With the high street and central areas of Brixton becoming increasingly off limits to independent businesses because of rent hikes and high business rates, sole traders have to look for premises in ‘secondary’ areas that may initially be less appealing. It’s interesting to speculate what Brixton may look like in five or ten years time; currently the railway arch traders are under threat of eviction due to redevelopment – will they ever come back to their original locations? Will Brixton become yet another ‘clone-town’ full of the chains which dominate our high streets?
Local boy Chris Edwards (above left) along with his partner Dave Tregenza from east London took a chance on a disused shop along Coldharbour Lane about five minutes walk from Brixton Village to open a bar and restaurant called the ‘Shrub and Shutter’ last autumn and SLB were invited along to see how things were going.
The front of the restaurant has the feel of a tapas bar with high stool seating round the sides with a few tables in the centre, and further back a large ‘mixology’ table, where the baristas create some weird and wonderful cocktails with most prices in the £7-10 range. At the back is the main dining area which has a nice feel to it and you can see the chefs at work in the (very small) kitchen.
Neither of us are big cocktail drinkers but owner Chris easily persuaded us to sample some of their creations, Mrs D going for a Clover Club (on the left) – gin, lemon raspberries, egg white – while I had a Franz Ferdinand- gin, prosecco, poppy liqueur. Hopefully inspired by the band rather than the unfortunate Arch-Duke, I’d recommend one of these if your evening needs a kick-start.
Now a lot of the reviews of Shrub and Shutter have focused on the cocktails, which rather undersells its food. With a tempting array of bar snacks priced from £3-£10 and a set menu for £18 for two courses and £22 for three, the Shrub is very much a place to eat as well as drink. We had the cured mackerel with melon and roasted almonds and the chickpea panisse (like hand-cut chips) to start – both very tasty. Mrs D. followed with an excellent sirloin steak (300g – £17) while I went for the braised beef cheeks with mash – a dark and flavoursome meat that merited the glass of Malbec I had to accompany it. To finish, we shared an interesting cheeseboard, which included a nice blue cheese from the farm of Blur’s Alex James. Our host then insisted we try a glass of Japanese dessert wine – it tasted of plums and was a really unusual and pleasant finish to the meal.
The Shrub and Shutter has a really great vibe about it – we went on a Thursday and it was virtually full with many having dinner and others drinking and snacking. It stays open till 3am at weekends with some live music and gets pretty packed later on, by all accounts. Chef Joe Knowlden in his Tardis kitchen produces some really decent food and the small set menu provides excellent value for money. Overall, this place is a great neighbourhood restaurant and bar – lets hope that there’ll be a place in the Brixton of the future for innovative independents like this one.