Brilliant alfresco dining at Pop Brixton…

If you live in South London, you need to pay Pop Brixton a visit.

If you live in any other part of London…you need to pay Pop Brixton a visit.

Fun, lively & vibrant, this spot is a brilliant example of local businesses & entrepreneurs working together to deliver a cracking experience for the people of the community and beyond.

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There are over 50 different companies working out of shipping containers in a previously unused space a few minutes’ walk from Brixton tube, including a community garden, start up architects & restoration enterprises, second hand vinyl & African street-wear shops plus, most importantly to me and anyone else who is generally led at all times by their stomachs, twenty varied food & drink destinations.

Supporting local creatives by offering a safe space in which to flourish? Win. Creating the most delicious pit-stop that’s incredibly easy to get to and enjoy from 9am-11pm every day? Win.

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Pizza, burgers, donuts, jerk chicken, curry, Mexican, Ghanaian, Japanese…you can – and will want to – literally walk around the world here and my advice would be to get here early evening, find a spot at which to plant your proverbial feasting flag & set up camp for the night then get exploring. Take a group of friends and try a little bit of everything or go with one similarly greedy pal and devour dish after dish after dish.

Light & fragrant gyozas from Koi Ramen are elegant and simple finger food at its finest while Baba G’s Bhangra Burgers introduced me (god bless them) to ‘pachos’, an overflowing portion of poppadum nachos that come loaded with salsa, raita, mango, chilli pickle and if you want it – and trust me you do – paneer cheese.

Lighter & crispier than tortilla chips and slick with a kaleidoscope of colours from the varying toppings, these are absolutely awesome and a great, innovative way of putting a modern twist from one side of the planet onto a classic dish from another…

…while steamed bao buns from Viet Box are sweet little pillows of fluffy dough stuffed with gloriously flavoured chicken satay, goats cheese or lemongrass pork.

It gets busy here so don’t rock up at 9pm and expect to find an expanse of space in which to start feasting; vendors are loud and proud of their wares, happy to chat and keen to introduce people to new things. As an FYI, a couple of the stands didn’t do takeaway food when we visited so if you want to try lots of little things, pick a seat in the central areas that you can return to with your wares as opposed to sitting in one place and eating only that.

You might wonder if this is just Shoreditch’s Boxpark copied and transplanted south but it’s got a hugely different vibe and I’d highly recommend you take the time to explore both; you might live on the other side of the river but you can totally dine like a queen on both.

 

A pizza of convenience at Joe Public…

Sometimes you hear about a place through friends and you trust their judgement so you visit, enjoy and congratulate yourself on having such awesome pals with such great taste and sometimes you walk past it in the street and literally have to stop yourself from doubling back and ducking in for lunch because err, it’s 8am and ‘I’m sorry I’m late for work but I stopped and ate an entire 20” pizza on the way over’ is probably not the best thing to say to your boss on Monday morning. Fine on a Thursday FYI.

Joe Public falls squarely into the latter camp. I’m not a Clapham native so finding myself there for work over the past fortnight has given me plenty of time to peruse the neighbourhood for sweet spots to add to my ever expanding list of London must-eats.

Word to all future restaurant owners of the capital here: stepping out of the tube to find I have to exert only as much energy as it takes to swivel to the left before I can be sat at a picnic bench ordering a slice & a beer is a guaranteed way to make me like you. Yeah, I’m that shallow and you know deep down, you are too.

Making admirable work of a former public convenience with wooden stools, white subway tiles, cutlery in recycled tinned tomato cans and old skool diner napkin dispensers make this is as close to the sort of place you could imagine sharing a pizza stateside with Ross, Joey & Chandler (‘And then I kissed her’, ‘Tongue?’, ‘Yeah’, ‘Cool’) as I think you’ll get in London.

Serving California style pizzas – lots of toppings on sourdough bases – that can be bought by the slice or as a BFG snack sized 20” version, the menu boasts gluten free options for most bases and an array of ingredients to sit atop them from sausage & bacon to purple potato & artichoke, although given its West Coast inspiration, I was surprised not to see avocado on anything.

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I’m a total groupie even for anything vaguely Middle Eastern when it comes to eating out so a Braised Lamb, Cumin Aubergine, Goats Cheese & Sweet Potato Base convinced me to Deliveroo my first taste of Joe’s rather than sit in as this was a flavour variant not available in house.

The base was full of sweet potato flavour which I loved and it was hot & crispy without being overly stodgy so full points for a super speedy delivery. Aubergine chunks were plentiful and nicely spiced but sadly the generous hand that dealt out those bad boys didn’t appear to want to do the same for the lamb which was a tad sparse.

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Did it rock my pizza world? Not really and hand on heart, I’m not wholly convinced that this won’t end up being a place that runs on ‘novelty factor’ rather than the best pizzas this side of Naples however, if you find yourself stumbling out of a nearby pub on Saturday night, hungry for something to soak up those BOGOF Aperol Spritzes that taste so good in the sunshine, then I’m pretty sure the neon sign and cheap & cheerful value of Joe’s will be most welcome.

Chorizo stuffed squid courtesy of Saturday Kitchen & a Salt Yard chef…

Saturday mornings, how do I love thee, let me count the ways…

No alarm? Love.

Lazy lie-in? Love a bit more.

Time to make a nice breakfast? Love a lot more.

Sitting pj clad on the sofa eating said breakfast in front of ‘Saturday Kitchen’? Love big time.

So in short then, Saturday mornings, I salute you. I was recently lucky enough to be gifted an afternoon at the studios of ‘Saturday Kitchen’ in Clapham. I had no idea what to expect but it was an absolutely brilliant experience!

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A cooking masterclass where we shown how to make tapas delicious enough to consider trading your first-born for was first up and then it was off for a tour of the studios themselves, a crack at the omelette challenge – much more intimidating than it looks on the tv! – and a wine tasting with the brilliantly affable Andy Clarke who paired each one with a suitable accompanying food suggestion. FYI, try and be on the group that does the omelette challenge after the wine tasting, not that it helped me any with my effort which was applaudably dreadful!

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