What: When chefs Aaron Webster (Dinner by Heston and The Latymer in Pennyhill Park) and Remi Williams (Craigie on Main and Deuxave) met in the kitchens of The Shed in Notting Hill they decided to come together to create Smoke & Salt, a restaurant championing ancient techniques of smoking, curing and preserving. In the modern fairy tale that is pop-up to bricks and mortar (or in this case shipping container), Smoke & Salt started off as a monthly pop-up series and residencies before taking over the magic container that Kricket had at Pop Brixton. On my quest to find the best food in Pop Brixton we headed over to try out their brunch and to see if the magic continues.
New: Whilst Smoke & Salt moved in just over a year ago, the brunch has only recently just launched.
The Setting: Smoke & Salt has made its home at the top of the shipping container and shack labyrinth that is Pop Brixton. I love Pop Brixton, hence my mini tour of it trying all it has to offer. I like its community feel, I like the events and I like the ease of being able to flit from shack to shack to try different foods – I say flit it can be a tight squeeze, particularly tricky with drinks and food in hand.
The Look: Despite being in a shipping container there is still space for 20 diners, although (and without sounding creepy) you might be jostled up to fellow diners, you are after all in a glorified sardine tin. A pared back but dramatic black interior is lightened with metallic strips and at one end sits one of the smallest kitchens in London where you can see the chefs at work. Given that we still live in a hot country, there is also space for a handful of diners outside on the terrace just watch out, the tables heat up quickly – you could probably cook your eggs on them.
On the Menu: There’s a succinct brunch menu made up of lighter dishes, which includes guacaleeky toast, an avocado-free guacamole from leeks on sourdough toast, in fact the whole brunch is avocado free, and you know what, it’s not missed. In the richer section of the menu you’ll find more substantial dishes like steak and eggs with crispy new potatoes and for those looking for sweeter dishes, there’s a spiced plantain cake and cornbread with fruit compote.
What We Ate: Ordering two dishes to share, we started with the dry-cured Chalkstream Farms trout with smoked ricotta, grilled tender stem broccoli and bringing it all together, an oozing poached egg. It’s an ideal lighter dish, if I was ordering again, I would get it alongside a Bellini, my lager was better suited for the next dish – the bavette steak, which is a must order. A dish from the richer side of the menu (both in decadence and price) it’s served with two eggs, we of course went for fried (scrambled egg and steak anyone?) whilst crispy new potatoes soaked up the flavour from the fats and giving it a fiery kick was sriracha cheese sauce.
We rounded off with Imbhams Farm cornbread. I love cornbread, I can’t get enough of the stuff, the sweet, honey sponge like bread usually soaked in butter and in this case topped with fruit compote and sharp, zingy, lemon cream.
What We Drank: Given that we arrived in the ‘unch’ side of brunch we went straight for the beers. They’ve got two on the menu, the Smoke &Salt Modern IPA and a 40ft ‘Larger’ Lager, a smooth and malty lager brewed at the 40ft Brewery in Dalston.
Go With: Because it is on the smaller side don’t go with a big group if you all want to sit together, not during busier times anyway. Take a friend, have brunch and then settle into Pop Brixton for the afternoon.
Where: Pop Brixton, 49 Brixton Station Road, SW9 8PQ, www.smokeandsalt.com
Final Word: If brunch to you is avocado then this isn’t the brunch for you. Smoke & Salt have produced an excellent brunch menu with perfectly cooked eggs working with different flavours and combinations and all from one of the tiniest kitchens in London.