£30 - £49
40 Acre Lane, London, SW2 5SP
Like its stablemates in Shoreditch and Camden, the Brixton branch of Blues Kitchen strikes the right note with its menu of stateside comfort food and finger-licking barbecue favourites. Get the party started Kentucky-style with a cool Mint Julep from the bourbon-focused bar list, before launching into moist crab doughnuts and chipotle mayo, or spicy buffalo wings dunked in blue cheese sauce. Burgers, gumbo, jambalaya and buttermilk chicken are options, but we couldn’t resist a barbecued feast of beef brisket burnt ends and St Louis pork ribs, slow-smoked for hours to meaty melting point. The fun doesn’t stop there: live music every night ranges from funk and soul to gospel and bluegrass, with a second stage upstairs and dancing until 2am at weekends. The look is New Orleans drinking den: comfortably laid-back, with ceiling fans, vintage-style tiles and generous leather booths. It’s perfect for large groups – and large appetites.
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Unit 12, Brixton Village, SW9 8PR
Driven along by two energetic young owners, no-frills, independently minded Honest Burgers has gone down a storm wherever it chooses to pitch its admirable cut-price offer. Fans rate it as one of the best burger joints in town, with a growing reputation for its custom-built patties – ‘meaty hunks of wonder’ made from 35-day aged beef (from The Ginger Pig), timed to perfection and served on a glazed brioche bun with triple-cooked, skin-on chips and rosemary salt. Free-range chicken burgers and mixed veggie ‘fritters’ are also available, and the fact that prices are well below a tenner is a bonus. No bookings, but the queues move quickly and it's worth knowing that Honest Burgers is licensed – if you fancy a bottle of Redchurch Shoreditch Blonde beer, a jar of Hendrick's G&T with cucumber or a carafe of Plumpton Estate Sussex rosé.
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£30 - £49
Brixton Village Market, Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, London, SW9 7EL
"If street food is your thing, this is the place”, says a fan of this popular refuelling point on Brixton Village Market. Kaosarn is praised as “authentic, fast and tasty”, with refreshingly small bills and punchy food without frills or frippery – as you might expect from an outfit that evolved from the first Thai cafés in London. The menu covers all the essentials, but also ventures beyond the satays, green curries and pad thai noodles to offer everything from gai tod (deep-fried garlic and pepper chicken) to larb (a salad of spicy minced pork with ground roasted rice, chilli and lime). Service is pretty basic – it’s worth having a plan to go on somewhere afterwards, because the management is likely to want your seats back the moment you’ve finished. Our advice is bring your own wine and your own company to enjoy Kaosarn at its best.
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426 Coldharbour Lane, London, SW9 8LF
“The waiting is over!” proclaims one reader: after protracted delays, MasterChef winner Tim Anderson has finally launched his homage to the nanban tradition of Euro-influenced Japanese cuisine, using ingredients from Brixton Market. A one-page menu offers crowd-pleasing curries and burgers alongside ramen and gyoza. Our salad of steamed cavolo nero with crunchy garlic chips drenched in ponzu butter was a revelation, and Anderson’s take on horumon-yaki (twice-cooked pig’s tripe in a spicy miso sauce with perky vegetables) is a masterpiece, but we’d also suggest deep-fried ‘electric eel’ and mentaiko pasta – an on-trend Italian/Japanese fusion riff involving spaghetti in chilli-cured cod-roe sauce, topped with a slow-cooked onsen egg. Service is helpful, and the thoughtful drinks list includes saké, shochu and small-batch craft beers. Our only gripe concerns the rather spartan first-floor dining room – try to bag the prime window seat on the cosier ground floor.
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£30 - £49
28 Brixton Water Lane, London, SW2 1PE
“Such fun, such great food and run with such love”, says a fan of this delightful neighbourhood bistro/wine bar with its homely “restaurant-next-door” vibe. Much is down to the “adorable” husband-and-wife team of Margaux Aubry and chef Joe Sharratt, who wow diners with their daily one-page menu and esoteric list of French-based ‘natural’ wines. Sharratt (ex-Trinity in Clapham) plays fast and loose with culinary influences, though his assured touch makes even the simplest of combinations sing: Devon crab is paired with peanuts and pickled cabbage; boudin noir keeps company with cuttlefish and capers; roast cod makes an oriental appearance with bonito butter and shimeji mushrooms; chocolate mousse is dressed with hazelnuts and barley caramel. Book a table in the neatly panelled back dining room or risk a walk-in space at the bar, where Margaux and her friendly team give inspiring wine recommendations. Naughty? Perhaps, but very nice.
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£30 - £49
18 Market Row, London, SW9 8LD
Brixton’s Market Row is a real draw for foodies, but this pared-back dining room above what was Cannon & Cannon’s charcuterie shop is surely the pick of the bunch. Chef/owner Nick Balfe has hit his stride with a fiercely seasonal selection of dishes that showcase his considerable talents – as well as a zealous commitment to ‘zero waste’. His fixed-price menus are shot through with inventive touches and bright, perky flavours that showcase native produce. Dishes change regularly but might include creamy smoked squash topped with trompettes and pumpkin seeds for a richly comforting taste of autumn or pink salt marsh lamb with crispy slivers of Jerusalem artichoke and sprouting broccoli slathered in garlicky bagna càuda sauce (a regional Italian dip). But thankfully the addictive nduja croquettes are a permanent feature now. Salon Wine Store next door features an brilliant selection of artisan bottles – starting from as little as £10 – which you can buy to enjoy with your meal or takeaway; though we suggest plumping for the carefully curated wine pairings if you’re a real oenophile. Local craft brews and cocktails are also on offer, while weekend brunch features creative dishes such as poached duck egg with Sriracha chilli hollandaise.
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£30 - £49
192 Acre Lane, London, SW2 5UL
“Top-notch tapas”; “simply the best”: readers continue to rave about this hugely popular joint on the Clapham/Brixton border. Named after Barcelona’s most famous food market, it provides a snapshot of that city’s classic tapas – from patatas bravas and pulpo a la gallega (octopus with paprika) to top-quality hams, artisan cheeses, properly made paella and black rice. Also look out for on-trend ideas including sea bass on wheat risotto with scallop cream or suckling pig with sweet-potato crisps, apple sauce and lemon sorbet. What sets Boqueria apart is the accuracy of the cooking, pinpoint presentation and the can-do attitude of the “really attentive” staff. Although it’s cramped and tables are packed close together, there’s also something infectious about the garrulous, noisy vibe – and it’s “really cosy” in winter. The all-Spanish wine list is bolstered by plenty of sherry and cava at affordable prices.
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£30 - £49
447 Coldharbour Lane, London, SW9 8LP
‘Where Brixton meets Bali’ is the slogan of this informal pan-Asian restaurant and bar behind Brixton Market. The traffic grinding down Coldharbour Lane might not conjure up images of tropical paradise, but the funky interior and laid-back vibe here certainly provide a hint of Bali’s nightlife. Expect overly sweet cocktails such as Traffic Lights (vodka, melon liqueur, peach schnapps, Malibu, orange and cranberry juice), coupled with a menu of greatest-hits Asian food. The likes of chicken satay, spring rolls, duck wraps and fishcakes precede a line-up of crowd-pleasing main courses such as pad thai or a salmon teriyaki salad. The standard of cooking is average, but the food is merely a backdrop for the lively atmosphere. A mix of old-school reggae, Latin salsa and funk buoys the mood at weekends.
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£30 - £49
49 Brixton Station Road, London, SW9 8PQ
If you'd been thinking Pop Brixton was in need of Cantonese cred, this little café (next door to the New Zealand Wine Cellar) has set things straight. The look is pure kitsch: princess-pink booths, Formica, orange plastic chopsticks and fake fruit dangling from peg-board walls – it's Hakkasan for hipsters. A one-page menu is divided between fried, wok, steamed and BBQ sections, with roast duck taking centre stage (roast goose is actually only served on Saturdays). Start with prawn toast 'revisited', which is a huge slab of fried sesame toast stuffed with juicy prawn mousse and topped with lettuce, pickled kohlrabi and wafting bonito flakes. Mains arrive on a metal tray: moist slices of char sui, pork belly and crispy-skinned duck in a pool of meaty juices. It’s all well-cooked, although the accompanying choi sum was heavy on the seasoning and we were baffled by the mustard dip (tuck in to the house plum sauce instead). To finish, the decadent cha chaan teng French toast, essentially a deep-fried peanut butter sandwich, will send you home on a happy sugar high.
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£30 - £49
336 Coldharbour Lane, London, SW9 8QH
At the top of Brixton’s new-wave pile of restaurants, this pretty den made its name with cocktails –but the ambitious food is equally accomplished. The Shrub & Shutter comes from the same family as Herne Hill’s First Aid Box, and features a small front bar with smarter dining room at the rear and menus scrawled on blackboards. Cocktails are an education in progressive mixology; gunpowder, gummy bears and chicken skin are typical ingredients. Our NWA arrived on a burnt slab of tree trunk under a smoke-filled bell jar, to reveal a satisfying whisky and smoked maple syrup concoction, garnished with burnt pineapple and two morsels of beef. The small kitchen belies its dimensions (and prices) with memorable, lively dishes. Our highlight was spiced duck hearts on toast, paired with tangy mustard sauce: a delicious combination of heat, crunch and creaminess. Wine options are brief but well considered, staff are friendly yet efficient and the set menu represents superb value. A must-visit if you don’t mind the pared-back, casual vibe.
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30 Acre Lane, London, SW2 5SG
London’s most soulful suburb is the no-brainer location for Barrio’s fourth outing. Fans of the firm’s Soho, Shoreditch and Islington bars will know what to expect: colour-clash carnival decor, kick-ass Carib-cocktails (created in conjunction with local drinks consultants, Shrub & Shutter), lively Lima-style ‘anticuchos’ (traditional meaty skewers) and big brassy beats (Latin, black American and funky). Order rum-based tropi-coolers, Zombies and Hurricanes from £8.50; Port Of Call (a pisco and port Sour); Latin and local craft beers; and wine from £18. In an up-cycled 1960s caravan – a Barrio trademark – or in alfresco ‘cabanas’, you can snack on chicken and lemon popcorn; sea bream ceviche; quesadillas; pork belly or beef skirt sliders; octopus with crispy potatoes and the more substantial likes of flame-grilled lamb with chilli cream and a mint and coriander dip, or griddled tofu marinated in flavours Peruvian. Anticipate generous happy hours and happy house party vibes until 2am.
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Unit s38 Pop Brixton, 89 Brixton Station Rd, SW9 8PQ
Irish chef Simon Whiteside proved his seafood credentials at Hook in Camden, after Bia Mara, his wildly popular seafood stall in Dublin, spawned two restaurants in Brussels and Antwerp. Roe is his first solo effort – and it’s a resounding hit.
Located in one of Pop Brixton’s shipping containers, there’s space for just 32 diners at the communal tables inside, plus an outside terrace for walk-ins. The menu is equally bijou: a changing one-page list of small and large plates. Despite its size, Roe has a big heart; its flavour-packed dishes are prepared with commendable skill and attention to detail.
Highlights include crisp and creamy cuttlefish and ink arancini served with a punchy pecorino foam, pan-fried ray wing paired with rich autumnal flavours of Jerusalem artichoke, wild mushrooms and a red wine jus, and spiced pollock on a textured bed of fermented lentils, roast onion, squash and baby red chard. Even the bread – black slices of ink and Guinness soda bread with addictive seaweed butter and whipped smoked cod roe – is knock-out.
A sustainable ethos extends from the well-sourced ingredients to the drinks list, which features organic wines, craft beers and Karma Cola softs, plus hard liquor from the Sustainable Spirits Co – including potent shots of Ban Poitin (Irish moonshine).
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