Did you know Brixton has its own money?
John Warland, guide and co-founder of Mind the Gap Tours explains on a chilly London morning as he holds up the colourful note in his hand. We’re standing at the platform of Brixton’s train station. He points to the gleaming white Bon Marché building beneath threatening clouds and tells the story of the original department store from 1877.
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Brixton is located south west of London, an area once notorious for major riots and unrest. But its recent chequered history is not the purpose of this tour.
Across the street from the tube station, A & C Deli beckons for tasty Pastel de Nata and other fine deli products including an assortment of marinated olives you’ll want to take home. Up ahead towards Brixton station, you’ll pass Saeed and his £1 fruit store. Go up the stairs and the vibrant mural pays homage to the culinary Brixton and artists such as Van Gogh who was a resident.
Brixton Village welcomes with its multi-coloured overhanging flags and specialist food stores. African, Latin, Caribbean shops sit alongside fresh meat stalls with a smiling pig head and fresh fish fanned in display.
Head to First Choice Bakers Ltd for warm saltfish callaloo, a breakfast delicacy from Trinidad. You’ll find assorted patties of jerk chicken, saltfish and corn and cheesy beef to go with a Guinness Punch, a sweet libation made of Guinness, condensed milk, water, vanilla spices and nutmeg.
The avenue names bear numbers such as 2nd Avenue where you’ll find Jalisco Mexican Restaurant and down to 5th Avenue for the tubular façade of Circus.
In need of caffeine? Stop at Federation Coffee, a Brixton institution renowned for coffee and cake. Elephant is a tiny eatery serving authentic Pakistani street food with a difference. Every ingredient is sourced within a 60 second walk from its location. Senzala offers sweet and savoury crepes while Honest Burgers claim to be the best in London. You’ll pass shops with textiles that belong in exotic bazaars along with ultra-modern cafes and restaurants.
Out on the street, you’ll spot the Nuclear Dawn Mural from 1981, and a plaque marking its 30 year anniversary. Further along, the urban landscape turns into elegant housing and new apartment developments.
Brixton Wholefoods supplies local honey and along Saltour Road, you’ll see Save the Bee mural beside Kaff Bar serving New Orleans style food and cocktails. The Ritzy Picturehouse stands proud, a place where David Bowie who was born in Brixton once performed. You’ll find a mural of Bowie’s ‘Aladdin Sane’ mural by Australian street artist James Cochran (aka Jimmy C).
Stop at Cannon and Cannon for the best of British cheese and charcuterie, Ossies ginger beer, craft ale or better still, dine at The Salon restaurant upstairs. Finish at Ms Cupcakes for delicious vegan cupcakes.
Brixton enchants and the tour is a mere appetiser luring you to come back. And before you leave, you’ll find yourself singing along to Eddy Grant’s Electric Avenue as you rock down to that same avenue.
You’re singing now, aren’t you…
A scenic bus hop away and it’s at the Borough Market offering shelter from the icy rain. The market is abuzz with a flurry of Londoners during their lunch break buying food from stalls and shops. Stop at Brindisa for the best chorizo roll with piquillo pepper and rocket. Pick up a wild boar Scotch egg from Sillfield Farm and stop for an ale at the Market Porter.
Posh Banger Boys entice with their burgers but if it’s coffee you need, the queue outside Monmouth tells you you’ve hit a pot of gold. Make sure you stop at the Cannon and Cannon stall for a taste of charcuterie from the same store as Brixton. The fiery Nduja from Kent is not to be missed.
Up ahead, cheese and olive sticks stacked jenga style beckon as well as the doughnuts with pieces of honeycomb. Cowheart tomatoes in bold red, an assortment of wild mushrooms, wet garlic and vibrant greens will make you wish you were a London resident and not a visitor.
To best experience the colours, flavours and history of Brixton with a visit to the Borough Market, take the Eat London! tour by Mind the Gap with John Warland. And if you’re the type who has sworn off guided tours long ago, preferring to wander off on your own and snap photos of your surrounds, his knowledge, personality and charm will convert you. Just as I was.
Eat London! Gourmet Walking Tour
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