Brixton is one of the coolest neighbourhoods in London, and the sods who live down there know it. It’s also where some of the best restaurants that have spread across London started in the first place, and the area’s reputation for taking risks and trying new things still continues at places like Pop.
Many of the best eating options centre around Brixton Arcade, Pop, and the surrounding streets, where this guide is focuses.
We’ll keep this simple. Other Side Fried Chicken makes one of the best chicken sandwiches (burgers) in town, and you should definitely consider getting one if you’re at Pop Brixton. Even if you’re not in Brixton, you might consider and jumping on the tube to get in on some crunchy, juicy chicken action. The buffalo and signature honey butter burgers are both ridiculous, and taste similar to the feeling you get when you walk away from an exploding helicopter in slo-mo.
Naughty Piglets is a brilliant neighbourhood restaurant that anyone would be chuffed to have open down the road from them. They do little sharing plates of creative French food, paired with natural wines, and it’s the sort of food that will both impress a date and make your mouth happy. We love its intimate atmosphere and genuinely friendly service - even if you’ve travelled from Crouch End, they’ll make you feel like you’re part of the neighbourhood. Order the creme caramel for dessert.
Franco Manca is one of the daddies as far as Neapolitan-style pizza in London is concerned, and their original restaurant in Brixton Arcade is where it all started. Coming here is like travelling back in time, kind of like visiting a retro arcade, or going outside the M25. The inside of the restaurant has a huge oven that keeps the place warm, and turns out very good pizzas with top quality, classic toppings like wild mushrooms and buffalo ricotta. Whatever you order, you can’t go wrong, and it’s perfect for a casual hang or pre-lash eats.
You can get Honest Burgers everywhere now, but The Brixton one is the original, where you can grab a great burger and posh rosemary fries and pretend that you’ve been coming here since day one, even if you only moved from Stevenage a couple of years ago. A lot of people will wonder if it’s the best burger in London. It isn’t, but we’d still put it in the top 10. Their cocktails are six quid and they have all the craft beer you want to drink. It’s a win.
DDG is by far the prettiest restaurant at Pop, and it has some of the tastiest Chinese food in the area. Their thing is roast Cantonese-style meats with rice. The manager gave us an epic eye roll when we mentioned the roast duck at Four Seasons in Chinatown but to be fair, DDG’s version is pretty damn good - get it with some greens and rice, and definitely get the prawn toast, which is over the top delicious. They have a large booth if you’re rolling deep and want to order a bunch of things, and a cosy bar in case you want to dine solo.
If you like tapas, then you’ll like Boqueria, which does Spanish food that you could confidently feed to your mate from Barcelona. Except maybe don’t literally do that, as they’ll probably slap you if you try. All of the standard dishes like tortilla and calamari are proper and perfect for a casual hang with a couple of Estrellas, though you can kick it up a notch for an occasion, as they have dishes like suckling pig and killer seafood specials on the menu as well. It’s an excellent neighbourhood restaurant that we could see ourselves visiting often if we lived in the area.
Pop Brixton’s great for hanging out with a pint, but it can also be about as intimate as a Friday night at Jamm. Head upstairs to Donostia Social Club, where you can grab a seat at their long counter and order classy little plates of Basque tapas, like the ones you imagined yourself eating in San Sebastian, except in a south London shipping container. It’s informal, fun, and grabbing a glass of cava here is infinitely classier than downing vodka cranberries with mingers at 1am.
KaoSarn serves satisfying and authentic Thai food from a small cafe in Brixton Arcade. We like to hit it up when we get cravings for comforting South-East Asian food, and it’s also good for an afternoon pick-me-up. The moo ping pork skewers are a winner, and make sure the minced chicken larb salad is in your order too.
There are plenty of places cooking Asian food around Brixton market and arcade, but Nanban is one of the few that’s actually a proper, full restaurant. At lunch, the Japanese comfort food is tasty (get the fried chicken kara-age) and the standard ramen is enjoyable, and a steal at six quid. They also have good craft beer, which makes sense since it’s located in an old pub. We’ll come to grab something to eat with friends, and always stay longer than we expect for the vibes, which are pure Brixton. In the evening, they roll out a more adventurous menu that has hints of Caribbean to it. Asian and Caribbean might sound wacky but in this neighbourhood, anything goes.
Federation Coffee is where you go when you want good coffee close to Brixton Market. It’s cosy without being pokey, and it’s always full of people hanging out and doing things like conversing and making eye contact with other humans (they don’t have wi-fi). The food’s good, in a casual avocado and eggs kind of way - try the ricotta and salmon on toast, which is a nice change from the usual rotation of brunch dishes.
If you live in Brixton, chances are that you’ve probably walked past this cafe half a dozen times without even noticing it. It’s a cosy and low key spot that does brilliant breakfasts, and even though it looks literally any other cafe from the outside, all of the food’s of a high standard. You can get a great Eggs Florentine and Bloody Marys at the weekends, and they have super fresh, light salads, and falafel wraps during the week.