Wednesday 1 February 2012

Brixton Village – Hunting out the hidden food hall


For months my fine food antennae had been twitching with anticipation at testing out what Brixton Village had to offer. I’d heard numerous rave reviews of this collection of independent eateries from natives of the capital (including my favourite food critic and Brixtonite Jay Rayner), so I jumped at the opportunity to combine a summer’s evening at the retro Ritzy Cinema with a visit to the Village.

But I’m not going to lie to you – whether I’d picked the wrong day or the wrong time of day, my initial investigation did not go well. As I wandered through the mainly deserted shopping mall, I wondered where all of these notoriously impressive restaurants were hiding?! Heading home with my stomach still rumbling and my mental cogs whirring, I reflected that surely the recommendations for Brixton Village couldn’t all have been wrong…

…and thank goodness I gave it another chance! My next expedition to the market secreted underneath the train station was a resounding success – at Brixton Village Grill my family were served a selection of meats cooked to perfection in a simple Portuguese style, for the fraction of the price of your standard steakhouse. My whole grilled seabass was so outstanding that I rapidly followed up this teatime trip with a mid-afternoon social call to the eternally busy Brick Box for a satisfying savoury buckwheat galette.

After an awkward start, I now count myself amongst Brixton Village’s biggest fans. I’m always keen to suggest an adventure around the old Granville Arcade to anyone with an appetite for good food, so it seemed like the obvious place for a leisurely lunch with baker and fellow blogger Yummy Choo. The only problem we faced was deciding which of the Village’s vast array of unique dining units to check out first!


After perusing all the stalls’ menus and making a crucial calculation between the length of the queues and the frequency of our hunger pangs, we managed to secure a spot at the effortlessly chic French and Grace for some Middle Eastern mezze. The rare treat of an inside table, combined with steaming mugs of fresh mint tea, helped ward off the winter wind.


Fresh flaky flatbreads waiting to be dunked into this sensational sharing portion of creamy butter bean and rosemary hummus, topped with spicy ground lamb and sweet pomegranate seeds.

French and Grace’s baba ganoush with feta and pine nuts was just as delicious as their hummus, but we felt that our tummies still had room for another tiny taster. With so many amazing stalls setting out their wares it seemed rude to enjoy just one dish, so we crossed the road into Market Row to scout out a second helping. This was previously unexplored territory for me, but I knew it was home to both the highly-rated Mexican Casa Morita and Franco Manca, with a reputation for selling the best sourdough pizza in all of London – and the huge crowd of people outside would suggest the rumours are true!


With an art gallery upstairs and a beautiful range of tapas treats adorning the bar, we agreed that Seven was reason alone for a return trip.

Clearly we were spoilt for choice on a venue for our next course, so before we got lost in the labyrinth of diners we decided that it was time for (just) desserts. We ventured back to the food hall hidden beneath the train tracks and settled down outside Breads Etcetera with a selection of sweet snacks and a couple of blankets to keep us toasty.


Despite having only a small space to work in, this bakery’s loaves are made on site. Having never seen this process before, it was incredible to watch the lump of dough rise…


…and then get split into rolls and coated with seeds en route to the oven.


The concept behind Breads Etcetera is brilliant – every table is provided with its own toaster and a collection of condiments, so all you need to do is pick your slices of artisan bread and get popping to your personal preference!


We were so torn between the Anzac biscuits and the chocolate chip cookies, we resolved the only solution was to order both! Whilst I loved the way the chunks of dark chocolate cut through the cookie’s gooey centre, the flapjack-like texture and combination of sweet syrup and chewy coconut meant the oaty Anzac biscuit won my vote. This snapshot of our taste-test also featured as the highlight of Day 21’s dining in my #project366 photo challenge.


A moment of inspiration – with a fluffy filling and crunchy crust, the only way this wonderful warm banana bread could be improved was with a coating of Nutella!

It strikes me that part of Brixton Village’s success is the way that each eaterie has devised its own identity, reducing the risk of repetition and competition. It doesn’t matter what area of the globe your favourite cuisine hails from, or whether you’re after a main meal, a light bite or a few goodies to take away – there’s something to suit every taste and every mood in this fabulous food hall. What’s more, you know that you’re supporting local business and the best produce by visiting the Village, so if you ask me it’s worth going back to again and again, until you’ve eaten at every one!


  1. There are too many places to try in Brixton Village and Market Row, it's always hard to choose! I must go back for French & Grance and Breads etc. very soon!

  2. Yes I totally agree - I think I could return every week and keep trying new places! My list includes (in no particular order): Honest Burger, Elephant, Kaosarn, Seven at Brixton, Casa Morita, Franco Manca, Mama Lan's dumplings, the Brick Box's sweet crepes and Laboratoria Artigianale del Buon Gelato! Plus returning to French and Grace for a wrap and Breads Etcetera for a slice of their cheesecake!

  3. Lovely post. Think you summed it up perfectly; There's such a huge range of really good quality, wholesome, and rustic food. You can really tell all the producers care what they're serving up. I went to Seven at Brixton last week and had an excellent experience. I've made a note of French and Grace as I've not been there yet. X