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"Significantly, the charge (if it is a charge) has been levelled at the gastronomic essay and the 'learned' cookery book that they have an affinity with pornography. Certainly, both gastronomy and pornography dwell on pleasures of the flesh, and in gastronomic literature as in pornography there is vicarious enjoyment to be had." 

Stephen Mennell

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Tuesday
Jun192012

My restaurant recommendations: South London

When I got back from South America I spent a few happy months living with family friends in South London. Until then my knowledge of food south of the river was pretty much non-existent. While I was there I made a point of trying some of their suggestions, which sees this post boosted from a pathetic two recommendations (one of which isn’t even a restaurant) to a healthy eight.

I still have a lot of places to try – there are many more goodies to be found on the Brixton market and I really ought to have an Indian included since Tooting is touted as the place to get London's most authentic curries. And I haven’t even begun to explore trendy Clapham, which is by many accounts the centre of South London’s food scene.

Still, these eight restaurants are a good start; I hope you will enjoy them as much as I have.

South London

The Anchor and Hope

Cuisine: Modern British (Gastropub)

Address: 36 The Cut, Southwark, London, SE1 8LP

Ph: 020 7928 9898

Budget: Mid-range

 

In a nutshell:

Great, hearty modern British food in an unpretentious and rustic setting – think big, wooden, communal tables; casual but informed service; and plenty of offal and game. There are no bookings and at peak times it can take a while to get a table, but it is well worth the wait so park up with a drink and work up an appetite – you’re going to need it.

Other info:

Borough Market

Cuisine: Varied

Website: http://www.boroughmarket.org.uk/

Budget: (All)

 

In a nutshell:

Obviously not a restaurant, but I couldn’t write a post about South London food without including it. I take every visitor I have to Borough Markets and, foodie or not, they love it. Go on a Friday to avoid the crowds. There is a great mix of food stalls for lunching as well as take home produce and the market is surrounded by great restaurant options and fine providores. 

Other info:

  • Open Thurs-Sat, but there are less stalls on Thursdays and it is very busy on Saturdays
  • My recommendation: Start in the morning with a coffee at Monmouth’s and a pastry from one of the cake stalls. Spend the morning perusing the stalls, then get lunch on the market or head to one of the great restaurants nearby. Finish with a visit to Neal’s Yard Dairy (my review here), where you can try before you buy.
  • Good restaurants nearby include:  Wrights Bros Oyster Co., Roast (Modern British) and Tapas Brindisa, among others

The Canton Arms

Cuisine: Modern British (Gastropub)

Website: http://www.cantonarms.com/

Budget: Mid-range

In a nutshell:

Similar in style to The Anchor and Hope (see above) – a rustic setting, knowledgeable but informal service and a focus on offal and offcuts. There are no bookings here either, but a bigger venue means tables are easier to come by and, if you can’t get one, the bar snacks alone are a good enough reason to visit. Try their famous foie gras toastie – Jay Rayner thinks it sums up the venue as a whole: “It is the meeting place of scuzz and appetite, the logical answer to the question: "What do you get if you cross a real old boozer in one of London's more energetic districts with a bunch of greedy people?"”

Other info:

Chez Bruce

Cuisine: Modern European (French/Mediterranean)

Website: http://www.chezbruce.co.uk/

Budget: Mid-range - expensive

In a nutshell:

Chez Bruce oozes sophistication and class, without feeling stuffy and formal – a difficult balance to strike. The dining room is stylish, but understated. The service is smooth, efficient and knowledgeable with a little bit of charm for good measure. Oh, and the food, the food! I couldn’t fault a single thing. Highlights were deep-fried brains with warm salad paysanne, sauce gribiche and red wine to start and a pea tortellini with asparagus, wild garlic and mousserons, particularly impressive given that I rarely order a vegetarian main and like it, let alone more than the meat. The wine list is extensive and the sommelier’s knowledge even more so. And you really must try the cheeses; if you can’t see them, you'll be able to smell them.

Other info:

  • Booking advisable
  • Lunch: 3 courses for £35;  Dinner: 3 courses for £45

Franco Manca

Cuisine: Italian (pizza)

Website: http://www.francomanca.co.uk/

Budget: Cheap

In a nutshell:

I had heard so many good things about Franco Manca that I was worried it wouldn't live up to expectations. I needn't have been concerned. They say the best pizza in the world is from Naples and Franco Manca have taken a lot of their inspiration from there. The sourdough crust is not traditional, but the result is much the same - crisp and lightly charred on the outside, soft and slightly chewy inside. As in Naples, tomatoes are sourced from Campagnia, but at Franco Manca the mozzerella comes from UK dairy, Alham Wood. This is the only thing I feel lets it down. The mozzerella has good flavour but it doesn't melt like the Italian stuff does; it should ooze and flow like molten lava. Still, it is the best pizza I've had in London and that's not for a lack of trying.

KaoSarn

Cuisine: Thai

Address: Units 2 and 96, Brixton Village Market, Coldharbour Lane, London, SW9 8PR 

Ph: 020 7095 8922 

Budget: Cheap

In a nutshell:

I grew up in Sydney where the Thai food is said to rival the food in Thailand itself. Whether or not this is true, the point is that it is good – damn good – and so Thai food in the UK is usually disappointing for me. I was sceptical about trying KaoSarn, but the recommendation came from friends who had been to Sydney and they said it is just like a good, cheap Thai there – nothing fancy, but good value and plenty of flavour. They were right; the larp gai (minced chicken salad) and som tam (green papaya salad) were particular highlights and the curries, which are usually where Thai restaurants in Britain fall down, were as good as any I’ve had in a Sydney cheapie. For £20 each, I wasn’t complaining.

Other info:

Mama Lan's

Cuisine: Chinese

Website: http://mamalan.co.uk/

Budget: Cheap 

In a nutshell:

Everything about this place is minimal – the space, the decor, the tables, the menu. There is only an abundance of two things here: dumplings and soup. Not choice mind you – there are 2 types of soup and 3 types of dumpling, but they’re tasty enough to keep me traipsing down to Brixton of a Sunday lunchtime to get my fill. They do them very well and very cheaply and so the rest becomes insignificant. The street snacks are great too and change regularly, which keeps things interesting, and I love watching Mama Lan and her team making the dumplings fresh to order.

Other info:

  • No bookings
  • It doesn’t get much cheaper than this – soups are £7.50-£8, dumplings are £4.50 for 5 pieces and street snacks start at £3.50
  • Dinner Thurs-Sat only, 6-10pm (Lunch daily from 12-4pm)

Meza

Cuisine: Lebanese

Address: 34 Trinity Rd, Tooting, SW17 7RE

Ph: 07722 111299

Budget: Cheap

In a nutshell:

The appeal is obvious – fresh and tasty mezze, which is healthy to boot, paired with warm and friendly service in cosy and intimate surrounds all for the same amount you’d spend on a pizza delivery and a couple of beers. Since opening in 2011 this tiny restaurant has been packed to the brim – literally – there are only 5 tables and thanks to several good reviews highlighting both the quality and value for money it is not just locals vying for a space.

Other info:

If you have any suggestions for South London restaurants please leave a comment or email me. I will endeavour to update this post overtime as I try new places.

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Reader Comments (6)

sounds scrumptious - that cheese selection looks incredible!
Mama lan's sounds so good - despite the lack of choice - at least you know they focus on a few things a do them well! (you've put $$$ signs in one of the price instead of pounds)
Looking at the Neils yard and dairy toastie makes my sghetti toastie pie I just had seem very disappointing! I WANT ONE NOW!

June 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie Brown

I am so excited by that cheese too!! Yum yum and yum. Can't wait to try these when I'm next in London. Maybe I should start saving now so I can go to all of them. It'll be way too hard to choose!

June 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRay

Hi Cha - thanks for the tip, I have changed now; I did that post late at night. Mmm, sketti and cheese jaffle. I had one last night and this morning too! :)

Hi Ray - I know, it was amazing. They let you have as many as you like as well, which was quite funny cause then Mum said "OK, great. We'll have one of each then" meaning one of each kind - hard, soft, goats... - not one of everything! Can't wait to introduce you to my new favourites. If I am not too poor, we should save and go to Dinner by Heston. X

June 24, 2012 | Registered CommenterVix

I think I could have coped with one of everything! I'd love to go to Dinner by Heston. Maybe we can get the uni to pay for it! x

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRay

As the one fortunate enough to accompany you to Chez Brrrrrruce, I have to say it was probably the highlight of my trip to date , though there was hard competition in Spain the week before. Chez Bruce does that wonderful trick of offering a reasonably priced set lunch menu - but even though set menu , it still includes a choice- and it is top range food at budget prices . I have been in France this week - I had a couple of set lunch menus in La Rochelle , neither a patch on Chez Bruce.

June 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMA

Hi Ma - I am the one who was fortunate, you treated me! It is in fact the same menu as the night time menu but at a reduced price. I wouldn't quite say budget prices (£35 for 3 courses), but very reasonable given the quality.

July 4, 2012 | Registered CommenterVix

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