‘Brixton’s changing fast right now’, as Mike Urban, the local pundit behind Brixtonbuzz.com blog, sees it, ‘but not for all its residents’. And nowhere do we see this more clearly than opposite the daunting edifice of the Barrier Block (the vast Southwyck House), where in a down-at-heel shop parade, a trendy cocktail bar has replaced a part-time Caribbean restaurant.
Booming hip hop greeted us on arrival, so loud we could barely hear each other speak, but the decibels clearly don’t deter the enthusiastic young chaps doing the bartending. An alchemist’s laboratory of tinctures, potions and spirits dominates the tiny and sometimes frenetic front room.
Order an Autopilot (£8.50), and the citrous tequila blend in a delicate coupe glass is supplied with a DIY paper aeroplane kit; the Deerhunter (£9) – a variant on an old fashioned – comes with a miniature venison side nibble. But gimmicky though this may all be, the cocktails are expertly made: the Georgetown Negroni balances smoky aromas with the depth of El Dorado rum and ‘charcoaled’ Campari.
The front room only has a few high stools and counters, but the more spacious and private back room provides proper tables and chairs. Snacks chalked on a blackboard might include tiny plates of tuna carpaccio, garden salad, heritage tomatoes with soft burrata or cheese platters with dainty rye breads – all decent enough, but fairly pricy at a fiver each. There are wines and beers too, but the reason to come here is for the expertly made cocktails – the best SW9 has seen. Yup, Brixton’s changing all right.