It is 8.03pm on a Wednesday night and I am nearly half an hour late. I make my way to the market, scurrying past rows of people sitting outside restaurants, eating, chatting, sharing their evenings together. It’s busy. Brixton market is in full swing. But it’s a bit of a rabbit warren and I’m practically lost already.
And then I spot a sign I’ve seen before and a familiar blonde smiling at me, wondering where the hell I’ve been.
I am here with Kate from The Keep because we have an agreement. Once a month, or at least when we get round to it, she will take me to dinner somewhere local, and I will write about what happened. My day job is to write about food, whilst hers is running the sustainable boutique in the heart of Brixton Village, so it makes sense to cover what else is going on in the local area.
Like many of Brixton’s lovely new food options, Salon is a teeny restaurant but, unlike its counterparts, this one is split across two floors. Outside are two little upcycled wooden tables, while just inside there are seats by the window, craft beers, meats and cheeses to buy, and two whole crates of the biggest blondies (white chocolate brownies) I’ve ever seen. Upstairs, a little bar and more wooden tables, and a huge window overlooking the market.
But despite its friendliness, tonight it’s empty. Around us throngs of people are stuffing their faces, yet no one is interested in doing the same here? Why on earth not? It’s adorable. According to our lovely waitress, it’s banging on Fridays and Saturdays – full of people making reservations and coming “for a treat”. This is because it’s £29 for the tasting menu or £17/2 courses or £19/3 courses. Anywhere else in central London, this would be considered brilliant. But in Brixton, now the land of the £10 or £15 dinner, that’s quite a lot to spend before you’ve got to drinks.
But to the food. We share a starter – a carefully arranged bowl of bright green pea granita, broad bean custard and wild garlic. It’s very garlicky, but it’s also light and fresh and interesting. Perhaps some toast would have been useful to spread the custard onto, for someone wanting a bit more padding.
Our choice of mains is confit duck leg with fennel and pickled rhubarb, or Anya potatoes, red onions and goat’s cheese. I’m eating light tonight, so I opt for the tatties, not thinking it was odd having these as the main player. Indeed, when they arrive they seem more like a side dish; if I’d had a larger appetite, I may have been disappointed. What there is of them, I like, however; the delicate knobbly pieces have a subtle nutty flavour. A lick of creamy goat’s curd is a nice touch. Duck confit, served on toast (bread from the Brickhouse Bakery in Peckham, I believe) is perhaps a little on the tough side, and strikes me it might make a better brunch dish than a main tonight.
Shared dessert is billed as ‘strawberries, crème fraiche, toasted meringue’ (the alternative is Chocolate Brownie Semifreddo) and arrives with a welcome blob of strawberry jelly, dusted with shortbread crumbs. The toasted meringue oozes around the edges. It’s beautiful.
Our bill is £46 with beer, wine, which is very reasonable. So there is a space for very, very informal fine dining in Brixton – but until they broaden out those mains, on a week night I’d probably be tempted to return for a platter of British charcuterie and cheese, keeping the special tasting plates for the weekend.
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.Index