I am very lucky as I live in Brixton – a fantastic part of South London that in recent years has had an explosion in restaurants – over 70 within a ten minute walk from my flat. And some of them are really, really good, like Salon, which I reviewed months ago or Naughty Piglets.
There are the cocktail bars such as Shrub and Shutter or the new Beast, or places for cheaper, faster, meals – the pulled pork bbq place, the Joint, Honest Burger, Pakistani food at Elephant, Chinese dumplings at Mama Lans or Happy Dumplings, Lebanese at French and Grace, Mexican at Casa Morita. Plus many many more of course.
Another thing that Brixton does in spades is brunch on a weekend. Charlotte and I used to start our Sundays by getting our nails done and then retreating to the Burnt Toast Cafe, where we would sit with blankets on our laps, fresh orange juice and steaming cups of hot coffee in front of us. My favourite dish there involved corn beef hash with an egg on top. Once they took that off the menu I was less keen and we set out to find brunch pastures anew.
There was the Duck Egg Cafe, a tiny, steamy cafe with a small sun trap terrace beside the road. The views weren’t great – watching the cars crawl by – but it was lovely to feel the sun beat down on your face and enjoy a plate of duck eggs, perhaps with a Moroccan twist.
Duck Egg Cafe has since enlarged and moved into a pub – I am sure the food is still just as good but I’m less keen on its current location so I set out again to find a new brunch spot.
I now have two:
Wild Caper. Firstly, the chocolate brownies in this place are to die for. I know a chocolate brownie is not a typical brunch menu item, but once I’ve polished off my main meal I am always still hungry and those brownies, freshly baked up by the till, just call my name. Because that is the slight problem with Wild Caper. Despite how perfect they cook their poached eggs, and how delicious the sourdough bread, and how wonderful the fresh orange juice is, there is just not enough. The menu has a selection of different poached eggs and a full cooked breakfast. Go early if you want the full works as every time I have been they have run out of an ingredient for the full cooked breakfast (bacon, beans, sausage, tomato, mushroom etc). But they are very happy to substitute those ingredients for anything else on the menu. Perhaps if I chose that dish I would find it enough food – but I have a huge love of poached eggs and am almost always going to choose the poached egg meal. While good, it is just not enough.
Cue Valhalla – a little cafe with a scandinavian twist. I was sold when I saw that the menu had over six different types of poached eggs. How could I not be?
This little cafe has a few tables outside in Market Row to people-watch the hustle and bustle of Brixton at the weekend, and a few cosy tables indoors where you can see the tiny kitchen. Smoothies are freshly made to order and the sound of the blender does rather drown out conversation for a moment or two – but they are fruity and delicious. And the poached eggs…. I went for huevos benedictinos – slivers of spicy chorizo on sourdough, their spiciness countered with slices of avocado, topped with two perfectly cooked poached eggs, salsa, paprika and sprinkles of chilli flakes. It was delicious and I am desperate to go again!
Having said that… There are also a few more places to try! Firstly, Salon – a posher restaurant than the others, where James and I have been for dinner several times. The food for dinner is incredible, ingredients selected for being in season and served in fresh, innovative ways, so I am quite excited to try their brunch.
Then there is the Lido Cafe – this is a bit further away, down in Brockwell Park, so will be a good spot for a post-park run brunch. The Lido is a 50m outdoor swimming pool, open year-round, and the cafe adjacent is renowned for its great brunches.
I can’t write a blogpost on brunching without having some awareness of gentrification in Brixton. I’m not going to get into a whole political argument about it, but I do get that it’s kind of crazy to write a blogpost on all the fantastic places you can now brunch in a place which saw some of the worst rioting in London 35 years ago, a place still subject to gang violence, a place known and loved for its cultural heritage. I certainly don’t want to see my favourite grocery shop, Noor, replaced with a Tescos, or any of the small, independent restaurants I mention above ousted by Prets and Pizza Express and Zizzis. I don’t want Brixton to turn into Clapham. I also love Brixton so I don’t want to be priced out, I don’t want it to turn into Chelsea. This Guardian article is quite good on gentrification. But I can’t deny that I absolutely love the small, independent restaurants that have proliferated in my area in the last few years!