I’ve lived in Brixton for seven years now and in that time, the change in the area has been incredible. When I first moved here fresh from university, there was only a handful of good restaurants. Fast-forward to now and there are so many options for eating out. Hand-wringing about gentrification aside, I think it’s great. It’s so exciting to see what was essentially an empty part of the market packed with people at the weekend – plus, it’s great having all these nice restaurants on my doorstep.
Still, all that choice means it can be a bit of a minefield finding the best places to eat; I’ve definitely had my fair share of mediocre experiences. To help you avoid disappointment, I’ve put together a list of all my tried-and-tested favourites (p.s. here are six of the best-value restaurants in London too).
1. Federation Coffee
Not exactly a restaurant, but hands down my favourite café in Brixton and one of the only places that serves good coffee. I’ve lost count of the number of their loyalty cards I’ve been through to date. Their cakes are exceptional and while they’re famous for their friands, it’s their banana bread you need to try, or any of the loaf cakes really – just make sure you ask for them toasted with butter. They’re worth visiting for their delicious croissants (I like almond or ham and cheese) at breakfast too.
Unit 77-78, Brixton Village Market, London SW9 8PS
2. Kaff Bar
[editor’s note: it’s sadly closed now]
This casual all-dayer is a few minutes walk from the main market on Atlantic Rd. I’d always thought of Kaff Bar as just a bar (they do great deals on cocktails), but after reading a review of the food in the Brixton Bugle, I had to give it a try, and since then it’s become one of my favourites. It’s hard to describe the food – it’s an eclectic mix of the chef’s native New Orleans cuisine and Brixton’s West Indian influence, with a few other comfort-food staples thrown in. Essentially, it’s tasty, filling food that’s remarkably cheap. My recommendations are the sweet potatoes fries, pulled pork quesadilla and jerk chicken roti. Also worth a special mention is the breakfast – huge omelettes, waffles and pancakes, all at great prices (the coffee is passable, too).
64-68 Atlantic Road, London SW9 8PY
3. Honest Burgers
I suppose this is a pretty obvious one: most Londoners know about Honest Burger because they’ve now got restaurants all over the city and beyond. But this charming burger bar is still one of the best places to eat in Brixton and great value at £10 for a burger and chips. I love the Tribute burger (bacon, American cheese, the house burger sauce, French’s mustard, pickles, onion and lettuce) and the iced tea. It gets very, very busy at the obvious times, so I would visit either for lunch during the week or try to get there early in the evening. It’s one of the few places in the market that’s open from lunch until dinner (most places close from 3-6pm), so if you fancy a burger at an odd time, you’ll be in luck. Happily, if the restaurant is full when you turn up, you don’t have to stand in line; they’ll call you when a table becomes free.
Unit 12, Brixton Village Market, London SW9 8PR
4. Mama Lan
Another success story from the market, Mama Lan now has a sister branch in Clapham, too. They’re known for their Beijing-style pot-sticker dumplings, which you can often see the owner’s mum making by hand in front of you. However, it’s the impossibly tender, deep-fried, spicy chicken wings that you should order – they’re possibly the best chicken wings I’ve ever tried.
Unit 18, Brixton Village Market, Coldharbour Lane, London SW9 8PR
5. Fish Wings and Tings
This place hasn’t enjoyed quite the level of attention of some of the other places in Brixton, but I think it’s well worth a try. My mum is West Indian and insists on coming here for the Trinidadian food whenever she visits. There’s obviously loads of choice when it comes to West Indian food in Brixton, but this is the only place that I’m aware of where you can get roti – a traditional West Indian flatbread that is usually filled with curry. These guys also know how to make curry – my favourites are prawn and goat. The salt-cod fishcakes are also some of the best I’ve tried and they go perfectly with a rum and Ting.
3 Granville Arcade, London SW9 8PS
Perhaps another obvious choice, but this authentic Thai restaurant deserves its place in my list. This is not a restaurant for lingering and soaking up the atmosphere of the market: the food is served at lightning speed. My favourite dishes are the massaman curry, som tum and the larb. Thankfully you can actually reserve a table here as there are always huge queues outside – or get there when it opens for dinner at 6pm sharp.
Unit 2, Brixton Village, Coldharbour Lane, London SW9 7EL
7. Three Eight Four
This is not a restaurant as such – it’s a bar – but it does do small plates that are actually really good. The salt-and-pepper squid is particularly tasty and I’m excited to try their weekend brunch of pancakes and bottomless tea/coffee. The cocktails are excellent, too, so it’s a great option for Friday-night drinks and snacks – as long as you keep buying drinks, you could actually stay here all evening, which makes a nice change from the rest of the market, where they try to feed you and get you out as quickly as possible. I would reserve a table, though, as it gets very busy.
384 Coldharbour Lane, London SW9 8LF
8. Franco Manca
The original Franco Manca was serving its amazing organic, sourdough pizzas to queues of fans long before Brixton Village became trendy, and it thoroughly deserves its huge success. I love the no-nonsense (some might call it brusque…) service and the fact that, once you’ve got a table, your pizza is always ready in about five minutes. I’ve never had much success when ordering the specials, but Nicky always orders them and loves them. I stick to the number four (ham, ricotta and wild mushrooms) and the number six (chorizo). The side salad is worth ordering, too.
Unit 4, Market Row, London SW9 8LD
Are there any hidden gems I’m missing or newcomers I should add to my list? Which places are you keen to try? Let me know in the comments.