New openings in Brixton are fairly frequent, and there’s certainly no shortage of lovely places to eat. I have several favourites depending on the circumstances, but Naughty Piglets may have just leapt very close to the top of the list.
Opened a couple of weeks ago by Margaux Aubrey of Covent Garden’s Terroirs and Joe Sharratt, ex head chef of Trinity in Clapham, it already had a head start. They’ve got a long, skinny site opposite the Hootenanny on Brixton Water Lane with a small bar and kitchen at the front with a few tables, and a larger dining room at the back. The tables are chunky, pale wood, the napkins are thick white linen and the wine list is epic. It still feels nicely casual though (in the front anyway)and the smells of seafood, herbs and garlic makes it feel like you’re on holiday – a nice change from the hustle and bustle of the market.
Margaux greeted us and was friendly and chatty, moving a booking so we could sit at one of the tables in the bar. They have a relatively short menu consisting of a few small plates in the £5-7 range, and a couple of larger dishes for around £15. It’s on the wall on a blackboard and changes daily and also throughout the day. There are also specials that aren’t written up, so it has a feel of a little Spanish or Italian café that just serves whatever happens to be fresh and delicious.
We ordered five small dishes to share, which were all delightful. Burrata was first on my list as it’s probably one of my favourite things – a whole wet, creamy ball of cheese all to myself, I can’t think of anything better, especially served as Naughty Piglets do; with a sprinkling of sea salt flakes, lightly fried courgettes and toasted pine nuts for texture, the olive oil and warmth a lovely contrast to the light, creamy cheese.
Next up was a bowl of chestnut mushrooms with crème fraiche – innocuous-sounding enough, but they were perfectly cooked, i.e. not soggy and swimming in grey juice, but with a bit of bite still. They were drenched in a gorgeous olive oil and had a feint tang of balsamic. Lovely.
Mussels were fat and juicy with a lovely garlicky, winey sauce to mop up with bread (Ian’s favourite), and huge prawns were served in their shells, drenched in garlic butter. We also went for the grilled sardines with gremolata, which with a squeeze of lemon tasted just like a recent holiday on the French coast.
I washed this all down with a cold glass of a French white – I wish I could remember what it was but it was a special and the name escapes me.
The bill was about £40 for two, including service – reasonable for such great quality in my opinion. I’d book in the evening as it will certainly be regularly packed.