Pop Brixton

Although always a fan of Brixton Village Market, Pop Brixton appears to be South London’s latest foodie hotspot. Describing itself as a “pioneering new space in the heart of Brixton“, it’s interior is certainly innovative. Like East London’s Boxpark, it’s built from upcycled shipping containers. Furnishings are rough ply-wood and there’s a mixture of indoor and roof-topped outside areas to enjoy. The upstairs covered area where we sat is particularly well-designed, providing a Wimbledon-style roof in case of likely London rain.

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Although, again like Boxpark, it’s buzzing with new eateries, this isn’t just a hipster hangout but is a container community with a conscience: Pop Brixton has created 200 new jobs in Brixton; Lambeth Council are providing the land at no cost; and units are offered at subsidised rates at 20 to 50% of market rate. The aim is to allow local enterprise and innovation to flourish. The space therefore showcases some of Brixton’s most exciting, independent and creative retail and foodie start-ups.

As well as appealing to the Brixton Village Market overspill with its tasty selection of restaurants, street food vendors and bustling bars, Pop Brixton boasts independent retail outlets. From vintage clothing sellers Make Do & Mend through to Japanese tea house, Kyocha, Pop Brixton provides a unique shopping destination full of hidden gems. Beyond the shops, Pop Farm is a garden and greenhouse area planted by the local community, whilst visitors can engage in local artist exhibitions, workshops, TEDx talks, gigs and cinema screenings in Pop Brixton’s 200 capacity event space.

And this is a neighbourhood that’s fostering community relationships between tenants and local residents. Tenants have volunteered an hour a week to share their skills with Brixton residents and businesses. There’s a tangible feeling that it’s a tightly-knit, good natured group of small traders. There’s a training and events space available to locals for free, and 85% of traders have at least at some point been based in Lambeth, whilst twelve apprentices from Lambeth College are helping build the area.

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The biggest attraction for me, however, is the range of traders. Head here and you’ll be struck by the range on offer: for Mexican, try Maria Sabina‘s quesadillas, tacos, or salsas; for tapas, there’s Donostia Social Club; for stone-fired Neapolitan pizzas, go for Made of Dough (as my companions did); for Vietnamese, head to Vietbox – although I was disappointed by their lack of vegetarian options. The list goes on. I was even tempted by Indian-style tapas served up by Kricket (particularly the Raw mango bhel served with tamarind chutney and the Samphire pakoras), as well as the Papadom “nachos” boxes and Bhangra burgers from Baba G’s.

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As I decided that I would recreate the Indian street-food inspired dishes at home, I went for the more unusual Ghanian option for Spicy red beans and caramelised fried plantain spiced with cardamom and cinnamon (£5) at Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen. And spicy this dish certainly was. Luckily for me however, the spiciness was well-offset by a delicious heritage tomato salsa and the sweetness of the plantain (a green banana fruit).

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Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen Box

Although too full for afters, when I return next time I’ll be sure to try Yumitub’s Thai ice-cream made on a frozen plate. Described as Thai Ice cream, the owners discovered this form of ice cream making whilst on vacation in Thailand. And for me too, enjoying Thai-street food conjures up memories of travelling there, where I enjoyed everything from green-Thai curries freshly prepared by the sea, to sticky rice with mango on the streets of Bangkok. One of the greatest treats of the trip was, however, the liquid nitrogen coconut ice-cream created before our eyes in our beach hotel. And at Pop Brixton too, the ice cream is literally made before your eyes. Marrying the party vibes of London’s growing street feast scene with all the allure of an Asian night market, Yumitub has landed. And they’re even hoping to launch a non-dairy ice-“cream” soon so there’ll definitely be an option for me.

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Pop Brixton is its own miniature village, totally distinct from Brixton Village Market around the corner. Although Brixton has already been established as a go-to foodie destination, Pop Brixton builds on this success . Best of all, it’s a place that’s come to life through the talents of many local people. Unlike most London street food destinations, Pop Brixton is open seven days a week.

Pop Brixton, 53 Brixton Station Road, London SW9 8PQ

Website: http://www.popbrixton.org

Rating: *****

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