SW9 – Brixton – Carioca

In every corner of Brixton – be that the editorial favourites of Brixton Village or the restaurants and establishments favoured by those who find the intensity of ‘Village Life’ a little too much to bear – you’ll find one eaterie or another which represents a further flung corner of the world.

Asmara – Eritrean; Caribbean – well you only have to open your eyes; Pakistani – watch our for The Elephant in the Village. And as for American – you’ll taste it quicker than you can say Chicken Liquor.

But where is little Brazil in the capital? Once traditionally Bayswater (dubbed rather crassly as Brazilwater) you’ll now find it in most necks of the London woods. Allow me to introduce to you one establishment which is conveniently located in our urban forest: Carioca.

And it only took me short stroll from my flat to get there (which is especially good if you’re going out for brunch – no one likes a long hike before for a weekend breakfast). To be fair, even if you are coming from the other side of town on a long hike you’ll be duly rewarded. All I can say, get there early, order big, and marvel at the colours on your morning plate.

Carioca Ipanema breakfast (credit Carioca)

The delightful spectrum emanating from this dish called Ipanema is a result of pan-chorizo with capers, sun-dried tomatoes, poached egg and chilli flakes, served on a maize muffin with avocado and salsa verde.

Carioca-brixton-4

This golden gem of deliciousness is no more Brazilian than I, but if you’re feeling unadventurous, then I wholeheartedly recommend the eggs royale. Perfectly cooked poached eggs which pop like giant caviar; lightly smoked salmon – with no stringy bits! Please sir, can I have some more?

Carioca-brixton-5

The Welshman had a long day of Super Saturday rugby ahead of him so you’ll have to forgive him for choosing the English breakfast (and if you’re a rugby fan you’ll understand that it was indeed a long day). Kudos to Carioca though – great mushroom action.

Carioca-brixton-1

And we return again to Brazil with a refreshing (and rather pleasant) bump; the below dish is acai with banana and granola – and a sweet drizzle of honey. I am also told the proprietor is very careful in his sourcing of the berries to ensure this platter tastes just like something you’d find in downtown Rio. The acai is semi frozen – which reminded me of being treated at the local leisure centre with a Slush Puppie (albeit with a far better flavour and none of the blue junk you get in it). So basically, just being treated then.

Carioca-brixton-3

If you’re not heading to Brazil anytime soon, and you’d like to be, or even if you are heading there soon and you want to experience it in our small corner of south west London – it would seem that you should follow the signs to Carioca. And their Bloody Marys are pretty awesome too. Loved it!

 

25-27 Market Row
Brixton
SW9 8LB

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Carioca-Brixton/378608922236453
https://twitter.com/CariocaBrixton

SW9 – Brixton – Sorry, No Vacancies

Sorry, No Vacancies – if you can find it (because believe me, it’s further and more hidden down Brixton Road than you think) – is located at number 378. The door in the parade of shops – just a little past Morley’s – eventually catches your eye as it’s the last bastion of light (or so it seems) before you hit Kennington. Of all the gin joints in Brixton, we found it!

Classic Magarita

Classic Margarita – old habits die hard!

Priorities / common sense mean the Welshman and I get the cocktails in first. Determined not to be the creature of habit I usually become when I go to new places, I opt for a Californian Sunrise in the hope the gin, Aperol and lillet rouge, topped with San Pellegrino aranciata rossa, casts me to Venice Beach, or at the very least a state of intoxication in which I can dream of the sand, sea and the rest. My tongue always deserves the bitterness; there’s no chance I’m opting for a sickly sweet cocktail. That I cannot abide. Lord also knows why I’ve added the Margarita photo first. I had that next, and while we’re on the subject – that’s more like it! Margaritas are my favourites, and not being a cocktail girl at heart (beer and wine only, and a distinct lack of nail varnish), I slug it down like no tomorrow.

Why are Margaritas always so small?!

Both the Margarita and Californian Sunshine were both more than quaffable. If you go out for cocktails with the girls on a Friday, have dates on Wednesday evenings in low-lit trendy places, you’ll be drawn to Sorry, No Vacancies.

Priority number two: hotdogs!

*Insert wurst pun here*

*Insert wurst pun here*

The hotdogs were pretty suave. Doughy bread (in good way) were filled to the brim with onions, and the dog itself was *oh yes*. The chef responsible for such a mealy hotdog (consider it substantial enough for dinner) is Chris Gillard – the man from St John’s Restaurant. I’ve since heard that they’ve also added a vegetarian option too, if you swing that way.

Californian  Sunshine, in Brixton

Californian Sunshine, in Brixton

Alas, we see a picture of Californian Sunrise, which I was banging on about earlier…the dimly lit bar and red down lighting ensured my photos were sufficiently poor quality enough to put a strong sepia filter on them. American beers also proliferated the drinks menu. The Welshman opted for Brooklyn, which was served by the bottle.

The bar at Sorry, No Vacancies

The bar at Sorry, No Vacancies

Cocktails are priced at the standard rate you’d expect the in London Town,  around the £6-7 mark or just a little over. The decor is dim, 70s, pop-up like (it’s a pop up). Not over enthralling and highly predictable. What was pretty cool though was the upstairs duplex bit, and the cywch (Welsh word, Google it) in the back which is more than passable for a small gathering. Otherwise, I feel it’s a tad lacking in atmosphere.

Sorry, No Vacancies runs from November until January.

378 Brixton Road
London
SW9 7AW

I was invited by Sorry, No Vacancies to sample the menu and cocktails.

SW9 – Stockwell – Dolcezza

Let’s start with cake.

Dolcezza Stockwell Italian Fruit cake

An Instagrammed cake nonetheless. Filter or no filter, you’d definitely eat it.

A cafe in Stockwell? In my mind, I envisioned small, budget, basic. Instead guests were greeted with chic, bare brick walls, contemporary lighting and some freaking delicious cakes and pasties. Dolcezza, is a traditional Italian sweet bakery, or ‘pasticceria’.

Dolcezza cafe Stockwell welcome mat

And now for more cake…

Dolcezza Stockwell mini apple cakes

And some more…

Dolcezza cafe stockwell mini patisseria

And Aperol and prosecco, with a generous slice of orange.

Dolcezza Stockwell aperol and prosecco cafe

Dolcezza cafe Stockwell launch event 1

Dolcezzo Stockwell Italian coffee

The launch party sent off some very good signals for Dolcezza.  There was a stance which lent towards detail, and intense, well-balanced flavours (my observations are based on the canapés and sweet selection they offered round at the event). From my experience on Thursday evening, I would make the effort to go there for a weekend occasion. If you live close by, lucky you.

Dolcezza is open from July 4th on Clapham Road, near Stockwell Tube station. It serves hand-made cakes, pastries, tarts and chocolates alongside Italian coffee. More substantial lunch bites include sandwiches, pizzette and salads. Dolcezza is open at 7.30am for breakfast until 6pm Monday – Friday and 9am – 5pm on Saturdays.

http://www.dolcezza.co.uk/

SW9 – Loughborough Junction – Levi Roots’ Big Lunch

Having worked as a steward on The Big Lunch on Lavender Hill in Battersea a couple of years ago, I was delighted to see that the initiative is still alive and well. I’ve also been involved in a few community-based festivals and food events – see my post last week on The Fabulous Feast.

As a little warm up to the main event on June 2, Brixton-born celebrity chef Levi Roots hosted a special cooking demonstration from at the Marcus Lipton Centre near Loughborough Junction.

The Big Lunch, which is funded by the Big Lottery Fund and led by the Eden Project, encourages people across the UK to have lunch with their neighbours once a year, for a few hours of community, friendship and fun.

Showcasing five recipes costing just £5 each, Levi demonstrated to residents from the Loughborough Junction community that holding a Big Lunch doesn’t require a lot of money or preparation.

Levi’s Jamaican cooking style helped to inspire the street party recipes, which were tried and tested by Big Lunchers from the area, who are planning to hold the event on Sunday 2 June.

Taken from his own collection, Levis’ recipe demonstration included haloumi 50/50 Kingsmill Wraps with melon and mint salsa, chill tomato toasts, hot cheesy potato skins, barbecued sweetcorn and flavoured butters and roasted treacle toffee bananas, all of which are easy to prepare and can be cooked on a grill or a barbecue.

I’m always a big advocate of community gatherings and initiatives, and although this isn’t the thing I usually post on my blog, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s good to see everyone getting involved in cooking and community.

Local Big Luncher Hazel Watson tucks in to Levi Roots' Roasted Treacle Toffee Bananas

Local Big Luncher Hazel Watson tucks in to Levi Roots’ Roasted Treacle Toffee Bananas

Levi Roots demonstrates his Five Recipes for a Fiver to local Loughborough Junction Big Lunchers

Levi Roots demonstrates his Five Recipes for a Fiver to local Loughborough Junction Big Lunchers

My Food Week in pictures – A farewell lunch, Brixton style

When you’ve been friends with someone for so long, regardless of how diligent you both are at keeping in contact, you’re always going to feel a little tug on those strings which are, apparently, attached to a frosty cardiac muscle in the centre of your thoracic cavity (my scenario anyway).

My friend leaves Wednesday, having been so close to me in south London, for the Wild West – Portland, Oregon. Having a terrible geographical knowledge of US States (c’mon, they’d never be able to point out where Brixton is on a map) I couldn’t tell you if it is actually the Wild West – you know – with cowboys and all. They still have them, right?

The second farewell I bid this week was another westward escape. This time to Wales; land of bara brith, laverbread, and Welsh cakes (posted a sneaky link to Debs’ site. Hers are, quite frankly, the dog’s proverbials).

Because I need great content for my blog, and, because I love my friend (notice the ordering of that sentence) I invited some of my closest mates for lunch (dinner – nudge to the northerners). All I need is a film crew and I’m basically your next Naked Chef (I throw roughly chopped food into the pan from great heights too y’know).

Pukka.

A farewell dinner which would not be forgotten had to include some of Brixton’s finest produce. Seemed only fair since I had directed the party all the way up Brixton Hill. My cooking of late is naturally following the nature of the weather; increasingly inspired by spring. Elderflower and apple spritzers started us off, with some of my favourite olives on the side – nocerella. If you’ve never had them before and are a fan of olives in all forms, please try them. Bright green (like giant peas) and unusually round (like giant peas), they are a lot less salty than your average green olive, have a fleshy texture and nutty flavour.

I served up two whole sea bass between five of us, stuffing it with mint, basil, parsley, and lemon slices. I really don’t understand people who don’t like to see the animal they’re about to eat whole. I demand to know what I’m eating, which is why I always ask my fishmonger to just clean and gut the fish. Plus, the bones and head keep all the divine juices inside, retaining the fish’s moisture. Dust the skin with a reasonable layer of sea salt and I can promise that you will be fighting for leftover pieces of skin from the plates of the fusspots.

Sea bass from Brixton Village

Offering the carbohydrates for the meal was a large portion of kisir (I may have made too much) – a Middle Eastern dish made principally with bulgur wheat, parsley, and tomato paste. I used a recipe I spotted about three years ago in the Guardian by one of my favourite columnists and chefs, Yotam Ottolenghi. I needed to add more chilli from the original recipe, and I preferred my bulgar wheat a little softer, so I added more water. It’s a beautiful traffic light platter when all is done and dusted, but I can tell you finding pomegranate molasses when your bastion of hope (Brixton Wholefoods) have run out of stock, can be a little unnerving an hour before your guests arrive. Luckily A&C Co Delicatessen saved my bacon, and my kisir, incidentally.

Ottolenghi's Kisir

Ottolenghi's Kisir

And the rest of the week…well just a quick one about a fabulous and entertaining cheese and wine evening at Entrée restaurant, on Battersea Rise. The event was hosted by their new restaurant manager, Chloe Gounder-Forbes. She’s a bit of a cheesy star having been on the judging panel of the British Cheese Awards – she knows her stuff.

Cheese Board at Entree

SW9 – My food week in pictures – Brixton Farmers’ Market

I remember when I was a child sitting up at our kitchen’s breakfast bar watching my mum curate culinary activities and prepare the dinner. Quite often there was only me and her in our house; my dad worked away from home, sometimes several months at a time, and I used to sit and keep her company while she cooked up mountains of food for me – I may have been an only child – but my appetite was equivalent to that of two other siblings. We used to chatter about our days, plan the activities for the week, or sometimes she would tell me about her jungle experiences when she lived in Brunei.

While we chatted I would give her a hand with the preparations. Even though I was young, I was given responsibility with the sharpest Kitchen Devil – chopping and peeling the vegetables – checking every now and then that the carrots were the correct  thickness. My mum liked things just so, and as her only daughter, I aimed to please. By helping out and observing her I learned how to gut fresh fish, make gravy from scratch, and test how al dente the pasta was – never has there ever been a better excuse to thrown spaghetti at the wall! I learned ridiculously simple, yet ridiculously useful tips – tips which cooks learn only through experience – at a very young age. Most importantly I learned about timing. A roast dinner is one of the simplest meals to cook, but allowing the chicken to rest, ensuring the potatoes have a crunchy exterior, making sure the gravy doesn’t burn, and not overcooking the broccoli can be one of the hardest things to coordinate.  Yet by my early teens I was a comfortable kitchen hand and cook.

Between the ages of 19 to 24 I lost my love for the kitchen and the joy of cooking fresh food. It started when I moved to London. I was studying full time, paying out of my nose to live somewhere that, really, I couldn’t afford. It’s not that I couldn’t afford to eat – I obviously did and have survived to tell the tale – but when you have a limited budget you cook up meals with no more than four ingredients. It means the cooking experience lacks joy and creativity. Meals are filling, but uninspiring. Those who try to pay an affordable amount of rent in London do so through the mechanism that is the house-share. We all shudder with the term ‘Gumtree’.  When your living space is not your own, and you share with strangers, you keep yourself to yourself.  Kitchen space is at a premium and you become increasingly accommodating to a lack of utensils, space, and others’ unusual culinary habits. Also, making soup is mightily difficult when the household only has one bowl (my house-mate and I affectionately, and somewhat originally, named it ‘the house bowl’).

But there is a light ahead of this story’s tunnel. It came in the form of The SW Food Blog. I’ve been blogging now for just over a month, and unintentionally it has given me more impetus and desire to cook that I ever have had before.  I set out to review a few restaurants and local producers, but now I’m finding myself planning dishes for a Sunday night and inviting friends over for dinner. I’ve been rekindling those tips and tricks my good old mum taught me (less of the old, she’d say), and for the best part of Sunday I was completely engrossed in the kitchen; making brownies as a teatime treat, as well as home-made fish cakes and cauliflower cheese.  Not only have I been consumed by cooking once again, I have also been consuming the cooking.

The ingredients for Sunday night’s cauliflower cheese were sourced from Brixton’s weekly Station Road Farmers Market which is open from 10am until 2pm.

Meat and vegetables at Brixton Famers' Market

Perhaps it was the sunshine, but the market seemed to be more bustling than usual. Turning the corner under the bridge off Brixton Road, the eyes were greeted with Brassicas of all hues and varieties. Cauliflowers were selling for as little as 60p, and the purple cauliflower (actually a broccoli, although different from purple sprouting broccoli) was one I couldn’t resist. Cavolo nero, other varieties of kale, and leeks, were among the glut of potatoes, onions, carrots and storeroom essentials.

Brixton famers market broccoli

Sampling the wares I settled on a mature cheddar made by Green’s of Glastonbury. Strong, creamy with a grainy texture, it was going to give my cauliflower cheese a tangy bite.

There are so many other stalls there which I have yet to try. I did however pick up Giggly Pig’s Irish sausages; I have it on authority that they were meaty and filling. They didn’t lose any volume on cooking, which says a lot about the amount of water in your average supermarket saucisson.

Colourful and intriguing was the greenery of Wild Country Organics‘ salad leaves. Tatsoi, claytonia, and their mixed salad with spinach and rocket were just some of the highlights.

Wild Country Organics at Brixton Farmers Market

Veggie lovers can delight at Brixton Farmers’ Market, but those looking for something altogether less wholesome can still tuck into the Carribean vegan cakes of Global Fusion foods, and the pastries of the Old Post Office Bakery.

I even had a go myself at counteracting all this beautiful fruit and vegetables. Decadent brownies made with Green and Black’s cocoa, and a whole bar of 70% chocolate, made my Sunday cooking and domesticity a pleasure. It’s so great to be back in the kitchen after this long overdue absence and put the love of cooking and fresh food, learned from my ma, back into practice.

70% Chocolate Brownies

SW9 Brixton – Seven at Brixton – Restaurant review

Post-work drinks on a Friday is something all working Londoners are familiar with. Work ends. You hit the nearest pub. You have four pints on an empty stomach.

We commute and therefore live too far away to catch the tube to freshen up, perhaps grab a light snack, and carry on with an evening which could potentially be a great deal more civilised (next time you see me ask about the night I woke up in Morden).

After a couple of drinks, thinking about finding a decent restaurant nearby, then coming back to the drinking establishment you’ve just left (only to find that the seats you once had have been commandeered by a group of drunken advertising execs) is a not an appealing prospect. Once we’ve found a bar we stay there…Besides, when I’m having a drink I don’t necessarily want a slap-up meal anyway. A light snack suffices; after all, you still want to save room for a few more drinks.

The British don’t do light meals well, and offer little in the way of a solution to combining evening drinks and tasty nibbles, but one of our European counterparts does.

I give you tapas.

More specifically, I give you Seven at Brixton.

In Market Row, once you get past the noisy throng queuing for pizza at Frano Manca, there’s serenity. A low-lit industrial space littered with recycled and distressed tables welcomes you. Pintxos, cake, and a back wall of cocktail fodder are a giveaway as to the motives of Seven at Brixton. Little do you know that there’s a warren of rooms upstairs complete with its own art installation.

Art Installation, Seven at Brixton

Thursday night was busy. Seats were taken, and there was chatter – but not that overriding noise that pervades London’s new found love of canteen-style eating. The brown parchment menu had been thumbed by someone who prefers to manually eat their patatas bravas, and the coca cola crates – our seats – required a bit of patience at first. Industrial hardware fashioned the art installation which created the shabby backdrop to our Cruzcampos and tapas. Had I not known otherwise, I would have thought I was in a pop up bar in Shoreditch.

Between the two of us we ordered five dishes: a warm manchego, spinach and rocket salad; button, shitake mushroom and leek croquettas; tortilla with chorizo and prawns; patatas bravas, and ensaladilla rusa. I thought the manchego salad was a bit steep at £6, but everything else fell between £3 and £4 a dish – not extortionate at all.

Warm spinach, rocket, and manchego salad

Service was great. Our waiter (that seems far too formal) did a cracking job weaving in between the tables and crates while simultaneously, and successfully, balancing Old Fashioneds on his tray.

The bravas were well oiled (not oily) and the sweet fiery red sauce gave the starchy fried potatoes the subtle kick they needed. The ensaladilla rusa, a creamy potato salad, green beans, and carrot was soured with slices of green olive – taking the edge off what could have been on the verge of being too sweet. The piquillo pepper also helped tip the scales in its favour, although the crusty toasted bread could have had your teeth out if you weren’t careful.

Patatas bravas, Seven at Brixton

I couldn’t fault the tortilla which had subtle onion hints running through. Chorizo and prawns are a classic combination, but unfortunately the garlic had slightly caught (a one-off occasion, I’m sure) and didn’t do much to accentuate the flavours.

The mushroom croquettas although tasty, were a little too soft in the middle for me, and didn’t hold themselves together all that well. I would have preferred a little more chew in the chew per bite ratio.

Pinxtos, Seven at Brixton

And at this point I’m going to have to backtrack. I mentioned that I thought the wilted spinach salad with manchego was quite expensive, but come to think of it, it was probably the dish I enjoyed the most. The spinach retained its texture and a bit of crunch – even so, it was soft without being watery; the rocket did its job to give a little zing and the manchego was smooth.

My tarta de Santiago was moist and pasty – like the inside of an almond croissant. Its light and buttery base was not too sweet but satisfyingly wholesome.

Seven at Brixton is as versatile a venue as you could want. It’s a bar. It’s a bar that serves the kind of food you want when you are having a drink. I’m thinking tapas could and should shift the culture in the way we treat social drinking. Therefore I propose you consider Seven at Brixton as a venue for after work drinks. There will be no debauchery, but there will be a friendly ambience, inventive food of modest size to accompany your cocktails, and a soundtrack to tap your toe to. Equally, you could just pop in for a light dinner and a home-made lemonade as I did last Thursday. What’s more, I sense Seven is someone’s well-thought out project; you can tell they care. I’m glad I discovered you, Seven at Brixton, I hope you’ll have me back, although I think I’ll keep you my little secret.

Ambience, Seven at Brixton

Seven At Brixton on Urbanspoon

SW9 Brixton – Franco Manca – Restaurant review

There are rules to a dinner party. You don’t talk about politics or religion. It’s just not the done thing. Arguments do not make for a pleasant and sophisticated night, which is what most of the middle classes expect from such an occasion.

But when blogging, are there any rules? What is the protocol for new bloggers such as myself? Neither politics nor religion will touch the lips of the SW Food Blog, rest assured. But are there any restaurants which I cannot review? Are there any food establishments which are sacrosanct, save for a couple of notorious food critics, which grace the pages of the most well-established broad sheets?

Pizza is contentious. It’s contentious among the Italians. So when a pizza joint pops up claiming to be ‘the real deal’, that’s exactly what we foodie Brits expect: and nothing less. Once a pizza restaurant has been heralded as such, it’s difficult for people to eat there objectively, or at least being able to express their true thoughts without causing a commotion (see the comments which followed Mama Lan’s TimeOut review).

This was my thought train when the Welshman suggested I review the famed Franco Manca in Brixton Market. Its sourdough pizza bases are known throughout London to be the most moist and textured. I was frightened of reviewing it; I’ve had delicious pizza in Battersea when I lived there previously – Pizza Metro and Donna Magherita – and I admit, it was going to be a challenge for Franco Manca to match them.

In order to escape the wrath of my impatience (I hear the queues are long) the Welshman and the Scouser and I arrived at Brixton Market around 11.45am (it opens at 11.30am). Apart from one family who had just sat down, we were alone.

I am a creature of habit, and for me, anything which has anchovies has its own gravitational pull. I am helpless to the universal forces that be. I chose the Number Five; anchovies, capers, olives, oregano and mozzarella. If I was going to be clichéd, this is like my equivalent of an orgasm on sourdough.

The Number Five at Franco Manca

My Scouse comrade chose the same thing, while the Welshman seized his chance to eat pork in my company, selecting the home-cured Gloucester Old Spot ham, mozzarella, buffalo ricotta, and wild mushrooms.

The Number Four at Franco Manca

One has to tear the inch-worth of sourdough crust, which can barely be described as a crust, in order to get to the topping. Nibbling is a precursor to the main event. The sourdough, while never crunchy, has a toughened layer which sinks and then rips like a leathery skin when you bite into it. The centre is moist and doughy.

Now I’m into the middle. The sauce is light. This is good. I’ve had pizzas where there has been way too much reduction and way too much garlic, but this is not one of them. I must admit, I’m a bit perplexed by the inclusion of what looks to be Kalamata olives, but I’m certainly not put off. The quality of the mozzarella is superior to what I’ve had on top of a pizza before, and there are sufficient ingredients to avoid making the Number Five look like a barren circular wilderness of dough. The centre of the pizza is thin, which results in a wetted and top-heavy pointed corner of cheese that I have to scoop into my mouth quickly like a Neanderthal.

As the pizza disappears before my eyes my white plate is left with a carbonised smear – a good sign of stone-baked dough.

By the time we had finished, shortly after 12.30pm, the queue had started to snake out of the main entrance to the market. What you must understand about Franco Manca is that it is street dining. It is not a place to while away a Saturday afternoon, especially when the snake of people start staring at you, willing you to move on (we’ve all done it).

I will lend my voice of support to Franco Manca, I enjoyed it. However, it only just pips my favourite Battersea pizza haunt… by a smidge. I think it was the toppings that done it; definitely more flavoursome and better quality than I’ve experienced previously.

Anyway I’m struggling to finish this post in a witty or cheesy way, so all I am going to say is, bring on the Pizza Off: Franco Manco vs. Donna Margerita / Pizza Metro.

Only a review of the latter will truly settle this debate, unless you have your own thoughts?

 

 

Franco Manca on Urbanspoon

My food week in pictures – £5 for 5lbs – A lot of food

I will give you £5 if I’ve not put on five pounds this week. This week’s gastronomical extravaganza will be difficult to surpass.

Monday was the day of the trout; fresh from Brixton Village market, I left it whole and steamed it with ginger, garlic, bonnet chillis, spring onions and a dash of soy and lime zest. It wasn’t rainbow trout, but you can see from the spectrum of spices and colours, it might as well have been named as such.

Fresh trout, lime, soy, ginger, garlic, chilli

Although I have no pictures to show for it, I reviewed The BreadRoom in Brixton on Tuesday – check it out if you fancy a cheap lunch.

Wednesday heralded the mid-week beer (I’m trademarking that phrase), in celebration of my friend’s birthday. We may have enjoyed food from the voucher-friendly All Bar One (which I will not be reviewing), but the festivities were not complete without a quartet of cakes from the one and only vegan-friendly Ms Cupcake.

Chocolate chip

Saturday was a treat. Beating the queues at 11.30am, the Welshman and the Scouser and I sampled, what for pizza aficionados can be best be described as Mecca.  Franco Manca in Brixton Market has a reputation for its glorious sourdough bases. It has, whether you agree or disagree, been crowned as one of the best pizza joints in London. I made notes. There will be a review. Watch this space.

The number 5 at Franco Manca

On what was a very windy day post-pizza, our trio left Franco Manca and headed to the vintage market which had set up shop on Station Road. Catching my eye and nose, was not the rustle of a musty mink vintage fur coat*, but the fragrant waft of roasting coffee. This traditional Ethiopian coffee vendor, who I am assured comes down to the road opposite the Rec every Saturday, roasts whole Arabica beans in a small tin handled pot, before grinding them and brewing them in a beautiful Jebana (long necked coffee jug). You’re poured a lovely little cup; the actual coffee is thick and grainy with a comforting amount of  astringency (when unsweetened). There’s also a large reed basket full of popcorn to snack on while you sup. Please visit – it’s a real treat.

Ethiopian coffee

Just when I thought the week couldn’t get any better, the Sunday comfort club (me) decided to cook up, not a roast, but a hearty wholegrain smoked salmon tetrazzini (spaghetti bake) with lightly smoked salmon, cream, chestnut mushrooms with a parmegiana topping.

Smoked salmon tetrazzini with mushrooms, cream, and a parmigiana topping

Happy Sunday!

*I don’t wear fur. Please don’t e-attack me!

SW9 Brixton – The BreadRoom – Restaurant review

Homemade soup and artisan bread for £3? I can spend £3 in a Sainsbury’s Local on their not-so-appealing meal deals and come away hungrier than a pre-metamorphosing caterpillar. But this rare value is what attracted me to The BreadRoom cafe in Brixton Market; I could eat out for lunch at a very reasonably rate. In fact, I was pretty stuffed, but even if you wanted something more carbohydrate based, you’d still receive change from your fiver with one of The BreadRoom’s sandwiches.

At only £4 a sandwich, the list of fillings do not have the diversity of say, Rosie’s Deli Cafe, but gracing the menu are still the stalwart favourites; mozarella and pesto, parma ham, chicken, and cheddar slabs. Limited some might say, and perhaps a bit economical with the frills, but you’d have to be a bit fussy if your tastes were not accommodated. Quiche of the day and a salad also only came to £4, and on the saccharine front, cakes, pastries and baked goods sat out on the front bench waiting to be plucked like ripe fruit.

My soup was broccoli and coriander. Yes, broccoli and coriander. An alarming green colour (although I guess if it was supposed to be carrot and coriander, then I’d be slightly more alarmed), but definitely homemade nonetheless. Broccoli and coriander’s ring on the ears does not have quite the same familiarity as perhaps its aforementioned rooted cousin. Sometimes there is an ultimate, but not completely unavoidable tendency, to overcook any and every vegetable which finds its way into soup. You’ll know when broccoli is overcooked, it adopts like its fellow brassicas, a distinctive odour. The broccoli inhabiting my soup, was forgiveable, but not technically immune from this faint scent.

I ate it all which, considering the generous portion size, was a reasonable challenge; it was a wholesome and hearty dish most appropriate for a cold, hungry day. It was also quite thick; a little runnier would have dribbled down a bit better on my palate, but that’s personal taste. Another time and on a non-broccoli flavoured day, I’d come again. It’s nigh on impossible to get a fulfilling lunch for under a fiver in London. My accompanying bread was well toasted (and by that I do not mean burnt, just a little too dry; the doughy-ness beyond the external toasted crust had become a little dessicated).

The BreadRoom is a small and cosy affair which felt somewhat awkward when all the seats were full. I was afraid I was going to fling my spoon high into the air and straight onto the lap of my – very – proximal neighbour. It’s also the kind of place where personal noises are not welcome; that is probably the advice I’d give to my – very – proximal neighbour. Still, it was comfortable when the noisy diners left, and the generic lift music took a siesta.

I was impressed with their veritable selection of loose-leaf teas – there was not an imprisoned tea leaf in sight – and a fine selection including Moroccan mint, green tea and jasmine, and rooibos, among more traditional blends.

BreadRoom by name, and bread room by nature; all of their doughy offerings are baked with Shipton Mill Organic Flour – I assume this means it is good? Apparently the baker also creates his own sourdough liquid for  a selection of the breads which are available to purchase as individual loaves.

The BreadRoom is a cafe which doesn’t convey quite the right atmosphere to make you want to linger for a long lunch. It misses the personal touch. From the matching barstools to the god-awful tables, there’s a sense of ‘eat lunch and be done’. However, I was full, and full of homemade value-for money soup, which ensured my Scottish tight-waddedness didn’t not rear its ugly head. And with that I was happy.