A Month Spent Eating Everything in Brixton


When I set off to travel the world, I confessed to everyone who asked that I had no real ties to London, aside from my family.

“The weather sucks here,” I’d bemoan, images of Thai islands flashing through my mind. “Everyone’s miserable. They’re always complaining. I hate the rain. The Tube is the worst. Everything’s so expensive. If my family didn’t live here, I’d never return. There’s nothing left for me here.”

I wanted to travel forever.

Lauren at the airport
The first day of my trip. I still had time to pose for a dorky photo, despite being about to miss my flight.

I travelled for nine months and returned to London a changed person. I hadn’t had a panic attack in well over half a year, I was all about trying new foods, I was unbearably optimistic about everything that was going on in my life, and I was eager to share my craziest misadventures with everyone.

I landed in the UK and it was raining. Everything was grey. Nothing looked like Southeast Asia. Listening to Bob Marley felt weird. People stared at my hippie pants. Everyone I spoke to was complaining about the weather and work and a hundred other things, and all I could think was, get me out of here.

I left more convinced than ever that there was little left for me in London.

pai signpost memory in love
Take me anywhere on this signpost instead of London. Yes, even the toilet.

How wrong I was.

I can blame many things for leading me to hate the UK that first time I returned. I was on a strong course of antibiotics, which always gives me this weird kind of aggressive rage that makes me impossible to be around, plus I don’t think I’d been away for long enough to start yearning for the place I once called home.

The longer I travelled, though, the more I craved London.

I missed my family, and when I returned a year later, I found other things I missed, too. Cathedral City cheese and prawn cocktail-flavoured crisps and not having to put on a fake American drawl and talk about candy and sidewalks and fries and pants and restrooms and drapes and parking lots and jelly so that people could understand what I was talking about.

Returning to London with a traveller’s mindset helped me see the city through new eyes. After spending so long in cities with crap public transport options, the Tube was a dream to use. The rain wasn’t a problem when I didn’t have a job or lecture to go to — I could just stay inside. The cooler temperatures were a relief after several years spent living in humidity. I understood the culture and why people did these weirdass things, because I did them, too. I felt like I fit in.

I was hit by the sudden realisation that I adored my home.

There was just one problem: Dave despised London.

He’d lived there for three years around 15 years ago and left swearing never to return. He couldn’t stand the place, for many of the same reasons I gave when I first left.

And it was kind of heart-wrenching to have the person you love tell you they hate where you come from, especially when you’ve just discovered how much of a wonderful city it is.

So I made it my mission to change his mind.

Brixton sunset view

I managed to convince Dave to spend a month in London over Christmas, and I knew I needed to pick an area with a thriving food scene. For many people, the name Brixton brings up memories of the civil unrest and race riots in the 1980s, but those times are long gone and after reading about Brixton Village Market online, I knew it was my best shot at prodding Dave into the box that said, I love London.

The market is all about the food, with articles aplenty claiming Brixton Village to be the most vibrant area in which to stuff your face in London. The sheer amount of cuisines you can find in such a small area was astounding: Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Eritrean, Trinidadian, Jamaican, Pakistani, Portuguese, Ghanian, Colombian, Mediterranean, Algerian, Indonesian, Spanish, Guyanese — I wanted to eat it all.

There’s even a currency, the Brixton pound, in circulation, with the aim of encouraging locals to spend their money in the area, helping to contribute to the local economy.

The more I read, the more excited I became. Brixton sounded like the ideal place for us.

Then, when I stumbled upon the most amazing looking Airbnb apartment, I felt even more that everything had slipped into place. ‘Cause, I mean, when I say it was an apartment, it was actually a house. A house with three floors! We had stairs!

Now that I’d found the perfect area to base ourselves, I just had to get Dave to fall in love. First step: filling his days with some of my favourite London activities.

We hit up The Big Game: a rugby match held every year in Twickenham Stadium on the 27th December, where 70,000 fans gather to drink beer, sing, and watch the local team, the Harlequins… lose.

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We went to the top of the Shard to check out the pretty views on a surprisingly bright and sunny morning.

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We paid a visit to the West End and the Shaftesbury Theatre to watch Memphis.

Memphis the musical in London

We went for a mad hatters-themed afternoon tea at the Sanderson Hotel, where we sipped on pink champagne and drank rhubarb and custard flavoured tea. We marvelled at the salmon and cream cheese sandwiches on lime-flavoured bread, and finished it off with an edible chocolate cup filled with passion fruit mousse and a mango cheesecake and… we didn’t eat for 24 hours after this.

Dave at afternoon tea

We checked out Borough market and left with jars of flavoured mustards (Dave went with gherkin and capers (yuck), and I opted for mint and gooseberry) and a huge block of wine-infused cheese.

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We had a day of eating in Shoreditch, full of bagels and Vietnamese food and wandering around markets, snapping photos of the street art.

I couldn’t believe the weather we were having, either. A month in London over January and we had two days of rain. The rest of the time, it was cool, crisp, bright, and full of gorgeous blue skies.

brixton skies

And Dave began to drop into conversation how much fun he was having. About how when you don’t have a 9-5 job, London can actually be an amazing city.

As the tides were starting to turn, I pulled the final punch.

We ate everything in Brixton.

brixton franco manca pizza

Franco Manca is probably the best-known spot in Brixton and for good reason. Their pizzas are incredible, and so are their organic wines (£3.75 a glass). The cured chorizo pizza (£6.95) was by far my favourite. And we may have eaten there half a dozen times over our month-long stay.

brixton honest burger

The honest burger (£10) from Honest Burgers was amazing. Filled with mature cheddar, smoked bacon, pickled cucumber, and red onion relish, along with a side of rosemary salted chips, it almost brought me to tears. The fresh mint lemonade (£2.50) was perfect for washing it all down.

brixton the joint pulled pork

I had the best pulled pork sandwich of my life at The Joint. Sixteen-hour slow cooked pork, along with candied apple bacon, and coleslaw for £8.50 was my go-to option. Dave often went for the Asian version: spring onion, chilli, and coleslaw with slow cooked shredded chicken. The burgers were massive and messy and you’ll likely have worked your way through 300 napkins by the end of the meal.

>brixton elephant thali

Elephant serves up Pakistani street food, and I opted for the minced lamb thali (£6.50) so I could try as much of it as possible. So good.

brixton okan pancakes

Okan specialises in Osakan street food, and are known for their okonomiyaki — a savoury pancake filled with anything from prawns to kimchi to squid to pork belly to tofu to beef. Impossible to photograph looking delicious, but trust me: it was. I went for the king prawn one at £7.50.

mama lan brixton dumplings

Mama Lan is all about Beijing street food, and we spent a lunchtime meal stuffing our faces with Beijing dumplings: king prawn and Chinese water chestnut (£6.50) was my go-to, while Dave opted for the equally tasty pork and Chinese leaf dumpling (£5.50).

And a special shout out to the insanely spicy goat curry stew packed inside a crumbly roti from the Trinidadian restaurant Fish, Wings and Tings — I devoured it before I got a chance to take a photo, and it was by far the hottest thing I’ve ever eaten.

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lonky

“I really could live in Brixton,” I confessed to Dave on our final evening in London. “I love our house with our incredible view over the rooftops. I love that we have all of these coffee shops and restaurants and bars close-by that are starting to feel like our locals. The food is so cheap for London! I love the street art and the vinyl record stores and the amazing variety of cuisines you can get here. Hell, I’m even enjoying the weather.”

Dave looked up from behind his laptop and grinned.

“You know what?” he said. “I think I could live here, too.”

Mission accomplished.

Have you been to Brixton? Where else do I need to eat when I return?

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44 Comments

  1. Julia
    November 19, 2015
    Reply

    We spent a couple of weeks pre-Christmas in Brixton two years ago (in a very cute Airbnb also!) and I fell in love with it. The first night our host sent us to Brixton Market for dinner, and we ate ALL THE DUMPLINGS at Mama Lan’s and after that we pretty much loved being in that neighbourhood. I wish we could afford to live in Brixton full-time – you and Dave don’t fancy going halfsies on a house for us all to share, do you?!

    • Lauren
      November 20, 2015
      Reply

      Um, yes, we absolutely do! :-D

  2. Katie
    November 19, 2015
    Reply

    I was wondering why on earth you were having conversations about candy, sidewalks, friends, pants, restrooms, drapes, parking lots , and jelly. Seemed like odd/trivial topics of conversation! ….Until I realized that those are all Americanisms and, being American, I didn’t even realize that there could be a second meaning to that sentence :D

    • Lauren
      November 20, 2015
      Reply

      Hahahaha! That made me laugh so hard.

  3. Anca | Globaloud
    November 19, 2015
    Reply

    I just ate my oatmeal breakfast, but after reading this article and looking at your photos I think I need to eat something that contains fat.
    I should have stopped reading after a title, cause I knew this would happen to me.

    • Lauren
      November 21, 2015
      Reply

      Hahaha! I should have added a warning to the top of the post as well ;-)

  4. Francesca
    November 19, 2015
    Reply

    I lived in London for two years and didn’t venture to Brixton once. Now I’m kicking myself! But I’m a north of the river girl and you can definitely eat your way around Archway…

    • Lauren
      November 20, 2015
      Reply

      It’s funny how England has a reputation for having terrible food, but one of my favourite things to do there these days is eat!

  5. Keri @ Ladies what travel
    November 20, 2015
    Reply

    Aww what a lovely story! I should have timed reading this better though – it’s 5pm and I’m starving now ha ha! A friend of mine used to live in Brixton but I haven’t been for years – sounds like there’s some amazing places for food – I’m gonna have to pay it a visit next time in in the city I think…

    • Lauren
      November 21, 2015
      Reply

      Definitely do so, Keri! Brixton Village is so incredible for eating :-)

  6. Svenja
    November 20, 2015
    Reply

    Brixton is totally going on my travel list!
    Also, just looking at those photos makes me hungry (and I have just finished dinner…)

    • Lauren
      November 20, 2015
      Reply

      Then my work is done! :-) Glad you enjoyed the post!

  7. Lauren
    November 20, 2015
    Reply

    Lauren!! You absolutely have to go to Ms. cupcake – its a vegan bakery…..everything they make is to die for! X

    • Lauren
      November 20, 2015
      Reply

      Ah, amazing! Will add it to my list :-D

  8. Keir Briscoe
    November 20, 2015
    Reply

    I have only been to London once and never made it to Brixton. However I did spend a day at Camden Market and had an amazing time there.

    • Lauren
      November 20, 2015
      Reply

      I love Camden Market! Lots of fun and great for people watching :-)

  9. memographer
    November 20, 2015
    Reply

    I got so hungry from reading this post and looking at pics :)

    • Lauren
      November 20, 2015
      Reply

      It took me longer than usual to write it because I kept having to head out to grab some food!

  10. Andrea Anastasiou
    November 20, 2015
    Reply

    My God, Lauren – these photos! Arghghghgh, it’s only 9:20am here and I’m now ridiculously hungry!

    I’ve always wanted to try out the mad-hatter’s afternoon tea. Have seen loads of my friends go and then paste the photos all over Facebook. Definitely one to add to the list for when I’m back home next!

    Brixton sounds like a food-lover’s dream come true. I love the idea of having a ‘local’ currency, too, in order to help support local businesses. Brilliant.

    • Lauren
      November 21, 2015
      Reply

      Haha, sorry! I’ll be writing a post about the mad-hatter’s tea party next week and sharing lots of photos :-)

  11. Alice
    November 20, 2015
    Reply

    I live here!! And it’s AWESOME! I love all the places you mention. Would also recommend Spanish… Brindisa, Gremio de Brixton, Boqueria… Or for slightly smarter meals go for Salon or Naughty Piglets. If you want cocktails there’s Shrub and Shutter (although that’s gotten more expensive recently) or the Beast of Brixton. Gremio does good cocktails too. I love the food in Brixton – I’m a triathlon blogger but reviews of Brixton restaurants always seem to creep onto my blog because I just want to give them a big shout-out – so I am so pleased you have done too!!

    • Lauren
      November 20, 2015
      Reply

      Yay! I’m glad I could do it justice :-) Thanks so much for the suggestions — I’ve added them all to my list of where to check out when I return (and maybe hopefully move there!)

  12. Dominique
    November 20, 2015
    Reply

    Yum, the food pictures look delicious! Being in your hometown with a traveller’s mindset is the best thing! I’ve rediscovered my own country recently as well and I’m happy to live at home. Also wandering around with a camera makes you appreciate all the sights you would normally miss!

    • Lauren
      November 21, 2015
      Reply

      It makes such a difference, doesn’t it? I was even admiring the lampposts as we were walking around London recently haha!

  13. Kate Wildheart
    November 20, 2015
    Reply

    As a born-and-bred Londoner for 27 years (I moved to Manchester 6 months ago), I’m almost ashamed to say that my only experiences of Brixton have mostly involved underage drinking and various emo gigs at the Academy. I’m travelling at the moment and trying to plan a Christmas visit home with my boyfriend and I think it’s safe to say that eating my way through Brixton is now firmly on my list! …as well as the rugby!

    • Lauren
      November 21, 2015
      Reply

      Hahaha! Yes, definitely add Brixton to your list! And the rugby was so. much. fun!

    • Lauren
      November 21, 2015
      Reply

      P.S. I love your Taiwan post!

  14. Davy
    November 21, 2015
    Reply

    Hi Lauren,

    Forget about the food in Brixton and drag Dave down to the O2 and watch a live band. Having just been to see Garbage play the 20th anniversary of their debut album I can definitely recommend it.

    Loved the book by the way and from your blog over the years I’m guessing there is more to come ;-)

    • Lauren
      November 21, 2015
      Reply

      Ha! Our music tastes don’t align all that often. I’m all about classic rock and he loves grunge. One of the the great things about London, though, is how many people play there! I’d be going to gigs all the time if I lived there :-)

      And thank you! So happy to hear you enjoyed my book :-D

  15. veena
    November 22, 2015
    Reply

    That Honest Burger looks and sounds amazing. I will definitely have to check it out on my next visit to London! I’ve never spent much time in Brixton, and now I’m wondering how in the world I missed it.

    • Lauren
      November 23, 2015
      Reply

      It’s definitely worth visiting! :-)

  16. Aggy
    November 24, 2015
    Reply

    Oh wow! I could probably live there too with all that food, and you are right they are not that pricey for London. I lived in the UK for almost 5 years around 12 years ago and haven’t been back since. I remember that I was always complaining about the weather (!) but now I kinda I miss it, especially during the hot and dry season here in Indonesia. And I also miss the prawn cocktail crisps!

    • Lauren
      November 25, 2015
      Reply

      Prawn cocktail crisps: so good! It surprises me how much I miss the weather, too.

  17. Brooklyn
    November 25, 2015
    Reply

    Oh yum, I could eat everything in this post.
    Looks like you had an amazing month!

    http://www.justbeingbrooklyn.com

    • Lauren
      November 25, 2015
      Reply

      It was definitely a month of eating! :-D

  18. Laura
    December 17, 2015
    Reply

    This has been so helpful. My friends live near Brixton, this article pushed me to get my friends to explore Brixton more. We’ve had great experiences at Mama Lans and Okan. Thanks for posting this!

    • Lauren
      December 17, 2015
      Reply

      So happy to hear that, Laura! :-)

  19. Heather
    December 26, 2015
    Reply

    Looks like you guys had a fabulous time. Can I explore London with you?? LOL!! Why would you have to fake an American drawl? That is so terrible. Granted I think Brits can fake an American accent better than anyone. You sound even better than Americans do and I am American. LOL!!! Can’t wait to see what your new year of travel brings.

    • Lauren
      December 27, 2015
      Reply

      Haha! I fake the accent because nobody can understand my British accent and I get fed up with having to repeat myself 50 times only to have people ask me why I didn’t just pronounce it the American way. Americans usually can’t even understand me when I say my name!

  20. Deb at Headout
    August 20, 2016
    Reply

    Congratulations on your success with Dave. I have always felt that no matter where you go, home is home. I love food blogs, and yours was that and more. The apartment is stunning, and the food looks delicious. The Mad Hatter’s tea is one party I want to go to. You must have had such a delightful time. Prawn cocktail crisps sound so yummy.

    • Lauren
      August 21, 2016
      Reply

      Thanks so much!

  21. Faith
    January 12, 2017
    Reply

    I just love Brixton one of my favourite areas in London always check it out for the Jamaican food to be found there. As for Borough market what a heavenly place for a market fan like me. I adore a good farmer’s market and am hoping to collect guest posts on markets around the world.

    • Lauren
      January 12, 2017
      Reply

      Yes! I definitely need to head back there for an eating holiday soon :-)

  22. Wendy
    October 14, 2019
    Reply

    It was interesting reading about your experience in Brixton.
    I would be interested to visit the place too if I ever go back to London, though I would not be interested in trying out most of the food.
    Perhaps, I could get a nice flat too that have a nice little kitchen that I can try out my cooking skills.

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