Shrub & Shutter
Does a bear shit in the woods? Or do you fancy joining a boat with the owl and the pussycat? Actually, scrap that, do you just want a straight martini? – Guest post by Victoria Stewart.
Just around the corner from The Keep is a new cocktail bar called The Shrub and Shutter that specialises in savoury cocktails and a short food menu; unlike some of Brixton’s other bars, this is not the place to come for a classic cocktail.
This experimental little place has just opened on a quiet part of Coldharbour Lane on the way to Loughborough Junction. So-named because the owners Chris Edwards and Dave Tregenza – both bartenders who met behind the bar in one of their previous jobs – liked the word shutter and its associations with light and shade, they also thought it sounded good with the word shrub, a technique that is similar to brining fruit, vegetables or herbs in vinegar, and now used with some regularity in London cocktail bars.
Walking in, we feel immediately as if we have happened upon a cocktail playground. A white tiled bar area – which gives way to a window looking into the kitchen – is crammed with glass bottles, each filled with clear or coloured potions, some with herbs or fruits floating around in the liquid. There are instruments and shakers and chopping boards and teeny faded bottles with labels like the one Alice might have had an encounter with in Wonderland. There are special salts and seasonings aplenty, and hyperactive bar staff who want to tell you all about their various pickles, from cucumber to pineapple, apricot, fennel and other bits.
There is space in front of this to perch in the middle of the room or at a counter pew, or you can go further back to a sort of parlour where most of the action happens.
Here we find all sorts: empty Lambrini bottles, a stuffed fox sitting on top of a piano – the owners intend to host blues nights soon as they have a 2am licence – shelves with cookbooks in neat rows, tin cans and tankards, tea lights, shutters on walls and other trinkets. Illogical, perhaps, but also charming and, as soon as the lights are lowered, cosy.
We take our seats and consult the menu – the drinks programme – which, with names such as ‘Av a Zombie And Bitch, or You Can Have a Chartreuse, and at least seven ingredients per entry – requires some focus even sober. Instead, we ask the lovely staff for recommendations as most have made their way through the list and know their favourites.
We try the aforementioned drink, Does a Bear Shit In The Woods which is clear, lethally enjoyable and a strong start – much needed after our long days at work. Next, that Owl And The Pussycat, which is made with Langley’s No.8 gin, quince liqueur, celery bitters, plum sake, Baron de Sigognac, quince shrub and citrus and also comes with its own mini cheese board. It is refreshing and of course a little vinegary.
Two cocktails down and we’re getting hungry. From a short food menu on the blackboard – sides, starters, steaks or fish – we try pan seared sea bass with curried flavours and spinach, a vague description but good value at £12.95. Crunch comes from the radish salad (£3), while the slow roasted peppers with paprika butter (£2) are a happy combination. After dinner, I go sweet and try Shortbread Millionaire which arrives with two teeny pieces of shortbread. Kate loves the Deer Hunter while passing on its venison accompaniment.
At this point the reserved tables begin to fill up. Only in its second week, our waitress tells us people have come back and bought their friends with them, and there is a separate crowd of people who have begun coming via the bar from Loughborough junction to Brixton on their way back from work. I can see why. The Shrub and Shutter has a lovely, relaxed vibe and offers something a bit something different from other bars in the area. Book now for Christmas…
The Shrub and Shutter
336 Coldharbour Lane
Brixton, SW9 8QH
Post by Victoria Stewart
Victoria Stewart is Food editor at the Evening Standard, with a passion for Street Food and an encyclopeadic knowledge of the greatest carts, trucks and vans that can be found in the city. Her blog, London Street Foodie, is a celebration of the best street food in London, parts of Australia, and South East Asia.