round the corner in Brighton Terrace)

Phone: 020 7274 5559

Website: http://refillfood.co.uk/

Open: 24 hours, 7 days a week

We reviewed Refill some time ago, when we carried out our survey of Jerk Chicken takeaways (see here) – our panel rated it the highest. So having decided we were too hungry to wait 30 minutes at one of Brixton’s new eateries, we decided on our way home to get a takeaway from this long-standing source of genuine Caribbean food. This is a 24 hour takeaway and it seems always full. On a Tuesday evening at 8.45pm it was full. That allowed us to spend a little time working out the long menu with help from other customers. Continue reading

Hungry Llama

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Brixton Station Road

Despite recent surveys that most workers in the U.K. fail to take a lunch break or have the same thing every day. We do take a break and would like others to do the same not only at the weekends. Ours is a low brow and cheap version with variety being the key. So we encourage everyone to try Station Road Brixton as it is now a lunch destination that changes daily. Different styles and countries sit side by side and there is always a choice, even on Monday. You can have a takeout or eat alfresco on the chairs and tables scattered around in the street. This Peruvian stall is a new addition to the food outlets and we tried it on Saturday after the gym.

The menu is simple – only two things, one veggie, one meat. Veggie was Quinoa stew and salad, the meat was chicken and rice. But the chefs thought the rice was “too strong” and they were not prepared to serve it. So, on this occasion, I had a mixture – chicken, quinoa and the salad. A large enough portion and plenty of reward for a couple of hours in the gym (well maybe it was only 45 minutes but I was counting every one).

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Quinoa tends to divide our family, a bit like marmite. This version was served in a tomato sauce with extra potato and was more than palatable. I turned down the chilli sauce but that was probably a mistake – I’ll know next time. The salad was a mixture of beetroot, tomato, potato and red onion. So it was mainly sweet with an occasional bite of onion – not unpleasant and definitely a foil for the quinoa. The chicken was cooked on a griddle and covered with a subtle but tasty marinade. It was delicious and I would definitely order it again but perhaps without quinoa.

The best part is the cost – £5 for one of the usual combinations and because I had a mixture, it was a bargain at £6.

 

 

CLOSED – Hook

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address: Brixton Pop, 49 Brixton Station Rd, Brixton, SW9 8PQ

Telephone: 020 3808 5112

email: cairene@hookrestaurants.com

website: http://www.hookrestaurants.com/

A damp and cold Friday sees us wondering if we really want to go out to eat. But there was a place getting a bit of a buzz and we wanted to see if it lived up to the hype. Hook is a fish and chip shop in Brixton Pop offering sustainable everything (even the knives and forks) and a menu which includes Afro-Caribbean, Cajun and French influences. The cosmopolitan air was reinforced on our visit as it was provided by an all Italian team.

Small but perfectly formed on the top floor of Brixton Pop, this restaurant can sit about 16 inside and an outside area for when it gets a bit warmer. The menu is written on the wall and consists of about five fried fish dishes covered in panko (Japanese style breadcrumbs) or tempura batter. Cajun spiced or jerk are options as well as a more restrained basil and lemon.

hook04We chose the Jerk Hake and the lemon and basil tempura seabream. Both came with what was described as seaweed salted twice cooked chips and we ordered a couple of sides  (minty peas and celeriac slaw). You can interpret this as our wish to serve our followers or just that we’re greedy. We were worried that the jerk spice would overwhelm the fish but it didn’t – the flavour was there but jerk enthusiasts might even say it was  a bit bland. The accompanying chipotle sauce did came with a kick, however, as well as being very smoky, and was a great for the chips.

hook03The basil and lemon batter was very subtle but the batter was good and not too oily. The truffle sauce was also subtle but that’s what this good white fish needed. Fish can be overcooked so quickly but  both mains were just right. The chips – you could see the relationship to a potato which we both loved but we were not sure why they mentioned seaweed salt. The sides – we really liked  but didn’t finish them nor our portions of chips so beware over-ordering.hook02

So did it live up to the hype … yes. We liked it a lot. Not a place for a long relaxing dinner but it was very pleasant and the food different enough for us to think we would return quite soon. They also do takeaways and Deliveroo if it gets too wet and windy.

hook05Despite the long list of drinks they didn’t have much of a range in stock. We had a bottle of water and a bottle of And Union Unfiltered Lager. The total cost – £36.50 was pricey for fish and chips but we thought for the quality it was worth it.

Electric Dog

address: 15-17 Market Row Brixton London SW9 8LB

telephone: 0743602895

http://www.electricdog.co.uk/

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening a remarkable transformation takes place in the Express Café, the long lived greasy spoon in Market Row. The tables are the same – yellow formica with attached red plastic seats but now there are new pictures on the walls, covers over the counter and large posters advertising the Electric Dog. We visited on a Saturday when the night market was in full swing so reducing the squash in the Brixton restaurants. At 8.30pm there were lots of spaces inside Electric Dog although the alleyway tables were full.

We enjoyed all the food and our decision not to go with two Combos was justified as there was easily enough for two with the dogs and one fries. The buns were not too sweet and held together even with all the sauces which is a blessing – they do provide knives and forks but this is definitely hand held food.  But the point of a hot dog is in the sausage and we were really impressed with the pork sausage and will return to try the beef. The sweet potato fries were excellent – very hot and crisp and they didn’t go soggy even until the last bite of the dog.

Although there is no alcohol there is a wine shop almost directly opposite this restaurant and there is a list of interesting soft drinks. I chose the cherry milkshake which was pink with cherry bits but not as strongly flavoured as I would have liked. It was also incredibly sweet but this is hardly a criticism just a description of my lack of a sweet tooth. They also have a list of Fentiman’s drinks including rose lemonade and my favourite Dandelion and Burdock and do provide tap water on request.

We have been criticised for not providing “reviews”. We set out to describe the meals we enjoyed and at first didn’t go to restaurants we didn’t like. But our critic clearly has not read all our posts particularly the one on Happy Dumpling. I mention this only to give context to the next sentence.  This is a pop-up restaurant which has a limited life – JUST TWO MONTHS so we strongly recommend that you visit soon or potentially miss it altogether.

The meal for two cost £16.50 – in our view a bargain.

Jerk Chicken Takeaway

Jerk02Brixton and jerk chicken go together. Despite all the changes that are taking place in what’s available to eat in Brixton, it still has more places serving West Indian food that any other type. For almost all of them, the signature dish is jerk chicken. But which one serves the most authentic and the best?

Answering the question is bound to be controversial; everyone who is into jerk chicken has their favourite. So we decided that we had to try them all, or at least those that specialise in takeaways. There are, of course, a few proper sit down places that also serve jerk chicken – see, for example our reviews of: Bamboula; Fish, Wings and Tings; Negril; and Veranda – but in our mind it is more enjoyable as a takeaway. One of the eatinbrixton team has lunch in Brixton most days and, over the last couple of years, he has been enjoying himself giving all the jerk chicken joints in central Brixton a try.

This research led to a shortlist of six and then, to ensure an independent view of which was the best, we invited friends and family to a blind tasting. There were nine of us round the table, with ages ranging from 24 to 81, and, it worked surprisingly well, although pedants might argue that the amount of Red Stripe that was consumed will have affected the results as the evening wore on.

Continue reading