An Aussie-style brunch café based south of the river in Balham and serving Caravan coffee, Brickwood is my epitome of a local hotspot. It’s even on the same road as M1lk. With friendly service and no queues, it’s a welcome respite from the endless lines inevitable outside central London’s brunch havens. Brickwood even already features on Timeout’s list of “Top ten brunches in London” (May 2015), alongside the likes of Andina, Granger & Co. and the Ivy Market Grill.
Taking inspiration from the bustling café scene in Australia and New Zealand, quality brunch and coffee is Brickwood’s focus. Both managers are Australian and so are well placed to serve a meal inspired by what’s the homeland of brunch. The café sources its produce from quality suppliers: whilst eggs come from the award-winning Clarence Court, the sourdough is from Brixton’s Bread Bread where it’s baked on an Italian stone in wood fire.
With a beautifully crafted shack-like interior, Brickwood certainly feels like a brunch-style place. It has a laid back feel, playing great music which adds to this vibe. You can either sit outside on pedestrianized Hildreth Street or inside, where the skylight, bare brick walls and corrugated iron create an industrial but relaxing decor.
The brunch menu, served daily until 3pm, is extensive and imaginative, offering everything from eggs, toasties, fritters and pancakes, to fruit and bowl-based healthy options. Some dishes are rather gourmet: Wild mushrooms on brioche with poached egg, pecorino and truffle oil (£8) or Sweet potato, feta and poached eggs with kale, wild nettle pesto on sourdough (£8). The sound of the pesto is very appealing. Pastries and cakes (including their gluten and dairy free Orange and almond cake (£3.50)) meanwhile, are made daily and baked in-house by their own pastry chefs. I was even tempted by the description of their Grilled banana and walnut bread (£4), probably because it’s served with espresso butter.
I chatted with Dylan, one of the Aussie managers, during my last trip to Brickwood for my afternoon pick-me-up coffee. In exchange for a couple of Kenyan avocados smuggled into the country by my caring grandmother (who’s also a brilliant cook), he offered to serve me their Summer Granola, composed of homemade coconut yoghurt, granola, grilled pineapple and chia seeds (RRP £5.50)! I had certainly raved about the avocadoes since they are so giant, creamy and fresh. Would it beat the Coyo?! I’ve been disappointed by my recent experimentation with coconut yoghurt, finding the Pret version too thick, whilst Coyo’s vanilla pot was thrown into a mango smoothie. Brickwood’s, however was a wonderful consistency, and the scent immediately had a coconut attraction.
The coffee served at Brickwood is a definite attraction for me, and so this was something I couldn’t resist. Working closely with Caravan Coffee roasters, Brickwood create their own “Market Blend”. In addition, the espresso is extracted via the best machine – a bespoke red La Marzocco FB80’s and Mazzer Robur – whilst water is filtered via a state of the art Sierra RO (Reverse Osmosis) system for optimum purity. The coffee had a chocolate body, as well as a clean red apple acidity with notes of cherry and hazlenuts. Served as a standard double shot, the cup was well-balanced, with a sweet praline complexity. What’s more, the soya milk is the finest: Bonsoy! The manager explained to me that they even experimented their non-dairy options by offering homemade almond milk for a period, although this ceased due to the surprisingly limited uptake of this nutty treat! I enjoyed my coffee from here more than from M1lk, which serves Workshop coffee just a few doors away. According to their website, baristas here have a minimum of three years’ experience. And the friendliness of the manager definitely doubled as a secret ingredient to my coffee’s goodness!
Brickwood certainly upps the game for up-and-coming south London neighbourhoods. The original branch of Brickwood is located in the more well-known Clapham, where it has a roaring trade and a charming patio/garden area at the rear. I’ve once stopped in this mint green café for a quick coffee. But for me, Balham is a greater hidden gem; what’s more, the manager tells me they’ve just opened up a further branch in Tooting! This is a “chain” I’ll definitely be keeping a close eye on. The southern coffee takeover continues…
Brickwood, 11 Hildreth Street, London, SW12 9RQ