Tempted, and to be honest invited, by the promise of a British cookery experience ‘like no other’, the opening night of the latest Brixton pop-up presented the chance to see inside the ex-Havana club of Brixton nightlife yore for some ‘creative, seasonal flavours’.
The exposed brickwork interior, mismatched chairs, bare bulbs and heavy wooden tables is a familiar interior, while the high ceiling and detailed Bee artwork covering the walls adds to the feeling Beehive Place is not so temporary.
The set menu changes each week and is based around ethically and sustainably sourced produce of the British Isles. All very commendable, but no good if the food doesn’t match the sentiments.
The simple, complimentary flavours of the undervalued artichoke, with cow’s curd and hazel nuts, was a promising start. Unpretentiously British, with enough inventiveness to maintain interest without relying on unnecessary novelty.
Cow’s curd was new to me, although the slightly acidic goat’s cheese-like taste can be guessed at.
Raw duck, another new experience for me, was enhanced beautifully by a sprinkle of seeds and cranberries.
Apparently this works so well because it is the Duck’s natural diet, which seemed logical until I thought about serving Beef with grass.
The thinly sliced meat was, in comparison to cooked duck, subtle in flavour and obviously different in texture; not chewy at all, soft like sushi.
After vegetable and meat, came South coast squid. A quick squid anatomy lesson from the waitress told me that the thrasher’s on my plate were the two prey capturing tentacles.
Based on this evidence they are also the tastiest tentacles, as they melted deliciously in my mouth.
The option exists to drink wine matched to the five dishes. The first two white wines were both Spanish and perfect, and really felt like the fifth Beatle of their respective plates.
More like James Brown’s backing band were the reds that followed; although fantastic, and the heavy Bordeux-like one worked well alone as well as with the Venison and the singed cauliflower, replacements may be unnoticed if made.
The dessert was a de-constructed doughnut. Sharp, hedgerow jam and cream sat alongside the fried ball of light dough.
The four courses were understandably stretched over a first-night length of time, so feelings of fullness were less than expected, but I was still wary of finishing on what can be a heavy sweet.
These fears dissipated as I sipped the pine-needle tea, undercutting any richness immediately, enabling me to enjoy this last dish unrestrained.
Unlisted on the menu, this perhaps shows a genuine understanding of the food being presented here.
Not just the recited details with each serving, but the flavour matching in my mouth, makes me believe thought and consideration has gone into the menu construction.
[The very enthusiastic cocktail maker!]
There is a cocktail bar at the front of the space, and can be visited independently of a table reservation. The tables are apparently cleared, wedding party style, after food but opening night over-run meant I didn’t see this in action. The cocktails themselves had strong, distinct flavours and avoided the familiar cocktail crime of over-sweetness.
The five-course set menu costs £35, with the wine-matching at £23, or a glass from £5. This is not somewhere, despite being a pop-up, that you pop-in to, and the Friday & Saturday-only openings attest to this.
Only open until March, much as I dislike the tendency for pop-up hype in favour of established success, if you enjoy carefully considered, interesting British cuisine I would suggest making the effort to book an evening. A welcome, if temporary, addition to the Brixton culinary landscape, somewhere to go for a treat and to savour.
11 Beehive Place, Brixton
Reservations essential (from 7.30pm)
Bar open with limited capacity from 7pm, unlimited capacity from 10pm