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Brixton’s Best Food Shops

Rachel Manley, who runs the Breakfast Club, gives us a guide of Brixton’s best food shops

Brixton has arguably one of the best food markets in London and it just keeps getting better.

But with the men shouting ‘half price’ at you and the overwhelming selection, it can be a pretty intimidating place to know where to start… here are my recommendations for the best food shops in Brixton.

1. Nour cash and carry, Electric Avenue
Known as favourite shop in my house, the tiny entrance hides what I think is by far the best version of the generic shops along Electric Avenue. Worth a wander around, if only to make new discoveries in random corners. This is where I buy fruit and vegetables particularly huge bunches of fresh herbs including lovely thyme and dill, onions, garlic, ginger, chillies and packs of cherry tomatoes for 50p! I also buy spices, pomegranate molasses, chopped tomatoes, tinned beans, rice and lentils here. All much better quality than the supermarket and loads cheaper. You can also find huge tubs of yoghurt and labneh in the fridges as well as haloumi.

2. Wing Tai
The Chinese supermarket on Electric Avenue is really well stocked. I buy huge bottles of soy sauce and fish sauce, there’s lemongrass and Thai basil in the fridges and I recently bought everything I needed to make sushi for about £10. While the staff aren’t exactly friendly and they don’t speak great English, they will help you find what you’re looking for. Don’t be afraid to ask!

3. Dagon’s Ltd.
There’s some pretty unappetising fish for sale in Brixton Market, dig a little deeper and you can find some fantastic stuff. Mash & Sons on Atlantic Rd is ok, but my very favourite is Dagon’s in Brixton Village. They’re always really busy (definitely a good sign) and they can offer advice on the type of fish to buy and how to cook it. Best of all, they’ll fillet and prepare the fish for you if you ask nicely. Salad Club also recommend Jeffries by Franco Manca.

4. Continental Delicatessen
Turn right out of Brixton station, keep going until you hit Atlantic Rd and the bright blue awning of Continental deli is right in front of you. It’s worth a visit for all the usual deli stuff, in particular the great cheese selection, delicious chorizos and Portuguese custard tarts. I also spotted homemade pestos in the fridge. Rosie’s Deli also has a nice selection of deli foodstuffs and you can get a cake and coffee while you’re there.

5. Giggly pig
Much like fish, finding meat in Brixton Market can be hit and miss. I tend to go to the farmers’ market on Brixton Station Road on Sundays as I know it’s all local and free-range. Although a little lacklustre, it’s worth it for the excellent sausages and pork from Giggly Pig. If you head down later on (after 1pm) you can usually get a good deal. There’s also a really good farmer’s market on on Saturday’s opposite Oval station.

6. Breads etc
Breads etc has been open in Clapham for a while and recently opened in Brixton Market. This is a chance to buy their top quality bread without the queues they usually have in Clapham, plus they do a mean brunch.

Sometimes I feel like I’m only scratching the surface, like when I discovered the fantastic chorizo in Continental Delicatessan or that you can get huge bags of ground almonds in Nour Cash and Carry. Where are your favourite food shops in Brixton? Leave suggestions in the comments.


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Brixton on the BBC

BBC World Service set up a radio discussion about Lambeth public service cuts at Rosie’s Deli Cafe last week. Kaye Wiggins took part and here she explains what was discussed

The BBC World Service set up a makeshift base in the brilliant Rosie’s Deli Café in Brixton Market on Thursday, to present an “austerity special” programme about public sector cuts.

Presenter Dan Damon described Brixton in his introduction as  “one of the most cosmopolitan and at the same time one of the poorest parts of the capital.” He said it was worthwhile to look at what was happening in Brixton because cuts in services and public sector jobs would hit harder here than elsewhere.

“People love living here but also they know that the services that keep the place livable in, and a lot of the jobs, are provided in a large part by local government and those are going to be cut,” he said.

Cllr Pete Robbins reiterated some of the doom and gloom. Asked about the impact of the council’s funding cut from Westminster, he said: “There are going to be some immediate, fairly devastating effects.” (Interestingly, he also said two thirds of the £79m cut over three years would come from saving money on the council’s back office functions and administration costs. I’d be intrigued to see how this will work: what were they spending it on?)

Damon managed, largely because he’d spent several hours wandering round the area in the days before the broadcast, to also capture the brighter side of Brixton.

He said he loved the market’s cultural mix and he noted food and music from Ghana and the Caribbean, a Brazilian hairdressers (“although I’m not sure what that is,” he said) and a Japanese restaurant – I think he meant Fujiyama.

“Anyone who was fearful about the social impact of immigration should come to Brixton because 25 years ago this was a very troubled place,” he said.

“There were race riots here, the police were accused of brutality, of stopping and searching black people but not white people, and as a result cars were burned, there were many nights of unrest.

“But now what you see is a society that really does prove that immigrants not only can settle into an area but make it extremely colourful and diverse.”

Damon also praised the work of voluntary and community groups in the area, with a glimpse into the work of Livity, which aims to build up local young people’s skills and confidence by training them to be journalists. You can hear interviews with its co-ordinator Mira and one of its trainees, Celeste, about 28 minutes into the programme.

Damon said Brixton stood out because of the important role played by local citizens in holding the council to account using blogs, Twitter and other social media. “People can express themselves in different ways, they don’t rely only on local newspapers,” he said.

At this point I jumped in enthusiastically with my tuppence worth, saying dissatisfaction with Lambeth Life, the council-run newspaper, had spurred local people to hold the council to account themselves using blogs and social networks. “It means that the council is being scrutinised in a way that it never has been before,” I said – you can hear it here.

The programme managed to convey a serious, troubling picture of a place under threat from the loss of local services, but without losing sight of what people love about Brixton – the diverse culture, the food and music, the importance of community groups and the work of local bloggers and activists.

If Lambeth Council wants to make sure that Brixton’s reputation isn’t taken back to where it was in the eighties as a result of the cuts, it would do well to capture come of the positive story that the World Service found. Reminding people of what they love about their area, without ignoring the tough times it faces, might be a good place to start.

The BBC World Service ‘World Update’ facebook page features video interviews with Kaye Wiggins and Livity. See them here.

The full programme has now been taken down, but you can listen to Kaye’s audioboo here.

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Interview: Ben Kreeger, Events and Promotions at Plan B

A Plan B poster from December 2009

1. What’s your job at Plan B? What do you do day-to-day?

I am the Events & Promotions Manager at Plan B. I programme all of the events at the venue, as well as running specific in-house events. I also manage all of the marketing and promotion for the venue. On a day to day basis this includes everything from speaking to agents and building relationships with emerging artists, to attending a wide range of events throughout London and working with some of the best creatives money can buy.

2. How has Plan B been doing since it reopened last year?

Things have never been better! In the last year or so Plan B has not only regained its reputation as one of the most forward thinking venues in London (able to attract some of the biggest DJs and producers from around the world), but also has a great crowd, week in week out. I think people are pleasantly surprised when they make their first visit to the venue since the relaunch. Our focus on new music has certainly helped us, as has the resurgence of interest in Brixton as a whole. I have worked in Brixton for more than five years and projects like the redevelopment of Brixton Village and even things a little outside of the area, like Frank’s Campari Bar in Peckham, have shown just how much creativity there is here.

3. Is there a theme behind the people you choose to DJ at Plan B?

We book people we feel are doing something interesting and people with a connection to the area.

4. Do you want to promote local South London music or is your focus more on getting in big-name DJs?

A bit of both – South London has always had an incredibly rich musical heritage and these sounds have had a huge influence on the sort of music we listen to and promote. At the same time, South London is not particularly well catered for in terms of ‘big’ clubs and we feel that a lot of people have to travel to quite a long way to hear some of their favourite DJs, so we also have a keen interest in bringing people from outside the area to play here.

5. What’s thinking behind your ‘Community’ night – and why?

Proper house music has always had a home in the area, from the notorious Rooty parties run by Basement Jaxx to DJ Harvey’s now legendary sessions many many years ago, to things happening at the moment, like Andy Blakes’ World Unknown warehouse parties. The main idea behind ‘Community’ is to create a night that redefines peoples perception of what constitutes a ‘house’ night in the area – this isn’t about Ibiza anthems or about some ‘legend’ making a comback to a bunch of builders from Bromley, this is about listening to quality music with like minded local people in an environment that feels intimate. We want to bring back some of the affinity for the area that has been so strong in the past; that’s why we called it ‘Community’.

6. What has the reaction been to Community so far?

Fantastic! People seem to be getting very excited about the night (especially the Moodymann / Floating Points night on the 18th September – see below) and all of the people we have approached about playing at the night have been impressed by our vision and commitment to the project.

7. How do you view yourselves within the local community and why?

We do a lot of work with Strong Look in Brixton Village, which is run by a former employee of ours. We also spend a lot of time at Rosie’s Deli and are on first name terms with a lot of the small restaurants and bars in the area. We certainly see ourselves as part of the local community and have been championing Brixton for many years, I am not sure how local people see us, but they are always smiling when they leave here.

8. In 2007 Plan B joined the Brixton Collective and you were interviewed in ‘Time Out’ saying that it is a struggle to convince people to come to Brixton. Is that still the case?

I think things are very different these days. At the time, the area suffered from a lot of negative media attention and the two years of Victoria Line weekend closures for refurbishment work really didn’t help. But it is fantastic to see so many new things happening – from the redevelopment of the space in front of The Ritzy, to the work the police have been doing to clean up the area around the underground station. There are more creative people in the area now and a lot of opportunities for small businesses to flourish, in a way that is not possible in other areas of London – people have begun to support what they see around them, which is great. Even the old school Brixtonites have realised that they do not have to be stereotyped. We are reaching a critical mass. The troubles of the past have helped us prepare for the success of today.

9. What has been your favourite ever night at Plan B and why?

I have so many favourite nights it is hard to pick. David Rodigan’s set at the RBMA party back in February was incredible. However my favourite night was probably the after show party we did for LCD Soundsystem a few months back. James Murphy (lead singer of LCD Soundsystem) played disco records all night with Erol Alkan, and Soulwax were on the lights. It’s going to be hard to top that, although saying that I am very very excited about having Moodymann play!

10. Do you ever go partying anywhere else in Brixton?

All the time. I really like The Rest Is Noise for a pint after work and my favourite night in London is still DMZ at Mass.

'Community' at Plan B this month

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Brixton Campaign: Ban/Boycott Brixton Starbucks

Starbucks Brixton

Starbucks opened a new branch in Brixton today right beside the tube station, and already a campaign has been launched to boycott the new shop. In the past few years, the high street has seen the death of Woolworths and the arrival of H&M and T-Mobile, while the market is becoming a home for independent, but more ‘chichi’ shops.  What do you think? Is it the death knell for Brixton’s unique ‘character’ or is it best to agree with one tweeter’s remark that, “it’s only a small branch of Starbucks, stop whining. That’s how our economy works.”

If you want to boycott the Starbucks, here are some views on where to get the best coffee in Brixton (and they’re not all votes for Federation Coffee):

Christopher Douse, Brixton: Federation hands down. Only other contender is Opus (1.50 for a small cappucino) but it’s a bit inconsistent. £2 for a cappucino in Federation (there is only one size), very smooth but intense coffee flavour and lovingly prepared each time so it’s consistent. Plus they are really friendly (e.g. gave me a new one for free when I spilt my first one without having had a sip!). So even though it’s £2, which is relatively expensive for an independent coffee, you don’t feel remotely ripped off. You can get a loyalty card, too (6 coffees get the 7th free or something like that).

Anonymous (ahem, apparently that’s how contentious coffee is in Brixton this week…): Rice milk latte @ Wild Caper… Why? It’s light, sweet and smooth all at once… Little cup of heaven 🙂

@tomp2 @FederationCoffe without a doubt! Their flat whites and iced lattes are made with more attention than any other coffee I’ve had

@82mmphotography hey- mine would have to be the hive! Great place for lazy hangover lunchtimes;) Thanks 82mm.com

@FreeSouthLondon It has to be @FederationCoffe(e). All other Brixtonian coffeemakers will undergo 3 hours of public ideological humiliation.

@Brixtonbeats love a good latte at opus… Just tastes like quality in coffee form 🙂

@mr_richie Has to be San Marino’s, best in #Brixton by far. Enormous lattes, a veritable bucket of coffee. And they’re pleasantly brusque.

@mr_richie Oh, and Lori’s Frothy Coffee booth in the newsagents by McD’s is worth a look too.

@rodstanley the new Starbucks *sarcasm*

@SimonTateBooks Honest cafe is decent, as is Ritzy, not tried San Marinos. I’m kinda depressed about the new Starbucks opening 😦

@lauracward Cornercopia, then Federation. I like everything about Cornercopia – desserts, tables, chutneys and it’s a bargain!

@DJDanCook Federation, Flat white, every morning

@DogstarBrixton federation coffee – cool place, amazing coffee, good beans from nude esspresso, in Market which is great & NOT starbucks 🙂

@DogstarBrixton by time we roll up its time for a Caffè macchiato…

@CllrMattBennett Rosie’s in the market does tasty coffee; plus it isn’t just served in an identikit bucket like the chains…

@WindmillBrixton Bollocks to Starbucks. Adam’s Bakery on Brixton Hill does good coffee at £1 a cup!!!

In what is becoming a bizarrely coffee-themed week, here’s a pic of the new coffee shop (selling coffee beans to take home as well as cups of coffee) about to open next to Rosie’s Deli in the market.

And I don’t even drink the stuff…


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