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Kaosarn, Brixton

Brixton Village (formerly known as Granville Arcade) has had a reversal of fortune recently. Once a dilapidated rundown covered area with empty shops and a slightly forlorn atmosphere, it has been revived to become a thriving community of shops, stalls, coffee joints and places to eat, opening late on certain nights and attracting a crowd who love good food. And nowhere more so than the new Thai restaurant Kaosarn.
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A Crab Hand…

Some of my happiest childhood memories involve trying to avoid the pincers of crabs, both on long lazy fishing trips in Norway with a bit of string and some bait and a beloved plastic toy one that I used to attack my Sindy dolls with when playing Killer Sea Creatures of an afternoon. However, I don’t have any great memories of cooking or eating crabs apart from burning myself on a soft shell number at Little Lamb last year, so when a crustacean caught my eye in Brixton Village at the weekend, I decided I had to rectify that and kill my own dinner for the first time.
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Etta’s Seafood Kitchen, Brixton

Times are a-changing for the 1930s covered market in Brixton formerly known as Granville Arcade. Newly listed to prevent demolition, it has been re-named Brixton Village and is taking on a new lease of life thanks to a mixture of recently opened vintage stores, galleries and pop-up shops and the long established fishmongers and butchery stalls and stores selling food and goods from all over the world. Accompanying these retail outlets are some wonderful places to eat and drink, both new and old…

One of the newer arrivals is Etta’s Seafood Kitchen on 6th Avenue. Immediately welcoming with its purple and pink frontage and tables outside, you step inside to a low key environment with a hotch-potch of tables and some good music playing. The menu is simple, but effective, listing a variety of mains, starters and a great kids’ selection along with fresh juices and sides.

Short and sweet

Etta’s offers a mix of fresh and cooked seafood with both a traditional and Carribean feel with a reasonably priced oyster plate, fish curries or a seafood linguine all sounding enticing. However since M and I had already sneaked a quick slice of pizza at The Agile Rabbit we weren’t just as hungry as we might have been for pasta or rice, and decided to go for a mussel pot each and a portion of the crab fritters to share. Our choice was also influenced by the excellent prices with the mussel pot costing a fiver…

Our drinks arrived quickly and my mango and guava juice was tasty, but I was massively distracted though by the crab fritters coming to the table in style. Freshly fried billowing pillows of golden crabbiness on a lovely rectangular plate and an egg cup of sweet chilli sauce, these looked sensational. And they tasted as good as they looked. Light crunchy outers with soft sweet crab filled middles spiked with fresh chilli and coriander in the batter, they were extremely moreish. I skipped the sweet chilli sauce as I’m not a big fan of it, but the fritters had excellent flavours on their own. We were also impressed by the size of the portion for a mere £3.50.

Crab fritters

The mussels appeared at the table steaming hot and promptly and were again a good sized portion. I love mussels, but find that quite often these days they lack much flavour apart from a brineyness so I was trepidatious. No need, these little babies were sweet and tasty with a gorgeous cooking liquor infused with a hint of curry, fresh coriander and lots of garlic. We abandoned much semblance of table manners and devoured our mountain of mussels with our hands. Despite the finger bowl provided, we created a pile of napkins as tall as that of the mussel shells…

One partly eaten portion of mussels…

We didn’t have a single unopened mussel between us and they were beautifully clean and grit free apart from one solitary barnacle that confirmed these weren’t frozen and thawed bi-valves, but fabulously fresh specimens from a market that specialises in fish! We cleared our plates with gusto and my only complaint was that there was nothing to soak up the cooking juices. I managed to resist the urge to drink them out of the dish and sat back feeling very satisfied.

The cafe around us was a good level of busy for a Tuesday lunchtime with the outside tables playing host to several people just calling in for a quick plate of fresh oysters, as well as those tucking into the lovely looking linguine on their lunchbreak. We didn’t feel rushed to eat and leave, but I can imagine it is a fight to get a table here on a Saturday lunchtime!

Our bill came to a mere £16.50 between two for two mains, a shared starter and drinks. All the food is freshly prepared by Etta herself who chatted away to us as we paid, telling us how her kids help out with the cooking and waiting and that all the ingredients are super-fresh and from the local market where possible. Our mussels though (and much of the fish and seafood) came from Billingsgate rather than the local fishmongers which is fine by me as they were such good quality!

Our lunch genuinely felt like sitting in someone’s kitchen for good food and good feelings, but without any sense of it being contrived or cute. This is good home cooking with a serious does of Brixton charm and style. I love seafood and am tickled pink to discover somewhere close to home to indulge my cravings without taking out a mortgage to pay for it. I can’t wait to go back and try the fish curry and the linguine next…in fact, i’ll even skip the pizza to make sure I can do them justice!

Vive Colombia!

Mister North happened to be in London at the tail end of last week and after a late night watching election results and bemoaning the state of the nation we needed fortified and soothed by some hearty food. Inspired by Mister North’s recent purchase of Felipe Rojas-Lombardi’s The Art of South American Cooking we decided to visit the Colombian butcher in Brixton Village for inspiration.

A purchase of some of the plumpest meatiest sausages (or chorizo colombiano) I have seen in a long time had us so engrossed in conversation about what to do with them that before we knew it we were on 2nd Avenue and found ourselves standing outside Restaurante La Cabana. Realising we could indulge our craving for Colombian food right then and there, rather than going home and cooking for an hour or two we were seated inside with a menu in front of us before we knew it. Read more