There’s something for everyone in the arcades of Brixton Village Market and Market Row. You might be checking out The Wig Bazaar (I’m not judging) while stocking up on vegan beers; you might be stocking up on sausage from the Columbian carniceria, or shopping for ingredients in the Eritrean grocer.
You’re not going to go hungry, though you will be spoilt for choice. There’s Thai at Rosa’s, Afro Caribbean at Wings and Tings, seafood from Etta’s, supple bao at Tiger and Pig (of which, more later) or Mexican at Jalisco and pizza (and jazz) at Agile Rabbit. Pick from Persian, Brazilian, Japanese curry, crepes, barbecue, dim sum and a champagne bar bistro. There’s more Thai food at Kaosan and more pizza at the original Franco Manca, the original Honest Burger (reviewed on this blog a few years ago), or the wholly vegan options at Eat of Eden and the completely gluten-free menu at Station 26.
In short, a brief amble will give you a breadth of choice which many cities would envy.
Of course, there’s a chance you might find all this about as stimulating as a copy of Chromatography Today, or the news that your aunt has bought you a lifetime subscription to Pond Dipping Weekly with a bonus CD of Clean Bandit’s Greatest Hits thrown in.
This isn’t the place to come looking for ‘gammon’. It is proudly and distinctly London, an intersection of cultures and background and food and music with a rhythm all its own. On a muggy Friday night it’s noisy, it’s warm, it’s rough and ready, it’s all rather lovely, a heady mixture in a community which has brought people from every land and given them a home. It was the kaleidoscope of produce and influence which inspired owner Ning Ma, who arrived in London aged 15, the Brixton bustle reminding her of her grandfather’s street food stall. What started as a supper club out of her home, with her mother- the original ‘mama’ Lan-has become this little corner of Beijing.
We are in the mood for big sharing dishes. A bowl of beef noodles is a hearty, sustaining bowl which pulls off the neat trick of making perfect sense on a sticky evening, while being exactly the kind of thing you’d look forward to getting lost in in far wintrier weather.
You know that feeling when you slump into your favourite chair at the end of an irksome day, shoes off, feet up? This is a great big bowl of that feeling.
There will be sucking. There will be slurping. There will be happy faces all round. This is a broth which stays with you for days after, richly savoury and resolutely meaty, lightly spiced but aromatic and lingering in every good way.
Chicken fried rice is a big sustaining bowl, ideal for sharing. It’s food for sharing with friends, irrespective of your expertise with chopsticks, for digging in and enjoying. It’s food for happy memories.
Cucumber has been resoundingly ‘smacked’. (Better get some down you before those meddling Eurocrats interfere with our sovereignty and ban us from punishing it ourselves, AMIRITE?) Spritzed with lime they perk up considerably and pack a sweet-sour punch which seems unlikely in such a watery vegetable. It’s refreshing stuff.
The menu says some call their chicken wings ‘the best in London’. I couldn’t begin to offer an informed opinion on that, but anyone who knows better should feel free to mail me some suggestions. These are highly desirable indeed, because these hit every desirable note- effortlessly crisp, impeccably light, grease-free and tender.
Dumplings are happy little things, well textured and with a smack of the sea.
Mama Lan’s tells a story about openness and entrepreneurship and memory and family and a country which welcomes others. It’s perfectly situated here in Brixton Village; it’s rather a fun way to eat cheaply in London. Roll up your sleeves and get stuck in.
Brixton Village, 1
8 Coldharbour Ln,
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This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.