June 2019: Brixton is now staking its claim as one of London’s go-to gastro postcodes, and new contenders just keep coming. Our latest selection includes half a dozen crackers ranging from Alpes (an Alpine-themed riot from the Raclette Brothers) to Booma (a dream ticket for fans of curry and beer). Other top tips include the Fish Lounge (a great local chippy) and Roe (ambitious Brit-inspired seafood cookery), although the hottest local tickets have to be Smoke & Salt in Pop Brixton and Salon on Market Row.
Sure, it's still hard to resist the jerk chicken, but Brixton's got a lot more to offer in terms of culinary excellence. Join the queues in Brixton Village, grab a bite at Pop Brixton or check out one of the many independent cafés and restaurants bringing the area to life.
Check out our video of Brixton fave Nanban:
RECOMMENDED: Find more great things to do in our Brixton area guide.
The best restaurants in Brixton
Like some Alpine après-ski mock-up at the summit of a staircase in funky Pop Brixton, Alpes is the first bricks-and-mortar site for cheese supremos the Raclette Brothers. Unctuous, molten fondues are the headline acts (try the savoyarde version served in a cavernous saucepan with a mini stove to keep it warm), but there are tartiflettes and raclettes too – plus properly humble sides including unlimited warm bread, pickles, charcuterie and garlicky fried baby potatoes. Also don’t miss the crisp rösti topped with wild mushrooms.
Curry and beer is a streetwise match made in heaven, and Brixtonites get the best of both worlds under one roof at Booma – a modern eatery that takes its North Indian sharing plates and its bevvies equally seriously. Order spot-on classics such as achari paneer tikka, richly intense black dhal and succulent tandoor-charred lamb chops, then nab yourself a third or two-third measure from the global list of craft ales, ciders and stouts (perhaps a Rodenbach Grand Cru sour/sweet ‘red ale’ from Belgium).
Spawned from an ‘empty shops’ project in 2011, Etta’s is one of Brixton’s less rakish eateries – a welcoming spot with cheery staff and a menu that has no truck with red meat. Instead, fish is the main event, with Caribbean influences showing up in the seafood curry, ackee with saltfish, plantain chips and rice ‘n’ peas. You can also come here for garlicky peppered prawns, scallop salad and good old cod and chips. Etta’s doesn’t sell booze, but their homemade drinks are ace.
Keenly upholding a singular British tradition, this breathtakingly spotless Brixton chippy gets everything right: fish is delicately battered, chips are pleasingly thick and fluffy, tartare sauce is extra zingy, and delightful staff treat everyone like lifelong friends. Eat in or takeaway from a menu packed with the usual suspects – from cod, rock, skate and plaice to pies (including Jamaican patties), battered sausages, burgers and chicken. ‘Gluten-free Mondays’ show they’re in tune with the times too.
Wood-fired sourdough pizzas with serious artisan credentials guarantee queues at the Brixton branch of cult-status mini chain Franco Manca. Prices are rock bottom, the pizzas are served up super-quickly, and kids can watch the pizzaiolo doing 'messy play' in the open kitchen. FM seems less ground-breaking these days, but it’s still a fun, relaxed little spot with indoor and outdoor seating overlooking the bustling market arcade.
KaoSarn has always been one of the crowd-pullers in Brixton Village Market and quite rightly so; their take on Thai food is cheap and the flavours are authentic. The menu is pared down to a handful of classic curries, noodle dishes and stir-fries, but everything is cooked to a decent standard. Soft drinks include fragrant homemade lemongrass or ginger tea, and you can also BYO. Service can be a little matter of fact, but staff are unfailingly friendly.
It started as a Brixton pop-up before going permanent in Soho, but now Kricket is back in SW9 with a snazzy new site under the railway arches. The food is everything you would expect, and more – a succession of killer Anglo-Indian small plates ranging from the astounding house bhel-puri to samphire pakoras, dinky Goan sausage croquettes, Keralan fried chicken with pickled mooli and gutsy pulled pig’s head with a blast of vindaloo chilli heat. Affable staff and punchy cocktails seal the deal.
Nanban translates as ‘southern barbarian’, so expect a riotous menu of genre-bending Japanese soul food from US-born MasterChef winner Tim Anderson. Served against an austere backdrop, the food is a succession of palate dazzlers ranging from KFJ (crispy jackfruit with honey-miso mayo) and ‘angry birds’ (chicken wings with Scotch bonnet/ponzu sauce, seaweed ‘sawdust’ and nori flakes) to ‘lazy goat ragù-men’, a mind-blowing two-bowl take on the ramen theme. Groups should ask for one of the weird-looking arched booths on wheels upstairs.
Lyon-born Margaux Sharratt (née Aubry) oversees the natural and organic tipples at this loveable Brixton wine bar, while husband Joe serves up a brief blackboard menu of pure-bred French dishes and eclectic small plates. Expect anything from boudin noir with cured egg yolk, tarragon and crackling or John Dory with courgettes and sauce vierge to BBQ pork belly with Korean spices. Be aware that the venue is off Brixton’s main drag, heading towards Herne Hill.
Delivering cheap Japanese eats on Brixton Village Market, this fun little canteen specialises in that Osaka street-food staple, okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes with assorted toppings and sesame-spiked Japanese mayo). You could put pretty much anything into your batter mix, but pork, squid and kimchi are top choices. Otherwise, the menu is small but perfectly rounded – think edamame, fried aubergine with miso dressing, tofu miso soup and yaki onigiri (fried rice cakes). A noodle-themed offshoot, Okan Ramen, is now trading on nearby Coldharbour Lane.
Like the titular fish eggs, Roe is tiny but bursting with flavour. Occupying a dinky shipping container in Pop Brixton, it comprises just two communal tables and a teeny kitchen that punches well above its weight. Seafood is the order of the day, so reel in a goodly number of small plates – perhaps cuttlefish arancini with pecorino foam, cod with chorizo and lentils or slippery squid ‘noodles’ with a fiery hit of fermented hot sauce, followed by perfumed Earl Grey panna cotta.
With a no-bookings bar on the ground floor and a wine store next door, Salon clearly takes it booze seriously – although most punters head upstairs for the superb Euro-accented food served in its casual first-floor bistro. Ingredients from Brixton Market often feature on the menu, and the results are outstanding – we love the meaty octopus with fronds of monk’s beard, chilli oil, crunchy toasted maize and blood orange. The (free) bread is incredible, as are the ‘nduja croquettes served as snacks.
A restaurant in a ‘magic box’ (well, a shipping container), Smoke & Salt has real personality, but it’s not all show. These guys can really cook, and their dishes are a triumph of careful composition and texture. How about crunchy-edged new potatoes over a yin-yang duo of sauces (Gorgonzola and chimichurri) topped with silky slices of beef heart or buttery nuggets of octopus and salsify in a clam shell with blood orange accents on the side. Best of all, it’s ludicrously good value.
After enduring reality TV ignominy on ‘The Apprentice’, Jamaican beauty queen April Jackson bounced back with this ace little spot on Coldharbour Lane. The menu promises well-priced riffs on the Caribbean standards (codfish fritters, curry goat, a tempting jerk veggie cheeseburger, callaloo fries, rice ‘n’ peas etc), and there’s a fully loaded rum bar for the wet stuff. It’s all served up in surroundings as sunny as the eponymous Bob Marley track. Jammin’ stuff.
Find more amazing restaurants in London
In what is surely the ultimate guide to the best restaurants in London, you’ll find it all: zeitgeist-defining celebrity haunts, the best new restaurants in London, Michelin star restaurants with starched linen napkins and restaurants serving down-to-earth cheap eats. What they all have in common is that they serve some of the best dishes in London at fair prices, with service befitting the setting. In short, if you’re looking for a great meal, you’ve come to the right place.
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