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Et tu, Brixton?

13 Nov

Brixton Village


I’ve been trying to avoid blogging about Brixton Village.  I have liked that spot in the old Granville arcade, ever since there was hardly much more than Federation Coffee and Etta’s…  Long before it became the next “new” thing in Brixton.

Anyway, I’ve been trying but now accept that I must fail.  I have to write about the nonsense of my recent Saturday experience there.

I haven’t been to Fish, Wings and Tings of late.

Not because the food is awful.  It isn’t, although it isn’t spectacular either.

Not because of the scintillating view of steaming Brixton market rubbish at the front either, although that is challenging.


Brixton Village Saturday rubbish, next to Fish, Wings and Tings

It’s just that I’ve got fed up of the never-changing menu, (chicken or goat?  goat or chicken?), which has less variety than the Caribbean takeaway on Coldharbour Lane. However, against my better judgment, I took a Trinidadian friend who was visiting from Scotland.

It all started off smoothly – the saltfish accra (or codfish fritters, as it has been boringly described) was very tasty – but then it all went badly wrong.  The waitress got our orders wrong.  Both.  In and of itself, this was not a disaster.  It happens in all restaurants at one time or another.  Unfortunately the wrong food was brought to us twice, as if we could not possibly know what we ordered.  We politely sent it back both times, saying that we hadn’t ordered it.  The waitress then came out and aggressively demanded to know what we’d ordered.

As my friend put it: “Yuh know Brixton reach, when you’re given grief for your Trini accent, in a Caribbean restaurant, by a French waitress!”  I won’t be going back anytime soon.


Fortunately, Brixton Village somehow still has the ability to charm you when you least expect it.  On Sunday we wandered down to The Agile Rabbit just as they were closing.  The chefs made us fresh thin and crispy pepperoni pizza while we waited and were then generous enough to share their staff food with us when we looked at it longingly.

The Agile Rabbit - Thin and Crispy Pizzas

The Agile Rabbit – Thin and Crispy Pizzas

I’ve worked in several large London restaurants and don’t remember having such simple staff food that was that nice – spinach and ricotta ravioli in butter, with an ephemeral tease of nutmeg.   Who says the best things in life aren’t free?

There are still some superb spots in and around Brixton Village – Federation Coffee continues to produce the best coffee south of the river, despite being overrun with yummy mummies – however, there are way too many glorified takeaways trying to charge restaurant prices for ordinary food and really poor, if not downright disrespectful service.  Brixton is one of the coolest spots south of the river.  We deserve better.


Environs – The Wine Parlour

One of the successes of Brixton Village has been the improvement of the gastronomic sites available nearby.  For example, the Spanish restaurant and deli, Brindisa, has opened its doors on Atlantic Road just near to Brixton Village.  For me, though, the highlight is the independent “Wine Parlour”, which is tucked away on the corner of Vining Street and the very busy Atlantic Road.  It’s a funky spot with good quality wines, displaying a range of styles at a range of prices.


Inside the Wine Parlour

They have a good quality “Enomatic” wine preservation system. It stores the wines for up to 8 days and allows you to pour as little as 25 ml at a time. Basically, this means that small independent wine bars, such as this, can offer a wide range of fresh wines by the glass, without needing to increase the price to cover increased waste.


Enomatic Wine Preservation Syste

Enomatic Wine Preservation Syste

One or both of the proprietors is always there and I’ve always found the service good and their suggestions helpful.  Chix in particular, runs the store with a fun, friendly but firm hand –that means she is able to talk me down from my near tantrum-throwing to get an outdoor patio spot with exceptionally good grace and charm.  Add to that, it is an interesting location on a busy road, where you can watch the road rage outside in cool comfort.  Additionally, if you’ve had enough, you can step out to their little patio and relax in the summer sun.

Outdoor patio at night

Outdoor patio at night

I’ve never been a fan of Champagne et Fromage in the Village – something seems quite wrong about its self-conscious pretense in the grittiness of the market.  The Wine Parlour manages to avoid this, largely because of the laid back, easy attitude of the owners and staff.  It is definitely worth a visit.


Tour de York

3 Aug

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the Yorkshire dales recently – well the “dale” of York in particular.

This is an unusual area in terms of food culture.

Jay Rayner, in his review of Le Langhe restaurant, ( described York as an area punching below its weight and that, for the most part, feels about right.

For an area that smells either of conching chocolate ( or “fertiliser” (i.e. manure) being laid in the fields, the foodie offering is surprisingly limited.

In my next few posts, I will do a whistle stop tour of the food in York itself.  Following this, I will cover a few high-end restaurants in Yorkshire as a whole.

I have bribed, threatened and cajoled my colleagues to accompany me on this wild adventure, so keep an eye out for the extras.

Talking about “whistlestop” tours, it would be remiss if I didn’t say something about Le Grand Depart of the Tour de France, also known as the Tour de Farce since both Mark Cavendish and Chris Froome were laid low in the early stages.

This took place a few weekends ago.  The locals definitely joined in the spirit of the race: There were many painted yellow bikes hanging from buildings around York, 


Hanging yellow bicycle

Hanging yellow bicycle


and many, including my friend Richard and his family, came out on the Sunday dressed “a la Francais”.


Richard's family, French style

Richard’s family, French style


I stood out on a relatively cold (it is York!) summer’s morning to watch Froome et al “fly past” at what was for them, a snail’s place.

Despite the limited duration of my view (36 seconds if my camera timer is to be believed), I got some great photos and it was surprisingly exciting to see them go past.


Not quite flying....

Not quite flying….




Almost more amazing though was the hundreds thousands of pounds worth of bikes, wheels and spare parts being carried by the support vehicles.  I guess this is nothing compared to the value of the cars destroyed during the F1 race at Silverstone later that day but….

There were tens of support vehicles loaded like this

There were tens of support vehicles loaded like this

Since watching the Tour that morning,

  • Froome found it difficult to remember which way is up;
  • Hamilton continues to pin the voodoo doll of Rosberg with limited success; and
  • Pele has applied for German citizenship

On to the food!