Saturday, 11 February 2012

"We're gonna rock down to Electric Avenue ..."

When I’m online, I’d say I spend about 70% of my time reading about food, looking at pictures of food, trying to grasp the finer details for recipes of the food I’m looking at, and generally drooling at various times throughout the day. I’d say I go on to cook and eat along the lines of what it is I’ve been looking at (if that makes any sense at all) more often than not.

Thank goodness for a fast metabolism!

The thing is, although there are squillions of webpages “out there”, I find myself always coming back to the same ones, time and time again. That sounds like a moan but it’s not – I go back to them because I like them, I have a good idea what to expect, even if the content has been updated or changed since my last visit.

For several months now, I’ve been trying (desperately) to pay a visit to Brixton Village market, in order to sample some of the wares on offer there. Although one person planted the initial desire to go there, it was the lovely M who, thanks to discovering it after passing through Brixton on her way to and from work one day, came in excitedly raving about it.

We did venture there on the bank holiday at the start of the new year (yeah yeah, I know, stoopid, stoopid, stoopid) but as you might expect, it was all firmly shuttered up.


(As it turns out, our trudge back up Streatham Hill allowed us to stumble on a terrific West Indian café/restaurant called Negril, but by then we were all too hungry for me to bother making notes about what I was eating – only that I was eating! For now, let me just say that Gladstone, the gentleman who looked after us there, was perfectly charming – we will return)

Well, M was working this morning, so we arranged to meet in Brixton for a much anticipated lunch and thanks to a particularly large bowl of porridge at 9am, mes enfants were doing just nicely thank you very much, when usually, they’d be giving me a hard time about their empty stomachs, Joseph especially.

Let me just say that ‘The Village’ is made up of lots of eateries, several little boutiquey knick-knack shops, a pick’n’mix sweet shop and half a dozen fruit, veg’, kitchen implement stores, all of them fairly tiny, but all of them enticing. So enticing in fact, I very nearly parted with £28 for a vintage decanter – far too expensive, as lovely as it was. I almost bought a way-too-big stockpot which I would’ve been able to store exactly nowhere, as well as a roll of 10 ‘heavy duty’ black sacks, even though I always expect at least 20 on a roll for my hard earned pound.

This is what Brixton village tried to do to me – it was extremely welcoming and relaxed, the folks there belonged (for the most part) to the pretty, the young and the cool set – but I kept a cool head, kept hold of my cash and marched to our destination – Honest Burger. Although my heart sank at the prospect of an hours wait for a table, the system they have is simple but effective.

The very amiable ‘Phil’ took our number and said he would call my mobile and hang up after 3 rings to let us know our time was up, informing me of the last 3 digits of his mobile number so I’d recognise it was him. Surely it’s not beyond the realms of possibility to just call the person and say, “Phil here, your table’s ready” – surely with your own business you’d have a “300 minutes plus unlimited texts” deal going on, but, who am I to judge. And anyway, it was another little quirk that made me like the place just a little bit more before I’d even sat down.

And it’s funny how the subconscious works, isn’t it? Even though I’d read a review about it only once before (alright then, twice), I never intended to mention our visit, let alone take pictures and the like. But I guess that the review I read about Honest Burger was so drool-inducing, the words and pictures must have buried themselves deep in my psyche and, like Virgil Tracy to Derren Brown’s puppeteer, I ordered the same as what I’d read, took similar snaps of those I’d seen and generally ripped off the post I’d seen months before.

Well, at least it would be a rip off if I went ahead and pretended it was all my own work.

But, being the honest, hardworking guy I am (not to mention generous and thoughtful - did I tell you I do a lot of work for charity?), I reckon I’ll post my efforts and then provide a link to a proper review, like only a foodie could write (I would love to think of myself as a ‘foodie’ but if they were all grouped in a circle, I’d be very much outside that circle of trust – I just don’t have a refined enough palate or set of taste buds, I'm afraid to say.

And anyway, it wasn’t just about our meal. After lunch, we strolled back along Coldharbour Lane and stopped off at Ms Cupcake, a beautiful 1950’s inspired vegan cake shop, to buy a box of four cupcakes of various flavours. Being highly allergic to eggs, M thought she’d died and gone to heaven – a cake shop where she can eat anything she sees! We purchased one mint and chocolate cupcake (mine), a Cola cupcake (for Joseph – when you’re not allowed to drink the ‘Real Thing’, you take your cola hits where you can), triple chocolate (Annabel – a 6 year old chocolate fiend) and M’s choice of flavour was Ferrero Rocher. What with the packaging and all, the ambassador really was spoiling us (I’m sorry, I know that was bad but I couldn’t help it – the 80’s were my formative years – you should be pitying me, not judging me!!)

From there we crossed to Bookmongers, a large second hand bookshop with a fantastic selection of books (I clapped eyes on and snatched up a 1977 edition of George N. Rayess’ Art of Lebanese Cooking – 's alright, I’d never heard of it either but at £2.50, I was willing to overlook the fact that it was almost picture-less and the inside back cover had what looked like a large red wine stain on it). The shop has a friendly and fantastically bearded owner, along with a resident dog – not sure what breed but looked both young and easily capable of taking the arm off anyone who forgets to pay for any book they may have chosen!

From there to the Living Bar. An upstairs venue which holds a bi-monthly artists market, allowing a variety of peeps to showcase their cool ideas. I was particularly taken with ink drawings of Brixton, the River Thames and the UK, as well as themed limited edition lithographic print; all of it was far more reasonably priced than the decanter I mentioned; check them out here and here.

By this time the children were starting to wobble, so onto a good ol’ 333 we jumped, taking us home to eat our cakes, along with a cup of hot chocolate (well, times three – I had a Guinness with a splash of port in). With the 21st century equivalent of It’s A Knockout on the TV (Total Winter Wipeout) Joseph and Annabel agreed that we’d had a fun Saturday.

Not always the case, I can tell you.

So without further ado, here are some fairly bog-standard shots of our terrific lunch.

My Honest burger; beef, red onion relish, smoked bacon, mature cheddar, pickled cucumber and lettuce. Surprisingly, our waitress suggested medium but I enquired after medium rare and was answered with a smile. Also, the proprietor must've taken heed of the 'limp 'n' soggy chip comment on the review you'll come to later - ours were delicious, bordering on too crispy. But yes, the rosemary salt is genius.

Not that you can see them in these shots, but all meals are served in beautiful white and blue enamel plate/bowls. I'm glad M liked them - she says we should look out for some - hurrah!

'Homemade lemonade' - delicious and thirst-quenching.

And here’s a link to a proper review of Honest Burger. Trust me, the place deserves it.

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