London is a huge and vibrant city, made up of lots of little villages, and each one has its own unique and distinct personality. This is what makes it so wonderful. No matter who you are, you should be able to find somewhere in London where you can you feel like you ‘fit’ in. And depending on what experience you’re looking for on any particular day, you can hop between ‘villages’ to suit your mood.
Within these villages are a myriad of markets…there are clothes markets, flower markets, antique markets and of course…food markets. Borough Market is probably the biggest and most well known but as much as I love it, it is just way too busy and full of tourists for my liking. Luckily for me, another fantastic market is only a short bus journey from where I live…Brixton Market.
Most foodies in London will know what a find Brixton Market is. Not only is it Europe’s biggest Afro-Caribbean food market, selling unusual foods and spices, exotic fruit and vegetables and specialist meats and fish, it also houses Brixton Village and Market Row. Brixton Village used to be known as Granville Arcade. When I lived down the road from Brixton, quite a few years ago, Granville Arcade was just a run down undercover market, but today it is full of fantastic restaurants, cafés, coffee shops and boutiques, as well as the more traditional Brixton traders – fishmongers, fruit and veg sellers and specialist regional stores.
Much has been written about what a foodie haven Brixton Village is but I reckon The Observer’s food critic, Jay Rayner gives the most succinct run down of it here.
Just a two minute walk from Brixton tube station, Brixton Village and Market Row (just across the road) are basically a collection of narrow streets called ‘Avenues’ which are under cover. I love it because its light and airy yet bustling with atmosphere.
There’s a really lovely mix of old and new here. Nestled in between fishmongers, fruit stalls and African dress shops are specialist wine merchants, bakeries, and vintage clothing shops, bringing a slightly shabby chic feel to the place. You could spend hours wondering up and down the avenues, taking it all in. Unfortunately, there are just so many places you want to eat in, the most difficult part of it is deciding where to eat.
I met with my friends Cassie, Fenella and Emma at lunchtime last Saturday outside Brixton tube station. Fenella and I had been to Slider Bar the night before so we weren’t really in the mood for burgers, even though there is a great choice for the burger lover including Honest Burger and Bukowski Grill.
Instead, we decided to go for pizza. I have been hearing great things about Franco Manca for a long time know, often with the accolade ‘Best pizza in London’ attached to it. Now, the best pizza I’ve ever tasted in London was from Homeslice so I had a high benchmark.
We got there about 1.30pm and it was heaving. Every table was full and there was a queue of people waiting to be seated. We joined the queue and were given menus to look at. The turnaround of tables is very fast. This is not somewhere you go to catch up with friends, this is literally a sit, eat and go kinda place. Apparently it takes just 40 seconds to bake a perfect pizza so we ordered whilst still standing in the queue. As soon as a table was free, we were ushered to sit down. We got our organic lemonade (which was really lovely) and then our pizzas turned up.
I ordered the Cloucester Old Spot Ham (home cured), mozzarella, buffalo ricotta and wild mushroom pizza (£6.85)
The girls had the veggie special (£7.25) organic mozzarella, organic tomato, hard goats cheese, caramelised red onions, baked mixed peppers (cooked with garlic and capers), basil and pesto.
Now, I’m not sure if I’m being a bit pedantic here but I wasn’t overwhelmed by this pizza. The girls raved about theirs and Cassie said it is definitely the best pizza place in London. But I just wasn’t getting it. My pizza dough was raw in the middle. When I was cutting into it, it just kept stretching. Call me old fashioned but I don’t really want to eat raw dough if I can help it. I know they think that 40 seconds is all it needs to cook but I beg to differ! I would have been happier if it had stayed in the oven a bit longer. I do seem to be in the minority though…everyone else appears to love Franco Manca so maybe I need to try it again.
We left and continued to walk around the Avenues. There are so many lovely looking places its hard not to stop and eat in every one of them.
Their menu consists of market sourced, locally grown or foraged ingredients. You can see examples of recent menus here. On the shelves of their shop, you will find jars of damson jam made with fruit collected from the gardens around Brockwell park, honey made by South London bees, next to pots of mango and habenero relish and bottles of Brixton Pound sauce made using ingredients sourced in Brixton market. They make all the food themselves or its by other small producers in South London.
Alas, when we went to sit down to eat, we were told they’d just finished serving food. However, across the avenue we saw that Brick Box was still serving so we went there instead…
I ordered a fantastic strawberry milkshake and a crepe called ‘Just Divine’ with cooked banana, butterscotch, nuts and cream…
The crepe was delicious…soft, sweet and nutty. Judging by the other crepes coming out of the kitchen, I will definitely be coming back to check it out a bit more thoroughly. The staff were really friendly too. I loved the quote above the door…
It was getting late and the girls had to go and get ready for their nights out. I needed to get some ingredients for a recipe I was making so I stayed a bit longer and checked out the stalls on Electric Avenue where you can buy more or less any fruit or vegetable, meat or fish…
Brixton Village and the neighbouring Market Row really are a treasure trove of restaurants. I said to a friend the other day that I’d almost like to take a week’s holiday and work my way round all the restaurants and stalls so I can experience every one of them. I don’t think I’ll use up my minimal holiday allowance for it, but I will certainly be spending a lot of my weekends there over the coming months.
Brixton Village and the other market arcade, Market Row, are open
Mon-Wed 8am till 6pm, Thurs-Sat 8am till midnight, and Sundays till 5pm.