Tag Archives: Brixton

Kaosarn, Brixton Village, Granville Arcade

Oh Khao San Road, Bangkok. How many times have I wandered down your bonkers strip, waiting for a bus to take me to Laos or Chaing Mai or the beaches in the South. How many times have I peered in the window of a tattoo parlour, panicked and walked away. How many times have I sniggered at the white kids getting corn rows or dreadlocks on your pavements, coo-ed at the stray puppies, admired ladyboys (but not their consorts), wandered round the surrounding alleyways with their Thai boxing dens and street food stalls where I ate phad thai and drank Singha or Beer Chang. Oh the fake Diesel jeans and the silver jewelry and the fisherman’s pants and the slogan t-shirts. How many times did I sleep in the Ghekko Guesthouse for a couple of dollars a night, lying under the broken fan to cool down. How exciting it was to find that secret rooftop pool to get away from the heat and humidity. But how sad I was to go back a couple of years ago and discover that you are now inhabited by drunken 16 year olds from Derby with a penchant for starting fights and peeing publicly. Ho hum.

I have no idea if Kaosan in Brixton is named after the Bangkok street so excuse me for the nostalgia-fest, but ANYWAY, Brixton has always lacked a brilliant dinner venue. Sure there are plenty of decent places – Hive Bar, Upstairs, The Ritzy, Satay Bar, Fujiyama – but nothing to get excited about. And of course for lunch options you’re sorted – Franca Manca, Rosie’s Deli, Wild Caper, Brixton Cornercopia – but the market shuts in the evening. You can always shimmy along Herne Hill way to the Lido Cafe, The Florence and The Prince Regent, but sometimes you just don’t want the walk.

So when Jay Rayner gave a glowing review of the family-run Thai restaurant Kaosan in Brixton, The Chef and I and it seems a huge number of other Brixtonites got terribly excited. And it is utterly brilliant. We went there on Tuesday night and had the most amazing meal. You can sit outside or inside and its BYO so we sat under the stars drinking bottles of Sol and eating deliciously spicy food – the atmosphere is brilliant and it had that holiday feeling which is soooo invaluable when you’re living in London.

The food was consistently excellent too. Tender and juicy pork skewers, delicately battered goong tod (king prawns), crispy gaew tod (prawn and pork filo parcels). And then the mains of gai yang, kow neaw, somtum (chicken in a gorgeous marinade with a spicy peanut salad and sticky rice) and the most delicious deep lamb massaman curry. And all this for £15 each.

We both agreed it was the best Thai meal we’d ever had in London and that (shock!) it was probably even better than most of the meals we’d ever had in Thailand. I’m dying to go back and try the pork ribs and the green and red curries and to bring friends and lots of wine and try pretty much everything else.

We met the owner Noy (Noi?) afterwards who was lovely – he runs it with his wife, neice and daughter, a proper family business, and he really cares about the atmosphere and ingredients and his regulars. He did start talking about the “concept” but I chose to ignore that part. He said if you brought a party along he’d make special bespoke meals for you, and he was an incredibly lovely and happy man.

I am so so thrilled to find a fantastic resto in Brixton so thanks to JR for finding it! Icing on the cake was seeing the big man himself on the way there…

Kaosarn on Urbanspoon

My search for the best burger in London #1 – Grand Union

Man, I love London when its sunny.  The thermometer is hovering near 18 degrees today and thats it, London simultaneously dusts off its flip flops, combat shorts and fake raybans from the back of the wardrobe and heads to the nearest beer garden to drink cider and sunbathe.  Love it love it love it.

I took advantage of GU’s 2 for 1 burger offer for joining its mailing list, and headed there this avo for some sun, cider and an attempt to finally get this HPL burger quest going. 

Grand Union Brixton has a very good and large beer garden which was rammed full of happy smiley (and some slightly tipsy) people.  As per the best burger in London criteria , I ordered the cheese burger and chips, with coleslaw on the side.  El G got extra onion rings.  Here’s what it looked like:

Didn’t get a look in with these, sadly…

Nice chips

REALLY disappointing tastleless coleslaw  – boo – and I LOVE coleslaw, must do better GU…

Aye caramba!  Ooooooooohhhkkkkkkkkkkk now how the funk do I eat this bad boy??!

Woweee.  It was bigger than I remembered it.  The cheese burger at Grand Union is huge – ridiculously huge.  Stuffed with all the good stuff – huge juicy meaty burger, tons of yummy melted cheese, cheesy mayonnaisey relish at the bottom, tomato relishy stuff at the top, half a frickin’ lettuce, and a giant slice of beef tomato.  Awesome.

Apart from you just can’t eat it!!!  Honestly, look at the picture above and then at the picture below which was the burger about 2 minutes later.  Then take 1/5th of the burger and smear it on my chin, dump 1/5th on my lap, the lettuce just EVERYWHERE, the burger in small pieces, the bun spread like breadcrumbs liberally over the plate and table, and only about 3/5ths in my mouth.  I was forced to eat small chunks of what had fallen onto my plate like a chipmunk or parrot fish, and then lick or wipe the various relishes off my hands, mouth and chin.  It tasted really really good, but I just don’t like getting that messy when I’m eating, sorry GU.


For me, thats a #burgerfail.  Great burger, just make it easier to eat, pleeeease??!

The Herbaliser @ Plan B

Blow Your Headphones” from The Herbaliser was probably the seminal album from my Uni days; “The Blend” being one of the cleverest, funkiest hip hop sonds I’ve even heard.  So, I was incredibly excited to see a full live band set by The Herbaliser at the newly refurbished Plan B in Brixton. 

Apart from initial surprise that the band consisted exclusively of old white guys in suits (I suppose hardly surprising seeing they’ve been doing this for 15 years now), and sadness that no female MC was there, the set was pretty great.  The old school funky hip hop sounded amazing live with the snazzy brass section and the DJ did some vinyl scratching that I haven’t heard for years.  I wasn’t too thrilled with the new stuff – not that it wasn’t great in a Corduroy/Galliano/Fat Freddy’s Drop funk soul acid jazz reggae kind of way, but I missed the dirty bass and faster beats of the earlier hip hop.  Ralph Lamb the trumpet player makes a very engaging front man.

It was the first time I’d been to the refurbished Plan B too – it’s much better now with an extended dance floor, DJ booths at eye level and an intimate atmosphere.  Definitely worth a visit to up and coming events, which include Seb Chew and Smutlee, and on Friday 19 March 2010 the 10-piece band “Introducing” will play DJ Shadow’s entire album “Entroducing” from start to finish.  Probably the most played album at student parties circa 1996, its undoubtedly going to be an incredibly nostalgic, funky night oot!

The Brixton rennaissance

I don’t know what’s happening or why, but there is a real sense living in Brixton that something is happening and that it’s good.  For years people have been saying that Brixton’s “up and coming” but finally it feels like things are moving.  There’s an excitement in the air – recently we’ve seen the arrival of Brixton farmer’s market on Brixton station road;  a new smaller market outside the KFC selling hemp porridge, venison sausages, olives and lamb burgers; and the Brixton market itself is alive with the now famous Franco Manca, Wild Caper and Rosie’s deli, as well as the usual jerk chicken shops, music stalls, and fish and meat outlets.  There’s new bars like The Rest Is Noise, the Prince and Dex Club and the refurbished Plan B. Everyone seems to be walking round with a smile, slightly smug, as if to say “yes, I live here” .  They’s building a new Brixton Square  to be the focal point of this new “village”, and even the tiny park on my street is being done up, in a Grand Designs type community design.  Lottery money has flooded into the gorgeous Brockwell Park (which has a view of the City that can rival, sort of, Hampstead Heath) which now has a real community feel with lots of local events.

With Victorian terraced houses at far lower prices than neighbouring Clapham, estate agents say that for the first time young professionals are choosing to move from Clapham to Brixton, rather than the other way round.  Of course, this leads to a concern about pushing up house prices, and forcing the communities who make Brixton the place it is into other areas, but at the moment its a great mix of people – if you walk round the market you see old and young, every nationality you can think of, all enjoying what Brixton has to offer.

According to my North London friend Amy, Brixton is the only place in South London that has the same vibe as north of the river.  High praise indeed.

UPDATE:  The now defunct Woolworths on Brixton high street is going to be transformed into an H&M!  Now there really is very little reason to leave our little village of a weekend…

Rosie’s Deli, 14e Market Row, Brixton Market: http://www.rosielovell.co.uk/deli.html

rosie-observer-thumbRosie is turning into a bit of a celebrity chef.  Not only does she have her book out “Spooning with Rosie” (good christmas present for non-Londoners as you can say its from your local deli), but I understand that she may have a new TV series lined up with her as the female Jamie Oliver cockney chef… Anyway there’s been so much publicity about Rosie’s deli that my boyfriend and I went to her cafe for lunch a couple of weeks ago.  Its within the fantastic Brixton market, just by the Coldharbour Lane entrance, which is a great experience in itself – what with Franco Manca the pizza place, music shops, Secondo vintage clothing, and tons of fruit and veg, meat and fish stores. 

Anyway the first thing I noticed is that the famous Rosie’s deli is TINY – there’s about 5 tables inside and about 4 outside, so if you manage to get a table then you’re lucky.  I wonder with her new found fame whether she’ll move to new premises – although this may lose the charm of the place.  A pop up restaurant is planned for Christmas.

Inside, you can buy organic olives, cheese and meat, as well as olive oils, sauces, jams, organic fruit juice, etc.  It all looks lovely and quaint and tasty but at £3 for a bottle of apple juice, it ain’t cheap.  We sat outside and had a lovely coffee (I loved how it was served in china cups with saucers, how cute) and a ciabatta.  The food is really good but again its not cheap.  I’m yet to try the soups, quiche and other meals offered.

Definitely pop in for a coffee and cake (if you can find a seat!) and if you have the chance, speak to Rosie herself, who seems to always be behind the counter.

Rosie's Deli Cafe on Urbanspoon

The Rest Is Noise, 442 Brixton Road (http://www.therestisnoisebrixton.com/)

trin_flyer_blog_nov09Tried to find a decent place for a lazy Sunday lunch with my boyfriend today and I think I’ve found my new favourite place.  The Rest Is Noise is right on Brixton Road, you know, just by the Poundland store and opposite Foot Locker, not a great location and doesn’t look particularly great from the outside…but inside its very chilled out and funky.  Its filled with an eclectic, arty mix of people, a bit more interesting than the usual “pub” crowd in Clapham and places like the Coach and Horses on Acre Lane.  No TVs playing sport then, phew.  Their roast menu (£8 for one or £12 for two) tells you to “Come in and get comfy on a sofa.  Grab a game, a paper and a roast and daydream about winning our brilliant pub quiz tonight“.  And that was as relaxed as it felt – very spacious with big old sofas, large wooden tables, and random chairs of different shapes and sizes.  It felt like the kind of place you could sit all afternoon slouched on a sofa reading the paper and drinking cider – perfect.  I particularly liked the music – everything from reggae, Elvis, Nick Cave, Dusty Springfield, and a rock cover of the Carpenters.  As a huge burger fan I liked the menu – interesting salads (chorizo, stilton and baby potatoes), good looking burgers and nice sharing platters.  Great decor, from the velvet curtains to the fake family portrait painted on top of the fireplace and cuddly toys stuck to the ceiling.  Its probably my new favourite for Sunday lunch in Brixton/Clapham and they also do nights out (check the website) – although I hadn’t heard of anyone playing, oops, it looks like the kind of place that would be great for a weekend night to see a band and have a few drinks.

Secondo, 642 Voltaire Road and Coldharbour Lane


Secondo is in a few places – its in the centre of Brixton market (between Rosie’s deli and Franca Manca), in Coldharbour Lane and I’ve just discovered the newest one, opened a month ago next to Clapham High Street station on Voltaire Road (opposite Tsunami restaurant).  Secondo is a pretty cool place.  The Clapham version has a cafe, selling nice coffees, quiches and cake, a vintage clothes and shoes shop where I spotted a vintage pair of Miu Miu shoes for £30 and some pretty cool fake fur jackets and retro woolen jumpers. 

The Clapham version is bigger than in Brixton and the venue under the arches of the railway station really suit it.  I liked especially the “caravans” at the back of the shop where the toilets are and the fact that you can grab a coffee and just wander around.  It is certainly the coolest place in Clapham and the people sittiing in the cafe were certainly pretty funky.  I understand from my yoga class that they do DJ nights and serve booze so worth checking out what’s on.

On 28th November 2009, they are having their opening party in Clapham – the grand vintage ball – should be worth a visit!

UPDATE:  Had a very enjoyable coffee and shop at the Brixton version on Coldharbour Lane this weekend (the shop in the market appears to have closed down).  There were no tables at Rosie’s as usual so went to Secondo and had a lovely cappucino while listening to French radio.  Then had a wander round but not really long enough – loved the tweed hats and floral dresses, definitely worth popping in!

Adulis Restaurant, 44-46 Brixton Road, London


El G and I tried this place as its near us and something a bit different.   And we were really pleased we did. 

Adulis is an Eritrean restaurant which serves delicious food and tries to teach you something about Eritrea by its menu and artefacts on the walls.  Service was friendly and patient (they were used to people asking about the menu) and it was really busy on a Saturday night.  Inside was warm and cosy.  We ordered the meat feast which came in a large bowl and which we ate with our fingers using sort of pancakes.  Spicy and tasty and definitely filling.  Makes for a fun experience and was super cheap – definitely something different for a group of friends.

Adulis on Urbanspoon

Creation Dance, Urban Groovz, London/Edinburgh/Oxford


I LOVE hip hop and street dance – really good beats and great way to exercise.  I’ve been to Pineapple dance studios in Covent Garden which looked like it had great classes, but I ended up going for Urban Groovz, a street dance class by Creation Dance (http://www.creationdance.co.uk/) which took place near my flat in Clapham North arts studios.  The teacher gave us a new dance routine each week which we practiced and then danced to with a hip hop dance track.  Some of the moves were great (and widely copied after a few too many glasses of vino at the weekend) and it felt good to nail some of the routines, but one problem was that as it was quite complicated, there was a lot of stopping and starting, which meant that I didnt really work up a sweat enough.  Next, I  want to try ballet at the Clapham Manor Centre and another hip hop class at Pineapple Studios.

In the meantime, The Herbaliser are doing a set at Plan B in Brixton on Friday 4 December – I’m definitely planning to go along. n152274326406_1212

Upstairs restaurant, 89 Acre Lane, SW2 5TN

1197293398501A wonderfully simple, intimate dining experience.  Upstairs is in a Victorian house that has been split into downstairs coffee shop (Opus), 1st floor bar, and upstairs restaurant with about 8 tables and a fantastic small menu where everything is good and the wine is even better.  You normally start with drinks at the tiny bar on the 1st floor, which could be someone’s living room.  You are then escorted to dinner on the top floor. 

Although there are reports that the menu is lacking of late, and I was a bit disappointed to see leek and potato soup as one of three starter choices which I thought was a bit safe, the food is generally wonderful – French, tasty, delicate.  I had one of the best starters I’ve ever had there – rabbit ravioli – which was intricately made and packed with flavour. The menu offers only 3 choices of starters, main and dessert, but I like this – shows confidence and you know anything you order will be superb. Is up there with Chez Bruce standard cooking in SW London.  Wine list, as a French run place, is superb and the cheese plate is fantastic too. Run by the inspirational Philippe Castaing, who has an inspirational vision for Brixton and is making it his business to transform Acre Lane.  Small, quirky and romantic.

UPDATE 12 August 2010: Sadly I’ve been back twice since I wrote this post and I’ve been disappointed both times. Philippe and the other staff there weren’t particularly friendly and the food, although good, was a little unambitious and unimaginative.  It was also incredibly expensive for what you got too (around £70 each for a 2 hour meal). I sadly won’t be back again until I hear better stories and as promised I haven’t written up my bad review because I only want to dwell on the positive. Come on Upstairs sort your shizzle out! I still love Opus though – see my review here.

Upstairs Bar on Urbanspoon