Gremio de Brixton, Brixton
Along with the new Dalston-esque night market and the perpetual hope/fear that you may bump into Jay Rayner, there is now another acceptable reason to visit Brixton: Gremio de Brixton.
In fact, it’s not even that new; the restaurant inexplicably chose to launch without publicity two years ago. Given the entrance is in a churchyard, so passing trade is a few tramps and the verger, it’s been a slow-burn. But within a few minutes of arriving I wanted to grab a pile of flyers and head straight into town to promote for them. It’s ace.
Not only is this place under the radar, it’s also under the church, in the crypt of St Matthew’s. Cue the set of a Hammer Horror film, yet no, Gremio de Brixton is warm, inviting and romantic. Rather than Transylvania it feels more like Andalusia, which bodes well given that this is a Spanish Tapas restaurant.
The ceilings are low and vaulted in red brick, the lighting is candle-y but you don’t get that dreaded subterranean Gordon’s Wine Bar drip drip from the ceiling into your drink. I mentioned this to my date, who unexpectedly, is highly knowledgeable in the field of damp-proof-coursing. Apparently the damp-proof-coursing at Gremio de Brixton is of a superior finish. Egon Ronay doesn’t even have a star rating for that. Amateur.
Neither I nor my date-who’s-actually-not-a-date-at-all (my other half is working late so I’ve borrowed someone else’s) are big fish eaters, a concept I suspect the waiter is still scratching his head over, so we asked him to ‘bring us some meat’.
This he did in the form of Croquetas de Jamón (ham, er, croquettes) which were delicious, accompanied by Huevos Rotos Con Txistorra, which is essentially duck egg with Txistorra sausage. If I ever find myself chained to a radiator in the Middle East, this will be the dish I remember, just to keep me going.
All this along with Patatas Bravas, which they’d done in a sort of curry sauce, controversial but brilliant and Padron peppers, which deserve note too, properly tasty, though perhaps £4.50 is perhaps a lot to pay for them. Whatever; we were very happy indeed.
Content to trust the waiter, we asked what wine he’d recommend and, in a victory for popular wisdom, he chose us the second from the top, a red which went down quickly and well.
“Is the veal ethical?” didn’t faze him either. “Why of course!” It comes specifically from Spain, the gist of his answer being that the Madrid branch of PETA eats it for breakfast, lunch and tea. This satisfied my date and I was too gentlemanly to point out that, as the home of bullfighting, I’m not sure I’ll take any lessons on bovine husbandry from the Spanish. But I will eat all the grilled veal sirloin steak Gremio de Brixton can serve. It melted in our mouths.
We topped it off with Chocolate Coulant – cake and strawberry ice cream – which pretty much saw that we would need rolling from the premises.
My date’s opening gambit was, “did you know that dogs always shit in the same direction?” “Say what??” “Yeah, something to do with magnets.” This is kooky date territory, if actually quite interesting (get this: apparently dogs have inbuilt GPS that makes them always do their business facing Mecca. Actually, I’m now questioning this…) but as I pushed my Txistorra sausage away it did make me realise how at home we obviously felt that this was an acceptable conversation to be having. All those folks in Novikov and Nobu discussing Knightsbridge penthouse prices or haggling with high class escorts: more fool them; if you want to feel genuinely at ease, head to Gremio de Brixton.
You know those girls who think they’re fat when really they’re stunningly beautiful, yet one mention of their sticky-out ears could send them lurching toward the sleeping pills? Gremio de Brixton seems to have worked so hard to get here yet I feel they need an esteem boost, and given it was such a good evening I’d feel cruel pointing out that they aren’t brilliant at answering the phone, that it’s annoyingly shut on Mondays or the wine is a teeny bit expensive. So I shan’t, y’know, just in case.
5. With notable exceptions (tea round Joseph Fritzl’s house and the entire Northern Line) anything underground is sexy, right? We both left feeling warm and fuzzy and vowing to bring our respective partners back in the near future. I recommend you do the same.