It’s a brave caff that opens up a few doors away from M1lk on Hildreth Street, a local destination that has queues out of the door every weekend. But Brickwood has a track record: the original Clapham branch also does a roaring trade. Brickwood has upped the game for Balham, with its beautifully crafted shack-like interior, extensive menu, and service from cheerful Aussies who are even chummier than the norm. Brunch is served until 3pm.
If your idea of a gentle awakening in the morning is a nice cup of tea listening to Chris Evans, you’d best go elsewhere, as you're more likely to hear deep house here – even at 9am. The coffee also kicks – on offer over the summer of 2013 were beans from Workshop, and from Koppi in Sweden. The menu lists some interesting hot dishes, such as Kurdish baked eggs with chorizo, spinach, labneh and Turkish dried chilli; the menu changes regularly though. The service is laid back, but that gives you time to admire the artful dodge of a distressed interior, and to puzzle over why their logo reads ‘M1lk’ – or how you would even pronounce that.
It may look suspiciously like a building site – all bright lights, rough-hewed woods and huge metal scaffolding poles (a deliberate design element) – but Balham’s Beyrouths – serving the food of Beirut, Lebanon – is surprisingly polished. Friendly, efficient staff dish out a roll-call of crowd-pleasers: from well-made houmous (garnished with virgin olive oil and fresh pomegranate seeds) to juicy pieces of grilled lamb and deliciously smoky baba ghanouj. Portion sizes are decent.
Plenty of neighbourhood trattorias sell themselves as cheap and cheerful, but few do it as well as Ciullosteria. The surroundings are kitsch without irony – classic terracotta floor tiles oddly offset by an enormous replica of a tomato purée tube, for instance – but that only adds to the charm. The raised section at the back is cosier and more suited to winter, while the airy front (with its small number of alfresco tables) is better in summer. The menu contains an enticing choice of thin-crusted pizzas with regional toppings (torino and genovese supplementing the usual fiorentina and napoletana), but the pastas and grills are also deservedly popular.
Moxon’s is an excellent idea: one of the London’s best fishmongers sets up a chippie virtually next door to its original shop, and fries up surplus fish that’s top-quality. It got off to a poor start in the summer of 2012, with sloppy service, small portions and high prices; we gave it a two-star rating. Moxon's closed for a refurbishment that lasted several weeks, then reopened in September 2012. We're happy to report things are now much improved. The service in now much more on the ball, and the tiny dining area – just a few seats – has been futher reduced in size so that the enlarged kitchen can now concentrate on the core takeaway business.
A few café chairs are placed, rather optimistically, outside on the pavement bordering the chilly A24. But inside, it’s cosy and warm. Languid staff read out the day’s specials from the blackboard: dishes with odd Georgian names, from the Caucasus. The Georgian staff wear their nationality and cuisine with pride, but are savvy enough to know that their customers are more likely to order muesli than tworozhniki (Georgian pancakes) at seven in the morning. So although The Georgian does borshch, blinis and even grape pudding with walnuts, it also serves croissants, scrambled eggs, club sandwiches and toast with Marmite.
The south-west of France, it would seem from Comptoir Gascon’s menu, is not a good place to be a pig or a duck – or a vegetarian, for that matter. This bistro/deli, like its haute-cuisine big brother Club Gascon round the corner, specialises in the cuisine of Gascony: richer than Depardieu and earthier than Gainsbourg. The aforementioned porkers and quackers appear in various dishes – grilled duck hearts, crackling with duck egg, duck confit – while starters include the must-order ‘piggy treats’, a charcuterie board with saucisson, pâté, rillettes and slivers of cured tongue. Mains don’t let up on the meat: there are several preparations of foie gras, rabbit and veal kidney (although cod with lavender-scented tomato compote was light and aromatic). Rustic, yes, but sophisticated too, and every dish comes with a bold whack of flavour. The wine list is exclusively focused on south-west France, meaning this is a great place to explore the area’s native lesser-seen grapes, such as courbu or manseng. The oddly shaped space is stripped back to brick in that typical Farringdon way, but manages to be cosy and welcoming, especially in the evening when twinkling candles add a touch of romance.
Venue says: “Every second Tuesday we are hosting 'Gascony Night', serving great French classics in Comptoir Gascon style - three course menu at £25pp.”