When I first arrived in South London ten plus years ago, Brixton was not somewhere I often went. As a newbie in London hanging around for a bus late a night there was not massively appealing. Apart from the Ritzy, Academy and a few bars it lacked the variety that Balham and Clapham had to offer my late twenties self.
Fast forward ten years and the place is awash with regeneration, waxed jackets, craft beer and more eateries than a person could handle. The indoor market has been renamed ‘Brixton Village’ and getting a table on the weekend can often prove difficult. The colourful fruit and veg shops are sadly dwindling as the rents have risen. As with so many areas in the Capital more established names are filtering out to the outer boroughs and the shops relied on by the community are shutting down.
It’s a tricky one but there’s no doubt that Brixton is thriving and offers a dizzying array of places to go.
So it’s a Tuesday and I’m meeting a fellow south Londoner for some post work catch ups. I’ve read about the Shrub and Shutter several times whilst on my quest for local gin providers. The website looks classy and the food and drink a break from the norm.
We make our way down Coldharbour Lane past Brixton Village (indoor market) and on to an unassuming row of shops opposite a nondescript housing estate. I’ve never ventured this far down this road before – my friend comments that we must be nearly at Loughborough Junction. We pass a lively pizza place I’ve never heard of – Mamma Dough which goes into the memory bank for another day. Past a hairdressers and we’ve arrived.
The bar area at the front is small and at 7pm there’s several couples enjoying a post-work drink. The decor is ‘eclectic’ meaning I’m struggling to define it properly. A small bar is laden with bottles, and around the room sit jars of alcoholy type liquids, plants and a myriad of drinking vessels.
We are greeted warmly and taken to the restaurant area at the back. Eames style chairs, Chinese lanterns, quirky ornaments and cookery books fill the space. A large bone hangs on the wall and a stuffed fox takes pride of place at the end of the restaurant wearing a flat cap. Obviously. We wonder if this place is going to be style over substance. Wrong.
We start with a drink. I want gin. There are 36. After the day I’d had I wasn’t in the mood for complex decision making. I opt for a double rhubarb gin and its lovely. My friend orders a cocktail, the name of which I cannot recall. It arrives in a massive bag, decorated ornately with fruits and spices. A sort of adult Capri Sun if you will. I tried this thrilling concoction and it was amazing. Do take a look at the pictures of their cocktails online. I assumed the styling was for the website but they actually come like this. Yes they’re fun but they use quality ingredients and the prices and no more than an average cocktail bar outside of central London. One cocktail even comes with cheese and crackers. What’s not to love? The man serving us is clearly knowledgeable and advises us on our drinks resulting in two excellent choices.
Food then. There’s a set menu – £22 for two courses £26 for 3. But then there’s also a specials board. We opt for starters off the set menu and a main from the specials which works out the same price.
I chose a pisco cured sea trout starter with quails egg, grapes and puffed wheat (like a savoury sugar puff). As a combination everything really worked and was a dish different to anything I’ve had before. Spiced aubergine, lemon thyme yoghurt and aubergine hummus was apparently really tasty too as the other starter we chose. We both picked the poussin with broccoli and rosti potatoes. Another knockout dish. They excel at cocktails AND cooking here.
Service was friendly and attentive, they were busy but really looked after us. I’d come here again just for drinks or dinner, or both. Its definitely worth the extra five mins walk from the station.
Before I sign off I must just share with you some of the excellent graffiti I found in the ladies toilets, which might I add, featured a towel dispenser fashioned from a breeze block.
“Toy Story 2 was ok” “What would Dougie Howser do?” “I love Frank Bruno” and “I fuc&ing love cheese!”. Quite.
PS They have a sister bar First Aid Box in Herne Hill.