SW9 Brixton – Rosie’s Deli Cafe – Restaurant Review

London is a lonely place.

Perhaps I should clarify that; OK, north London is a lonely place; maybe it’s because the number of people I know above the Thames is a relative quantity – rather like the amount of shrimp you get in a £1 Tesco prawn sandwich – relatively nothing. London is labelled as a lonely place, but you don’t have to let it be, especially south of the Thames. As I sit here, in south London, in the Borough of Lambeth, in Brixton, in Market Row, in Rosie’s Deli Café, I feel that essentially I am not alone (she says, eating her solitary lunch). My point is, I could strike up a conversation with the guy on his day off, reading the 900-page novel sat opposite me. I could start talking to the girl wearing the snood typing on her laptop to my left, or even the guy wrestling noisily with a chair, whose padded cushioning won’t quite sit straight. Why don’t I talk to them? Well, that’s because I’m furiously typing away at this review. My point is, we all have something in common, and that is, we are sat in Rosie’s Deli Café.

Writing a review of a café probably shouldn’t start like this. Nor should it start if you’ve had nothing to eat all day, save a Burger King coffee (one of those powdered all-in-one jobbies), partnered with a client meeting where all we did was discuss flatbread and tandoor cooking – delicious – but not helpful.

It’s 12.59pm. I’m hungry.

On the chalk-board menu which stands out on the pre-school grass-green wall, is an array of sandwiches – all of which tempt me like a vulture hovering over a zebra carcass (note to self: less carrion-based meat metaphors in restaurant reviews). A mackerel pate and tomato sandwich catches my eye, as does the Capocollo and aubergine ‘generous salad’ (I’m not suggesting it isn’t generous: Rosie’s words, not mine); but then the hummus and antipasti will definitely float my boat. I vote for a goat’s cheese and onion marmalade ciabatta. I fear the standard bread sandwich, as opposed to the ciabatta: not because I think it won’t sate my hunger, but because very often their breaded partitioning almost certainly consists of crap bread. But as I move seats to make way for a mamma and baby, I face the prep area and a bouncy, brown, and flour dusted loaf sits alongside its partner-in-crime knife. I needn’t have worried.

My ciabatta arrives, warm. It’s well toasted but with a great deal of give as I bite in. The layer of bread which borders the filling is really moist, and much welcomed, as goat’s cheese can occasionally have that dryness, which only a pastey cheese can have. The cheese is sour and soft – and strong, but the marmalade, as you’d expect, sweetens the blow – but can I say, it’s not too sweet. Many an onion marmalade has befallen these crimes. In fact, I’d go as far to say it could do with a thicker layer but maybe that’s just me. Spinach adds the crunch – thank god it’s not rocket – bit of a pet peeve of mine. Why sandwich vendors feel they can add £1.50 to the shittest sandwich on earth because it has rocket, disgusts me. While we’re on peeves, why do people insist on serving things on top of napkins on their plates? The napkin goes on my knee, not underneath my food. Rosie was guilty of this, but I’ll let it go. If anyone can enlighten me, I’ll happily redact the above sentence.

People drop in and out, there’s a takeaway option, a mixed clientele, old, young, fat, thin. I saw them all. You’d be welcome here. It’s a homely-looking place – rather like a room-sized version of somebody’s pantry; there are tins and jars, cardboard boxes, and crockery. The hotchpotch chairs remind me of year eight in art class, and a token library of foodie books and classics looks like a book exchange (I don’t think they are, so don’t take them because I said that). I feel like I’m in someone’s house.

I want to order more, but I’m not going to. I’ll save it for another time – I want to come back here. It’s somewhere that I’d like to support, not that it needs it; it’s busy, and Rosie seems to have made this part of London, her part of London, a much smaller place.

And they play Joan Armatrading.

Rosie's Deli Cafe on Urbanspoon

Leave a comment


  1. james

     /  February 7, 2012

    Nice choice of first review. I’m a bit rubbish in that I lived in Brixton for 2 years and went there maybe 3 or 4 times total. Impressed you’ve managed it within your first few weeks of Brixton living!

    • Thanks! Yeah, well, I was bloomin’ hungry and it fitted the bill. Hopefully I’ll return soon, but there are so many other places to try! Would definitely recommend it though – bit of a Brixton institution.

  2. Glad you had a good experience. The food is nice at Rosie’s, but everytime I’ve been bar one in 7 years living in Brixton, the staff have been toe curlingly rude. I also got served the worst cup of tea I’ve ever had there which was the straw that broke the camel’s back and means I won’t ever go there again. Maybe it’s improved?

    • Oh no, really? That’s no good. The service was fine for me. I was greeted with smiles and the staff were pretty diligent. Maybe the tea wasn’t the best I have ever tasted, admittedly. The only thing was, I was cold & really hungry, so it went down extremely well. I do appreciate loose-leaf tea, so it would be lovely to see that at Rosie’s in future. I’m sorry you haven’t had a good experience, but thank you for your comment. All opinions and contributions much appreciated.

    • Ted

       /  April 11, 2014

      I don’t think it has-just went for a sandwich which cost £6, took ages and was admonished when I mentioned I’d been waiting ages for it in a pretty empty shop with 3 staff. Never going back.

  3. Greta review. Will definitely have to give Rosie’s Cafe a try. Love that it’s friendly and independent. And love the sound of the choice of sandwiches.

  4. Hey SWfood, thanks so much for lovely words. i do remember you i think. come again soon. xx

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