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Restaurant Review: The Laundry, Brixton

Brixton has more great independent bars and restaurants than you can shake a stick at. But is there room for one more? One with a little more space to breathe, great wines and a creative menu? There sure is…

Lead image: Nic Crilly-Hargrave

My Brixton years were some of my favourites as a Londoner. The place has an energy that I’ve not come across elsewhere (except in Camden, a bit, maybe), but it also has serene spots like Brockwell Park and long, lovely streets of period terraces, as well as run-down boozers pubs where, well, if walls could talk…

I don’t visit often. My friends and I, in the quest to get a pinky toe-hold on the property ladder, have all long-since moved out. Priced out. But we can hardly gripe about gentrification. We’re probably part of the problem. And moving to the likes of Tooting, Greenwich and Crystal Palace has hardly been a hardship.

All of this is a very long-winded way of saying I was super chuffed to step off the Victoria line and into the frenzy of ticket touts and mates meeting up at Brixton tube station to head to the hottest new spot in SW9 – The Laundry.

My friend and I, who have many a time tumbled out of Dogstar and lost Sunday afternoons chatting to everyone and anyone down Hootananny, greeted each other wide-eyed with a, ‘was it always this… chaotic?!’

The Laundry restaurant in Brixton has brought Walton Lodge on Coldharbour Lane back to life magnificently

The Laundry has brought Walton Lodge back to life magnificently (photo: Nic Crilly-Hargrave)

And so to The Laundry, just beyond Brixton Village under the railway bridge on Coldharbour Lane, which has brought Walton Lodge – a former laundry business – back to life in magnificent fashion (well, technically a substantial redevelopment of the building into flats, office units and a restaurant space brought it back to life, but let’s no split hairs).

Outside, you’re greeted by a huge Parisian-style terrace that we’ll certainly be utlising come summer (it’ll really come into its own once the new Ovalhouse Theatre is up and running), but given the time of year, we headed straight indoors and were instantly greeted by smiling staff eager to get us seated to enjoy the spoils of their labour.

‘The decor has just the right balance of exposed brickwork and crumbling old plaster, alongside beautiful duck-egg blue banquets and a sleek marble counter top to perch for a cocktail and some small plates’

The owner herself, award-winning hospitality entrepreneur Melanie Brown, founder of Pop Brixton’s The New Zealand Cellar, found time to say hi, looking tired but exhilarated in the first week of opening, and we meant it when we told her the place looked spectacular.

It looks like it’s always been there. I mean, the building’s been kicking around since 1904, so it kinda has, but the decor has just the right balance of exposed brickwork and crumbling old plaster alongside beautiful duck-egg blue banquets and a sleek marble counter to look relaxed, authentic and ‘settled in’. Nothing smacks of ‘new’.

Oh and there’s a wall of wine as you enter. Top marks.

So far, so lovely, but what about the food? Brilliant, in a word. The menu, spearheaded by up-and-coming Australian talent Dylan Cashman from Sydney institution Sean’s Panorama and Pilu at Freshwater, is innovative but not overzealously ‘out there’.

There’s a great balance of classical dishes, like Hereford beef tartar with fermented chilli, prawn oil, egg yolk, bonito and triple cooked beef-fat chips (divine), with deliciously creative efforts like smoked fish bacalhau (a Portuguese dish of dried and salted cod that’s almost paste-like) with homemade crisps and chive oil (out-of-this-world good).

‘The menu, spearheaded by up-and-coming Australian talent Dylan Cashman, is innovative but not overzealously “out there”‘

The cured day-boat seabass with pickled strawberries, pepper, tarragon and sunflower seeds was the only dish that furrowed the brow a little – pickled strawberries? – but the second mouthful, once you’d dealt with the unfamiliarity of the first, was wonderful.

Then, a melt-in-the-mouth lamb shoulder, served simply with a healthy sprinkling of sea salt and heritage tomatoes, and finally, a chocolate, almond and orange torte served with clotted cream ice cream – reminiscent of a Terry’s chocolate orange but smoother, richer and way, way more irresistible.

 

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The wine list – as you might expect given Brown’s background in the wine industry – is solid. It’s concise enough not to be overwhelming, with 50 wines on the main list, including eight served by the glass, representing the best from old and new world regions.

Brown has also taken the opportunity to showcase her first collection of wines, NEW PRESS, created to represent New Zealand’s terroirs and styles. This first collection of just three wines – Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Rosé and Pinot Noir – is available exclusively at The Laundry, by glass and bottle.

The Laundry also has a private cellar collection, The Cleaner’s Diary, making fine wines accessible with affordable, mature bottles from some of the world’s greatest estates.

While many were sad to see the closure of Walton Lodge Laundry in 2014 (it had been there for over 100 years), it’s great to see a new independent business – run by a local entrepreneur – take its place. Installing a chain restaurant, which undoubtedly would have been the easier option, would have been disappointing.

The Laundry served up some of the best food I’ve eaten all year, and I can’t wait to return.

The Laundry at Walton Lodge, 374 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton SW9 8PL; thelaundrybrixton.com



 

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