A night out in Brixton

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Thursday 5th June 2014

IMG_0753There are days that are awful – and there are days when everything goes so right that you have to keep pinching yourself. I had one of the latter yesterday when I not only discovered my new favourite London restaurant but I also got to see my new favourite band.

I’ve been meaning to visit French & Grace for three years now. Rosie French and Ellie Grace opened their tiny café in Brixton Market back in 2011 – a venture that started with their award-winning Salad Club blog, continued with a very successful supper club and then metamorphosed into a café. I was so entranced by their culinary ideas that I bought their book, Kitchen & Co, when it came out in 2012 and it’s still one of my all-time favourites.

So when I managed to snap up tickets for London Grammar’s sell-out show at the O2 Academy in Brixton it made sense to book a table at French & Grace beforehand. And wow, it didn’t disappoint at all. The restaurant is tiny, with a hotchpotch of tables inside and out, and a minute galley-style kitchen. I knew that I’d like it from the moment I read the introduction to the duo’s cookery book. “We live and work in small London flats with kitchens just big enough for a table, and when friends come round it’s a matter of squashing up, elbow to elbow, and getting stuck in,” they wrote. “Our kitchen tables are covered, from day to day, with unread sections of the weekend newspapers, unpaid bills and glasses destined for the dishwasher.” It sounds exactly like my house.

French & Grace’s cooking is right up my street too. I ordered a small plate of pea, feta and spinach fritters and another of courgettes with tahini and basil while my daughter tucked into falafel wraps with halloumi. It was all sublime and even though neither of us has a sweet tooth we couldn’t resist sharing some sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel and crème fraiche. That too was completely out of this world.

Brixton has changed an awful lot since my Evening Standard days – when I was down there every other week writing about the grittier side of life (from drugs raids to riots and a hell of a lot in between). After supper we hotfooted it round to the O2 Academy to watch London Grammar play. I was probably one of the oldest people in the audience (my daughter held my hand tightly and told someone standing behind us that I was “only little”) but I didn’t care.

London Grammar – who met as students at Nottingham University and recently won an Ivor Novello award for their song Strong – were spellbinding and sweetly unstarry. Even though their debut album, If You Wait, has sold half a million copies and the trio recently opened for Coldplay in the US, they remarked during the show that a year ago they were just “best friends in a room.” Singer Hannah Reid has a bewitching voice that I don’t think I’ll ever tire of – even though I’ve played the album so many times that my daughter says it reminds her of home.

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