Over the past 5 years, Brixton has become one of the best destinations in London for food and drink. With the Night Market, Pop Brixton and the variety of delights on Coldharbour Lane, all epicureans are catered for. One such delight was the location for my most recent lady date with my best pal; The Shrub & Shutter, a warm, cosily lit bar and restaurant just a little further down the road from the main hub of Brixton’s night life.
The venue has a sense of cohesion throughout, despite the front and the back having two distinct personalities. By the entrance, you'll find the bright and airy bar, where the walls are flanked with a beautiful and eclectic collection of spirits from around the world, making this the perfect area to sit and enjoy a casual drink. At the back of the venue, past the kitchen, is the quirkier restaurant, filled with tables for dining and Chinese lanterns emitting a warm glow from the sides of the room. In the corner, a taxidermy fox sits upon a mahogany piano.
Food & Drink
There are several things that make this place so exciting. I’ll start with the drinks list; it reads more like a food menu, split into five sections; ‘Before Dinner’, ‘Starter’, ‘Main’, ‘Dessert’ and ‘Just Drinking’. These five sections mirror a five-course meal, with lighter, aperitif style drinks towards the beginning, hearty drinks with a gastronomic twist in the middle, and a sweeter, pudding-like offering at the end.
I dived straight for a ‘Main’ option, plucking for the meaty Fuck a Duck (£11), a beautifully full-bodied drink made with duck fat washed El Dorado 5 rum, homemade plum wine, plum and orange bitters, and brown sugar. This is garnished with a slither of cured duck and accompanied by a slice of duck terrine upon a dried apple crisp. The rich, meaty flavours of the duck went perfectly with the sweetness from the plum wine. It really was like a main course in drink - the skill that's gone into creating such a well balanced drink is outstanding. My friend meanwhile went for a Groundhog Day (£15), made with Whistle Pig Straight Rye Whiskey, Whistle Pig barrel aged maple syrup, bacon and bitters. Like a deliciously smooth, rich American breakfast, it’s one you’d certainly want to repeat!
Feeling adventurous, I decided to put the choice for my next drink into the hands of the mixologist and chose the Bar Keep's Whimsy (£10): “Say three words of inspiration and leave to the bar keep's imagination!” After suffering a mind blank of all the words in the English language, I challenged him with: Warmth, Humour and... Discombobulating. The return was my favourite drink of the night. Based upon the dark fruit and gin based Blackadder (£9.50) cocktail found in the ‘Before Dinner’ section (which my friend chose, instead), the warmth came from an addition of a deeply spiced mulled wine, while the confusion came from the subtle burn of blackberry vermouth. I was told to provide the humour with a joke. Unfortunately, my Dad joke level of humour didn’t quite provide the same effect as the drink.
When it comes to the food, the team have done something quite clever and strategic. In order to allow them to concentrate more on the curation of these gastronomic drinks, the kitchen takes on chef residencies, where they're able to showcase their dishes to a hungry clientele before taking on ownership of their own restaurants. In the kitchen on our visit were ‘Scran’ – a pop-up kitchen by Henry Osborn, formerly of Michelin-starred restaurants such as ‘Maze’ by Gordon Ramsay and ‘The Boxtree’. Scran have a fresh, innovative take on seasonal cuisine cooked with modern techniques, and some of the dishes we got to try were outstanding.
The 6-course tasting menu is extraordinarily well-priced at £37 a head, and the quality is up where you’d expect from a chef of this calibre. The stand-out dish from the current menu for us was the Gin Cured Salmon with Pear and Wasabi. The fresh, clean flavours of the salmon with the sweetness of the pear and the subtle nose tingling sensation of the wasabi made for a dish that we literally licked clean.
It’s difficult for venues to really stand out in an area where bars and restaurants are all so highly regarded and adored, but the Shrub and Shutter has managed to ensure it is truly unique and memorable. By allowing chefs the space and opportunity to concentrate on their food, the team have also given themselves the chance to focus on curating a drinks menu that offers their customers something distinctive and special, all the while ensuring neither offering is compromised. It’s genius, and more than worthy of its place in London’s tastiest neighbourhood.