One of my favourite places in London is the Granville arcade, better known as Brixton Market, leading into the hotbed of great little food restaurants, Brixton Village. I have spent many hours wandering these hallways trying bites of food at the many food stalls lining the arcade, generally getting lost in the feeding frenzy as others swarm around you with similar ideas. This group of restaurateurs continues to grow, and one of the newer additions is Salon, a small dining room located above Cannon & Cannon (a British deli) cooking up food with a very fresh and mostly British focus.
The dining room is minimal and quite bare, but the hospitality of the chefs/front of house was enough to warm up any room up. As it was a Tuesday night when I visited, the team behind Salon were trialling a nightly weekday dinner (as opposed to just Thursday to Saturday), with just two people manning the dining room. Every night, Salon offers a four course £29 dinner menu, formed from whatever produce has been brought daily, very much at the center of each dish, with a matching wine menu for £20 a head if you fancy a bit of booze. We sat and perused what was to come and beamed when we saw the menu was filled with seasonal treats such as asparagus, peas and strawberries.
First up, little croquettas of chorizo. Lightly fried and stuffed with a smooth chorizo bechamel, tasty little morsels getting my tastebuds going. The first course in earnest was a delightfully light combination of cured mutton, peas and burnt lettuce. It's strange to try and pick out all the nuances of such a seemingly straightforward dish, but a lot of thought has clearly gone into this. The gamy mutton, the slight bitter edge from the burnt lettuce, the smooth pea puree and the vegetal hit from the podded peas, a lovely combination of flavours.
Course two was another fresh and light dish. Home made ricotta a creamy foil to spears of sweet asparagus, scattered with a few toasted hazelnuts for good measure. Nasturtium leaves completed the dish, adding a peppery bite to proceedings. This dish is never going to win any awards for gastronomy or technique, but everything was well cooked and assembled, and the end product was a great reflection of Britain and it's seasons on a plate.
By this stage, I had already fallen in love a little with Salon. The room had begun to fill, there was plenty of chat with my dining partners who I hadn't seen in a while and probably why I didn't really notice that the speed of service had dropped off a bit. By the time the main arrived, all was forgotten. Tender slices of Dexter beef skirt sat on a mound of root vegetable puree (probably celeriac, but I forget), lifted by raw and pickled radishes. Whilst all the other dishes were essentially assembled, this required some decent cooking, and the beef arrived pink and tender, with a smooth puree. The only bit of greenery arrived as a solitary piece of the advertised mustard leaf, which I can't say I really loved a whole deal.
Finishing it all off was an ensemble of lemon curd, crumble and strawberries. Not the prettiest dessert to look at, but the strawberries were slightly macerated bringing out all their natural sweetness, a perfect foil for the tart lemon. Little nuggets of crunchy sweet crumble and shards of honeycomb brought together quite an unusual contrast in flavours and textures.
Salon epitomises a lot of what I find great about food right now. Uncomplicated dishes, produce led and well cooked. Is there anything more pleasing than popping a freshly shelled pea in your mouth or savouring a well cooked piece of meat? Salon may not be the most gastronomic experience, but what it delivers out of it's tiny kitchen is unfussy and packed with clean flavours. Great food, fine wine and a laidback attitude, a perfect place a to while away the evening.
This write up was sponsored by Match.com. They wanted to find interesting places to take a date, and after my visit, I think Salon would be a pretty decent venue.
Salon - 18 Market Row, Atlantic Rd, London SW9 8JB
Having tried more food in Brixton Market / Village, I'm coming to the conclusion that there are a few really good places and the rest are a bit hit & miss.
Salon was, happily, one of the really good ones I tried - good value, comfortable, and lovely food.
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