Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Brixton Village #2 : Happy Dumplings, Mama Lan and Relay

I love Brixton Village. I think everyone knows that. And I have been trying to eat my way around it, and to eat enough each time that I can offer a valid opinion. I have had a buckwheat crepe and a chocolate chili cake but do not real ready to review those two yet, I will have to return! I am afraid that I still have not worked out opening hours, basically a Saturday is good, but here is where I have been enjoying:

Happy Dumplings

We could not tell if it was open or closed. Yes, a couple were eating outside, but all the tables had been put away in the shop. When we showed interest they pulled a table and chairs out straight away and started making recommendations. This was just to be a quick meal so we opted for 20 dumplings (they are small!) between two people and turned down – this time – the shredded duck. We were also told that this wold be quick, as if they were closing, curious. And then negotiated to ensure these were steamed and then pan fried, for a crispier coating. This was not as easy as you’d think; I am not convinced either of the – lovely – owners speaks English.

By the time the chili and soy sauces had made it to our table, the dumpling were not far behind nestled on a salad of carrot, cabbage and cucumber which I enjoyed nibbling between dumplings. Ah, the dumplings. Steamy, packed full of fillings, flavoursome (though we cannot say which was which, we ordered a mixed batch). They even offer cookery classes on Sundays however I cannot imagine where the space is for that. And I am a little apprehensive that my Chinese is not at the necessary level to understand!

Without a doubt I will be back here. It is open when the rest of the market is shut (week nights). It has tasty food and friendly service at great prices. I want to try the duck.

On the way back an hour later (grazing the other sites for dessert) we noticed that people were still being drawn in, with a table brought out for you if interested. I wonder if they ever manage to shut…

Mama Lan

Bejing Street Food. I had been looking forward to this for a very long time just to put my expectations into perspective. And I was not disappointed.

We sat outside – again, inside space is limited in Brixton Village – but came prepared with spare jumpers and the restaurant themselves had a basket of fleecy rugs. And since we were “eating round the village” as we say (kind of like tapas hopping from place to place where space appears) we only ordered the spicy chicken wings and pork and chive dumplings. Now this should have been tough. Happy Dumplings set the bar high on, well, dumplings. And Riding House CafĂ© did the best Wings I have ever had with Bread Street Kitchen an exceedingly close second.

So how were they? The dumplings were tasty, steamed and full of fillings though perhaps lacking as much flavour as their rivals across the road. The chicken wings were fabulous. They were sticky and hot and spicy and so good we forgot to take pictures, so here are some from the website!

Drinks, overpriced as most of the village and with no toilet in any but one of the sites (Seven) we opted out, however have since found a well maintained public toilet the end of this street so do keep that information for your own visit, an a 20p!

I am not sure the menu offers enough variety to return for a second time. But I am glad to have been and recommend a visit to you if passing.


Look out Bourne and Hollingsworth, there is a new kid on the block. Well, not really.

However there is a similar idea going on in the ever innovative Brixton Village. A little space has been occupied in the Market Row side (5th Ave) called Relay Boutique/Tearoom (@relay_3) which combines cocktails and cake in your Granny’s front room. Now this may have started as a tea and cake kinda place but what I went for was the after hours option – cocktails and cake. We sat outside with the inside being full – as with so many areas in Brixton this space is compact at best – but never fear, there were rugs available in case we got chilly. The menu, in fact the whole place, is run by Jess. Jess is a man by the way, and more than happy to personalise your cocktails. We opted for a Pink Secret (£8) and a Daily Tribute (£7.50) with a slice of Victoria sponge cake on vintage crockery.

My Daily Tribute was really interesting, in a good way, with Four Roses complemented by camomile flowers muddled with mint. The Pink Secret, as girly as it sounds, also had a lovely sweet/sour balance between the raspberry juice, grenadine and bitters. Great froth too. The cake was moist and was a generous slice too.

So, are there any negatives? We were on our way to the cinema and due to a lack of space, Jess’ attention to customers and the need to hand crush ice we got rather tight on time. But it was worth the results. Tasty all round. And even better you can wait here if Honest Burgers is full (it will be) and they will come to get you when a table is free. Brilliant! 

Monday, 12 November 2012

Brewdog, Shoreditch: 17/20

Location: 51-55 Bethnal Green Road, E1 6LA


Visit: Several occasions, always early evening

To Note: Underdog to open soon…oh and don’t trust google maps to get you there!

Ambiance: 4/5
Design: 4/5
Drinks: 5/5
Staff: 4/5
Extra LBS star: Not this time, perhaps when the bar opens proper…

I had heard a lot about Aberdeen-shire based Brewdog before I first tried the beer – at a fine bar in Borough Market called The Rake (see here). My first experience was the classic “Punk IPA” and then I moved onto “Trashy Blonde”; I loved both but they are unusual beers, not for everyone and nothing wrong with that either.

Brewdog Imperial Nail
So I have watched the expansion of the Brewdog “pub” empire with interest from their arrival in England in military tanks to their share purchase scheme and two days ago I finally organised a meeting with friends at the new Shoreditch venue. We arrived at 4.30pm on a Saturday to find there were no free seats but plenty of standing space not obstructing the bar and 30 minutes in and we managed to bag a booth, made for 6 or 8 really friendly people. You need to be close anyway with all the old wall tiling and concrete everything (floor, ceiling, pillars) the sound has nowhere to be absorbed and a few hours in it was hard not to shout across the table.

You come here for the beer, our one non-beer drinker had a choice of two ciders. I wouldn’t even ask about wine. And what really makes this place great is the staff. I explained that I loved their Punk and Trashy, they suggested an Imperial Nail which looked like Guinness but tasted really fruity. I was offered a taste and when I ordered a pint was advised it came as a 2/3rd, because at 8% a pint is a little too much. Then I reverted to a lighter, fizzier (perhaps one for imported larger drinkers) Dead Pony IPA at just over 3% and the last one… a small glass of 14% Isle of Arran which, frankly, just tasted like Port. Very nice but the glass I had was more than enough.  It is a sign of London living that £4 a pint seems reasonable, but I have paid more than that for bad Stella in this city so have no issue at this price for excellent beer with knowledgeable staff and a really nice buzz. We also had a great time trying each other’s different beer choices, a conversation starter really from the name “tactical nuclear penguin” to the taste.

It is not accurate to say Brewdog is a “pub” despite their beer emphasis, it is kind of a bar/pub which serves innovative Japanese snacks to complement the drinks list. And in a short while their “Underdog” will be open too. The downstairs area has already been host to some live music and the new vintage of hops tasting but there is more to come, just follow here… @Brewdogshored. I look forward to many more beer sessions here though watch the percentages, you have been warned!