In performance of my Eat Out To Help Out civic duty back in August, my companion and I made it to Balham’s (Little) Brother Marcus. Though a big name on the brunch scene, offering the hipster holy trinity of Caravan coffee, cocktails and avocado on toast, by night it serves Middle Eastern mezze: think kebab wraps, halloumi fries and all the dips you could imagine.
Set up by three school friends, Alex, Arthur and Tasos, Brother Marcus is from a talented bunch: when not front of house, Alex Large, who spent a summer with street vendors and learned coffee-making and cocktail-shaking at Caravan, is an actor; Arthur Campbell’s background was in branding; and Tasos Gaitanos is both photographer and chef.
With a retracting glass front and hidden courtyard out the back, the café has a comfortingly handcrafted feel to it. Simple with zero frills, the setup is as modest and unassuming – unlike their food and its showstopping presentation! Given the hurricane raging out all day, my companion and I politely requested that our table in the cute courtyard out back be swapped for a cosy one inside. Our welcoming waiter (thankfully) agreed and the comfy wooden benches inside didn’t disappoint.
Onto the food – sadly the kitchen was out of Burnt Sweet Potato, one of the dishes that had appealed most when browsing the menu. Brave face on, we ordered Tomato & basil on zat’ar toasted sourdough, tapenade & feta (£7.60), Grilled Turkish Peppers drizzled with zough (£6.80), Sticky Corn ribs, smoked chilli, lime aioli and parsley (£8.50), and the Crispy falafel kebab served “naked”, with beetroot tahini, smoked chilli and burnt corn salsa (£12.80). We were also kindly served a plate of hummus with “crispy” chickpeas to replace the feta on our tomato dish.
The corn was definitely the highlight: terrifically sweet, it tasted like popcorn. That sweetness was offset by the most zingy chilli lime dressing.
The Turkish peppers were also fantastically green and draped in a wonderfully herby sauce: the “zhoug” which I’d incidentally picked up at Waitrose that week and will be sure to experiment with in my kitchen.
Though the tomatoes were full of their summery sweetness, the dish lacked the zaatar seasoning I was so excited about.
Equally, the hummus was surprisingly disappointing: it lacked any real flavour or depth and was no match to the falafel.
All in all, Brother Marcus is a solid option if after some mezze in South London – though it pales it comparison to Bubala and probably an authentic Lebanese eatery. Better options out there but not bad and like their brunch, the dishes are very good-looking.
Brother Marcus, 9 Chestnut Grove, London SW12 8JA