Published on September 23rd, 2014 | by Rebecca Anne Milford0
Grand Union, Brixton
Summary: Whether it’s for a meal or just to snack on while making your way through the accomplished cocktail list, then there’s something for everything
It’s easy to imagine you could be on a beach in Thailand that’s been perfectly created for tourists to lie back and enjoy the easy life. Tiki huts are dotted around a large, forum-like area filled with tables, twinkling lights, hammocks and torches, plus there’s a hot pink tuktuk arranged behind a TV that plays the latest dance hits. It’s bright, colourful, and a couple of plastic flamingos have been thrown in for good measure.
To be honest, if it was a rainy or grey afternoon then the whole atmosphere would be spoilt due to our melancholic British weather. But luckily the sun was throwing a blast of warmth on the proceedings, and it was the best possible opportunity to review the new food and cocktail menu at the refurbished Grand Union Brixton.
We set ourselves up in one of the huts, and the thatched roof provided shade from the bright rays. Outside the garden was heaving – everyone in Ray Bans, skin soaking up the last of the summer’s warmth, while an air of joviality presided. It was very evident this is the favourite watering hole of many South Londoners. Between the pints and glasses of wine I spotted a large number of cocktails – probably due to the fact an awesome extended Happy Hour means all drinks are £5.
We decided to begin the proceedings with a couple of cocktails, ordering an Old Fashioned and a Passion-fruit Caipirinha. Both were made excellently – the former with a slow addition of whisky and lots of twizzling of bar spoon and sugar to demonstrate they know how a good Old Fashioned should be prepared. The caipirinha had a lovely fruitiness with just enough sharp acidity from the lime to make it refreshing. Plus it was fun to burst the passion-fruit pips like little exotic bombs between my teeth.
The menu offers standard American-diner style food – pizzas, hot dogs, burgers, chicken and ribs. There aren’t so much starters, more sharing nibbles, which we noticed a lot of the clientele grazing on. I love anywhere with a good nibble selection, so this got the thumbs up from me. In between Texan chicken strips, spicy meatballs and nachos I spotted a bucket of BBQ ribs and was instantly tempted – my dining partner was indecisive between the breaded mushrooms with blue cheese dip and the camembert wedges. Upon asking the bar staff which would be better, the wedges elicited the most drool-worthy response, so we agreed on them. I also thought it wise to request help from them about which mains were best, and was told in no uncertain terms that the chicken burger was to die for. Well, we were sold.
We returned to our tiki hut with a straw hat sporting a number – another fun touch that adds to the holiday vibe that Grand Union are going for. Eventually our food arrived, and we tucked in, having spent the interim gazing from our perch at what other diners were devouring.
My ribs were perfectly polite – neither gargantuan, boisterous delights nor weedy, insignificant excuses for piggy parts. There was a decent amount of meat, just on the fatty side, with a sticky BBQ coating that delivered a mouth-wateringly good tang. I could have done with more sauce, but that’s the story of my life, and when I find a restaurant that delivers what I deem to be a sufficient amount then I’ll shout it from the rooftops.
The camber wedges, on the other-hand, were everything that a cheesy wedge should be – crispy golden parcels the shape of giant trivial pursuit pieces that oozed like a dairy Vesuvius when we sliced them open. Absolutely divine, but I would say the mango jam was more like sticky cement, and although it delivered in flavour the consistency was a bit alarming.
On to the chicken burgers, which had been recommended to us. The chicken itself was perfectly passable, with a smear of green avocado and a nice addition of salty bacon to give it the necessary kick. The star was probably the brioche bun. Oh, brioche – was there a time before it? I tend to think of it like the Angela Jolie of the carb world – a sultry, untouchable new addition that has other buns (perfectly passable buns but oh-so-plain in comparison) slumping in the shadows, trying to put a brave face on it. There was also a good helping of golden sticks of fries, but we were too busy fighting over the last scrap of brioche to eat all of them.
By this point we’d eaten a lot of tasty grub, and the sun was making us sleepy. We tried the (not-too-clever) tactic of waking ourselves up with another cocktail each, this time from the more unusual selection on the list. The cocktail menu itself is great fun, peppered with quotes from old movies and little asides that makes it a delight to dip into. The Bottled Hendricks Summer Rose was a burst of refreshment in my mouth, combing floral elements with the more herbaceous cucumber notes. Ultimately drinkable, and far too easy to sip. The Fire-ita was definitely an alternative for those wanting something fresh and shippable – a spiced up margarita, it incorporated pickle juice and had an eye-watering Cajun rim. Once we’d got past the spiced glass, the drink itself was temptingly more-ish, in a pleasure-pain kind of way.
Somehow this opened our tummies enough to allow us to share the Chocolate Brownie Mess – melting vanilla ice cream with robust chunks of cookie that melted on the mouth.
We were glad we had the hut- all that was needed now was to lie back and fall into a food-coma to the gentle chatter of laughter around us. It was almost as if we could hear the sound of nearby waves…
I heartily recommend the Grand Union to anyone wanting some hearty, filling and well-executed diner food that will certainly fill a hunger-hole. Whether it’s for a meal or just to snack on while making your way through the accomplished cocktail list, then there’s something for everything. And although winter might make the thrill of the garden wane a little, the shabby-chic interior is fabulously cosy and the friendly bar staff will make you feel like you’re on holiday whatever the weather.
Grand Union Brixton, 123 Acre Lane, SW2 5UAShare This Post