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.
I must have walked past Le Garrick about 700 times (literally – twice a day for a year give or take) and finally got round to visiting this week with my fiancé’s family. It’s a gorgeous, atmospheric place with a lovely story – it’s been running for 25 years, but was taken over 8 years ago by the manager Dominika and Frenchman Charles who was previously a regular. Charles sent the head chef Rocco to SW France to train with none other than his mum, so on the menu you’ll find nothing but hearty, traditional French fare direct from Toulouse.
There are a few tables at ground level but most of the restaurant is down a spiral staircase into the cellar, where there are various nooks and crannies to settle into. We were seated quickly and served by various friendly, lively French staff.
I started with the Escargots de Bourgogne – snails to you and me. They were delicious – not at all chewy or slimy, but swimming in butter, salty and very garlicky, just how I like.. well, pretty much anything. There was soft, chewy, crusty baguette to soak up all the juice, which was almost as good as the meat itself, and more butter to put on the bread. Heaven. I also tasted the moules marinière (more garlic, also herby and winey, big and tender) and pâté, which had a nice strong meaty flavour and chunky texture.
I tackled the Coquelet (whole baby chicken) for the main, and while it was cooked so it was lovely and moist with a flavoursome tomato sauce, the portion was huge. I also tried the Confit de Canard, lovely duck confit with a heart bean stew – gorgeous flavours and again, a huge portion.
Dinner came to about £30 per head for 2/3 generous courses, so great value for the West End, and they finished off with a complimentary digestif of a prune liqueur – perhaps not the particular spirit that I’d choose again (!) but a nice touch, and I’d highly recommend the whole experience.
*Excuse some of the pics – it was atmospheric (dark)
Since my first fabulous evening at the gorgeous Hawksmoor Air Street early in the year, I’ve been itching to try ‘little brother’ establishment Foxlow in Farringdon. With talk of local seafood, shortrib to die for and Hawksmoor-worthy steaks, what’s not to like?
After a drink at the bar we were seated – it wasn’t busy but hadn’t quite reached the echo-y awkwardness of being totally empty. We went for the curried mussels and smokehouse rillettes to start – I’ll admit to looking up the definition of rillettes beforehand, which excited me a lot (pretty much meat mashed with fat – halfway to pate), and they didn’t disappoint.
The meat was gorgeous; rich and tender, complimented perfectly by crunchy toast, capers, strips of gherkin and cucumber. The mussels were plump and soft, and while my mussel preferences normally default to anything with wine and/or cream, the curried sauce was salty and fragrant – heaven. One of those moments when you have to try VERY hard not to pick up the dish and drink from it.
Hotly-anticipated mains exceeded all expectations; I’d heard great things about the ten-hour beef shortrib and oh my god, it was incredible, absolutely melting off the bone. I hate the word ‘unctuous’ but it kept springing to mind, and is probably a spot-on description. It’s served with kimchi, a Korean fermented cabbage salad – not the most appetising description granted, but it was tangy, crunchy and spicy, ideal for the soft, rich meat.
We also had the D-rump steak served with bone marrow, and added anchovy and chilli butter, fries and some baby gem with parmesan – didn’t really need cheesy lettuce to be honest but I’m nothing if not determined. The steak was perfection (as expected) and smearing it with the butter and the meaty jelly from the bone it felt like the most indulgent dish ever.
Like Hawksmoor the service at Foxlow is great. Our waiter (I wish I’d got his name) was a star, brought extra bread for the mussels when he noticed we’d hoovered it all up, made spot-on recommendations, drew the D-rump on his pad to explain it (it’s the inside part of the bum cheek, so doesn’t work as hard as the rump and is more tender) and was generally very personable and lovely.
At £90 for 2 x two courses with drinks and service it’s not bad at all, given the quality of the food and the fact that you feel so looked after. Will certainly be back for brunch!
*The fabulous pics are courtesy of Foxlow – mine were awful