I first came upon these markets about 4 years ago after hearing that the council had opened up shops to locals and mainly creative types with heavily subsidized rent in the hope that these businesses would revive a rundown area and build a stronger community. At first there were just a few shops operating in Brixton Village, where in the early days you could smoke at the outside tables and there was a very laid back atmosphere. Thankfully this atmosphere still remains, but less so with the expansion on the other side of Atlantic Rd – Market Row. Where you only saw trainers you now see a lot more high heels, and where ‘beards’ have become common – place. That said the markets have been a raving success, and have provided a spring board for many entrepreneurial foodies to dip their toes in, with Kao Sarn and Mamma Lan both opening second outposts in Clapham Junction and the later in Clapham common. These restaurants are family run and owned and you can tell by the home- made taste of their Asian food. Both are well worth a visit.
Two favourites are The Joint for their pulled pork burgers and highly addictive chicken wings. If you want to wash it down with a beer then they’re happy to accept BYO. Second is the Japanese street food restaurant called Okan. Here you will get street food as it is in Osaka, cooked by a team of passionate Japanese chefs. One speciality is Okonomiyaki – which is a savoury pancake come omelette where you choose the fillings. If you haven’t tried Japanese Mayo just go for that alone.
The best way to experience the markets is of course to go hungry – really hungry and order small bites at as many places as you can. So you don’t get food envy, make a food crawl starting with the dim sum at Mamma Lan, get all sticky with the chicken wings at The Joint and finish off sharing a Japanese pancake at Okan. If you’re looking for some great cocktails at very good prices then head to Carioca in Market Row – which is the term to describe a local from Rio, for the best caipirinhas I’ve tried in London made by Brazilians. Seven, a few doors further up also serves great cocktails, as well as tapas but yet to have gone here for the food. They also have a sister bar Three Eight Four a 2 minute walk that is funnily enough no 384 on ColdHarbour Lane. A good option also if you want to listen to live music is head to the markets on a Thursday through to Saturday and the Agile Rabbit is a great place to position yourself to be close to the action.
The beauty of this place is you can’t go wrong with just about anywhere you choose to eat here. There is a lot of diversity right at your finger tips – where you can taste the world under one roof – from Japanese, to Colombian, to Italian. With the added bonus you can go come rain or shine being a covered market.
This diversity is at the heart of this markets success, and currently underway is a mass exodus of the grocers, wig shops and butchers that line the arches of Atlantic Road to make way for renovations enforced by Network Rail. There is no guarantee that these vendors are able to move back in. Some of these vendors have been operating since the 1930’s so I’ve included a link here to help support these businesses to avoid an eviction, so the eclectic vibe and diversity can still continue in Brixton.
A big thanks to Gabrielle from Talking Pigeons for this guest post and if you want to ‘Crack a City like a local’ visit the website