Karakana

Address: 443 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, SW9 8LN

https://www.karakana.co.uk/

A new Indian – or not so Indian – restaurant opened in Brixton in the same building as Market Place. Tim Anderson (Masterchef winner) and Rivaaj Maharaj (both in Nanban – see here for a review) are behind this new venture which provides Indian inspired food with a twist. The inside has changed since it’s reincarnation. The music is the not-too-loud kind so you can have a conversation and you sit opposite each other in booths with high backs (potentially Covid-19 proofing). There is a large centre bar that mixes lovely sounding cocktails like – Apricot Rose and a Pino Co-Lassi – that have sweet ingredients that make them more like desserts and they do go down easily. Below see the Apricot Rose and their signature cocktail Karakana (vodka, amaretto, lassi, mango puree and crushed pistachio – at least three of your five-a-day).

The menu is as it says on the tin – eclectic with small plates, big plates and tandoori and a very small dessert list (ice cream), so just choose another cocktail. Vegetarian is marked on the menu and some vegan options can be made to order. Some dishes look nothing like an Indian – Fish and chips and Currywurst, but a closer look at the ingredients shows them to have an Indian twist.

We chose potato salad chaat (with celery, shallots, lime dressing, coriander, peanuts and tamarind sauce) and lotus blossom onion bhaji with spiced yoghurt dip. The salad was crunchy and pretty heavy so do share and the onion bhaji was a whole onion shaped like a lotus blossom and was, as it should be, crispy and great with the dip. There were three of us and the final person chose from the tandoor menu – the Methi Miso Salmon (eclectic!) that came in a fenugreek and miso glaze with tandoori broccoli (although we thought they switched it on the night). The salmon was soft and definitely cooked well with a slippery caramelised outside. What was described as tandoor broccoli split the table – it was very hot, spicy and crunchy so a good foil for the salmon, but it looked innocuous and it definitely was not. Some liked it and others just wanted a health warning on the heat.

We followed this with choices from the large plates – Mutton bourgignon curry, Madrasi Machli and Aubergine Karahi Parmigiano (!). We complemented these with a couple of bowls of steamed rice, and a naan and roti.

The mutton was in a really rich sauce – it was the leg slowly braised in red wine with carrots, potatoes and picked onion. It was spicy, but not so you couldn’t savour the taste of the lamb. The Madras Machli was actually salmon curry simmered in the “house blend of spices from Southern India” – so giving nothing away. The salmon can be easily overpowered by a curry – this wasn’t and I definitely admire the chef’s delicacy with whatever those South Indians use.

The Aubergine was exactly as you might imagine – breaded and fried in a tomato sauce and topped with parmigiano. But the menu description left off any reference to spices and they were there in abundance in the breading and in the tomato sauce. It was how I like this dish, crispy pieces of aubergine with soft insides, any blandness being banished by the tomato sauce.

The menu notes only one dessert, but when we decided to order and discovered that it was in short supply so we had a couple of Hokey Pokey ice creams and a Masala Chai. They come as two large scoops, so plan to ask for a scoop of each and share – it was a labour we endured so that we covered the whole menu, but we were really too full to finish.

We have noticed blogs and comments suggesting this is an expensive meal, but actually we thought it was reasonable. You can cut down on the many courses and the cocktails (£9.50 or so each). We had two cocktails and 2.5 pints of tiger or Coldharbour beer. The total came to a whopping £95.50 with tip, but after removing everything but the food it was £18.25 per head. We will go back as the menu definitely peaked our interest, but this time knowing that unless very hungry we will try to share some dishes.

Maremma – Aperitivo

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Address: 36 Brixton Water Lane, London, SW2 1PE

Phone: Tel no: 020 3186 4011

Opening times – Aperitivos Only – no need to book

Wednesday to Saturday – 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm.

email: info@maremmarestaurant.com

Internet: https://www.maremmarestaurant.com/

We’ve eaten there (see here) and had a delivery (see here) and given them favourable reviews. So when they sent us an email, advertising “apertivos and spuntini” (snacks), the suggestion seemed too good to pass up. I guess the idea is to get some early customers before the evening bookings and you don’t need to book. When four of us arrived on a Friday evening around 5:00 pm, we were the only ones there. We were pleased to see that masks were worn and they checked our temperatures on arrival.

We don’t often start drinking that early, even on a Friday, but we got into the swing of it. So we sampled a range of what was on offer, starting with an Aperol Spritzs, an Campari Spritz and a glass of wine (Feronia). The Campari got a repeat order; one of us opted for a Ginger Beer; and another couldn’t resist a Toffee Caramel Espresso Martini. Sweet, sweet, sweet.

It wasn’t just drinking – we also tried out the sputini, or snacks. The olives were olives, the pecorino biscuits were good and the summer truffle arancini (fried balls of flavoursome rice) were fantastic. We ordered two more portions.

It was a sunny evening and we needed cheeering up. We certainly felt better afterwards, although the cost that came in just under £80, including a tip, didn’t make it cheap. I’m sure we will be back, although it does feel more like a summer thing.

Whiskey Tumbler

Address: 401 Coldharbour Lane, SW9 8LQ

Telephone: 020 3298 2358

https://thewhiskeytumbler.com/

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.

 

Donnelly’s at The Shrub and Shutter

Address: 336 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, SW9 8QH.
Phone: 020 7326 0643
Websites:
Location: http://www.theshrubandshutter.com/
Food: https://donnellysrestaurant.co.uk/

Monday – closed
Tuesday 5pm – midnight
Wednesday 5pm – midnight
Thursday 5pm – midnight
Friday 5pm – 2am
Saturday 5pm – 2am
Sunday – closed

We have reviewed the Shrub and Shutter cocktails before; see here, here and here. But we had heard that a new residency providing the food, so in order to keep our readers up to date we visited on a freezing Friday night. It is an easy menu to work through with five sections containing just two plates. Choose a couple for each guest and then take stock for the puddings. Continue reading

Cattivo Hall

207 Ferndale Road

020 096 2236

Website: https://www.cattivobar.com/

Email: bookings@cattivobar.com

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.

 

Oxalis at The Shrub and Shutter

Address: 336 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, SW9 8QH.
Phone: 020 7326 0643
Websites:

Location: http://www.theshrubandshutter.com/

Food: http://www.oxalislondon.com/

Monday – closed
Tuesday 5pm – midnight
Wednesday 5pm – midnight
Thursday 5pm – midnight
Friday 5pm – 2am
Saturday 5pm – 2am
Sunday – closed

Our normal approach is to keep you in the dark about what we think about a restaurant but we are breaking with this practice to tell you that Oxalis (the current pop-up caterers at Shrub and Shutter) are brilliant and we are not usually so enthusiastic. It’s not complicated food but it is imaginative with a focus on flavour.

We have reviewed the cocktails before; see here, here and here. But on this hot and steamy night we went for wine and beer. There are lots of things to choose from but we cut out that difficulty by choosing one of the tasting menus. There are two – one veggie and one with meat. We had the meat option. On top of this we were given an “amuse bouche” (aren’t we posh) of a warm squid ink cracker with dark crab meat topped with a lardon. Now you get the way this is moving. It was delicious – so delicious that it was eaten before we could take a photo.

Then we moved on to the main menu – a delicious tomato salad with elderflower and mustard. I am soon going to run out of superlatives as it was the best thing to start us off – fresh with little bursts of mustard flavour. All four of us were delighted.

Fennel tortellini, poppy seeds and crayfish – even though these are tasting menu portions there was definitely enough crayfish. So just sublime with a crunch.

Pork, kohlrabi and sea buckthorn came next- sounds interesting and it was but also excellent.
The empty half of the plate left room for some vegetables; new potatoes and grilled gem lettuce as shown in the photographs, plus some mange-tout.
The simple dessert was cherries, cream and a garnish of the eponymous oxalis (Google just said it was an edible weed, which doesn’t sound very appealing, but most of you have probably heard of wood sorrel).
All this flavour and innovation for £30.00 a head. The bill of was larger, of course, as it included our wine and beer. As we were celebrating in company we didn’t stint ourselves, although I paid for it with a hangover. Oxalis popped up in Shrub and Shutter just a month ago. It will be around for another 4 or 5 months but don’t waste any time – go and eat as soon as you can.

Shrub and Shutter 4

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address: 336 Coldharbour Lane, London SW9 8QH

telephone: 020 7326 0643

info@shrubandshutter.co.uk

Home

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

http://www.chickenshop.com/en/brixton

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.

Fancy Funkin Chicken

ffc01441 Coldharbour Ln, Brixton, SW9 8LN, UK

020 7733 0108

Instagram @fancyfunkinchicken

http://www.fancyfunkinchicken.com/

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

Kricket

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

hello@kricket.co.uk

http://www.kricket.co.uk/

This is on the second floor of Pop Brixton – the arrangement of storage containers near the Recreation Centre. It is a narrow corridor of a restaurant with just one line of tables with bench seating inside for about 20 covers but there is a bit more space outside in clement weather. When we arrived there was a 40-50 minute wait unless you were prepared to sit outside – we were hungry enough to put up with the bracing evening air.

We have been here before and not much has changed so look here for a full account. You’ll also have to look there for some photographs – on this visit it was too dark to get any thing worth including. We chose four options from the short menu. We chose our favourite Bhel Puri which has raw mango; Samphire Pakoras; Torched mackerel. The Bhel Puri was fantastic and we polished this off really quickly. The idea of Samphire Pakoras is great but we had forgotten that in practice they tend to be a bit woody and, hence, they were not our favourite. Unfortunately, we had ordered two portions and we failed to work work our way through them both. On the other hand the torched mackerel was really tasty and we would definitely try it again.

We washed it all down with a fresh lime soda and a bottle of Curious Brew Lager. The total bill came to £31.35. We didn’t linger and will certainly look up our review next time we come, so we can avoid things that weren’t great. It’s a shame you can’t book but, nevertheless, we will return so that we make our way through the rest of the interesting menu of what is still some of the best food in Brixton.