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! 

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