I have a real fondness for Brixton and its outdoor and covered markets. When I was a penniless freelancer for a number of years, I used to traipse there on the bus and spend an hour or two rootling among the fruit and veg stalls for my weekly shop, grabbing great bargains and soaking up the sounds of booming reggae and dancehall from various shops, wandering the covered arcades and soaking up the diversity of the produce – tiny colourful booths selling anything from giant piles of soap and Brillo pads, to a shop selling nothing but wigs, and others selling yams and African land snails. There was – and still is – a shop that terrifies and fascinates me in equal measure – it sells religious items and accessories for what I can only guess to be black magic rituals – black wax heads, spells, pungent smelling unguents in bottles. I once bought a friend a Virgin Mary candle there as a present, and we fell out irreparably about a year later – but that’s another story…
As much as I loved my trips to Brixton in those days (we’re talking about five-ish years ago) there was something a little mournful about it. The arcades were often empty of people during the week, and many shops spaces were unoccupied. I would trudge around the corridors sometimes feeling a bit forlorn, feeling sad at the sight of so many unused shop spaces and closed down businesses.
But all that has changed…a few years ago, the legendary pizzaria Franco Manca set up in the Market Row arcade, and before long people were queuing round the block to get their teeth into their amazing pizzas. Rosie’s Deli Cafe was turning brisk trade in fantastic home cooked seasonal lunches, great deli produce and coffees. A few new shops and cafes opened nearby, continuing the trend, and soon there was a sense of regeneration in the markets. Then an organisation called ‘Space Makers’ saw the potential in the arcades’ empty shop spaces and decided to pave the way for small businesses setting up shop here for low rents, and the transformation has been really positive, especially for those that like eating! There has literally been a food revolution, with what seems like about 15 new restaurants and cafes opening here…and I have been to taste a little crumb of it. Now that the arcades are open on Thursday and Friday evenings until 10pm, it’s a great place to come and hang out – why not have a main course at one place, dessert at another, and coffee somewhere else?
Cornucopia restaurant – tasty British produce cooked seasonally and with skill. Daily changing menu, and you sit on hessian cushions at rustic trestle tables and eat off enamelware – rustically trendy, but not annoyingly so, and the staff are really friendly:
White onion soup with truffle oil:
Chicken liver pate with fruit jelly and toast:
John Dory with mussels and clams:
Sticky date pudding with cream:
Saffron pear with pistachio cake:
Pizzas at Franco Manca – total perfection and very addictive:
Get your caffeine fix at Federation Coffee:
Ice creams from Italy and Argentina opposite Franco Manca pizzeria – the mango and passion fruit sorbets are to die for:
The arcades come to life in the evenings:
I’m hoping to go back soon to try Mexican, Thai and Columbian food – and I also spied this great looking burger place too:
There are also cake stalls, an old-fashioned sweet shop, a sourdough bread bakery, cool little boutiques selling vintage wares and jewellery, and more. No excuses not to get your booty down here!
– Space Makers and the Brixton Village project – read all about it.
– More info on Brixton Village