As a long time resident of South London, I was quite excited to hear that there was new place in Balham creating some waves on the food front. Brother Marcus was opened over the summer by three school friends of various talents and what was originally created as a weekend brunch haunt, has evolved into a fully-fledged cocktails-and-all restaurant. I had a mosey on down to see whether their evening ‘stuffed buns’ could live up to the hype.
Brunch is all the rage in Balham at the moment. If you take a stroll down Hildreth Street on a Sunday, you’ll have to navigate your way around the snaking queues of famished twenty somethings in the various stages of a hangover. Brother Marcus however, is a little different. Situated just metres from Balham Station, it’s away from the baying brunch masses down the road and instead, offers a less ostentatious alternative. With a large glass panelled frontage which they open up in the summer, it has a nice welcoming demeanour and whether part of the early weekend crowd or for the evening sitting, there are no long lines of queuing hopefuls here. Once inside, it’s clear to see that the lads have a bit of taste.
The walls are adorned with lovely pieces of purchasable art, the shelves filled with small cactuses and potted plants and vintage squirrel cage filament bulbs hang from the ceiling over the bar. There’s even a secret little garden terrace out the back which is undoubtedly a suntrap in the summer. What BM lacks in size, it certainly makes up for in character and the upshot is a very homely sort of vibe. Having been served by one of the owners, our drinks mixed by the second and food cooked by third, you’re privy to a very personal dining experience, far removed from some restaurants where you’re simply a number consuming mass produced dishes. You may also end up sharing your table with some strangers but by the end of the night, they’ll probably feel like family.
The Food and Drink
Brother Marcus are chiefly known for their breakfasts and brunches but unlike their older siblings down the road, they now serve food all day. This is however, a whole different beast to the weekend rush of those in need of an avocado and sourdough fix and perhaps wisely, they’ve have opted for a minimalist approach. Four stuffed buns and four cocktails make up the entire menu. So what is a “stuffed bun” I hear you ask? Well it’s a sort of cross between a sandwich and a burger but with a bit more pizzaz. What they lack in menu quantity however is certainly made up in quality and creativity. We had a giggle at the cleverly crafted names and my attention was instantly peeked by the Salty Wench (£9). Consisting of salted beef, two fried eggs and paprika sauce the beef was of a high quality (something not always found between bread) and the sauce gave it an unusual but delicious flavour.
My partner in crime went for the brilliantly named Notorious P.I.G (£9) consisting of some very juicy pulled pork, crunchy apple, rocket salad and a ‘dirty Mexican sauce’ which although sounding like something Donald Trump might say, was particularly impressive. The other two buns, The Pollocks (£8.50) a crispy lager and dill battered Pollock, and the mushroom based Shroom of Doom (£8), ticked the boxes of any perusing pescatarian/vegetarian clientele. All were very well crafted, possessing interesting ideas and flavours and it all lent to a more summery vibe. The nights may be getting longer but if you feel like a slightly posh picnic at 8pm, Brother Marcus is the place to be.
The star of the show however had to be the Sweet Potato Chips with Aioli (£3) which were honestly some of the best I’ve ever had. It’s often the case that sides can be an after thought, a tag along to the main, yet in this instance, they were beautifully seasoned, cooked to perfection and that sauce. I know what I’m asking Santa for Christmas. Given their proficiency in the cafe side of things, it’s no wonder an Espresso Martini (£7) finds its place among the four cocktails. You can certainly taste the quality of coffee in this and it’s perhaps most fitting as a post meal tipple. For something a little more refreshing, I’d recommend a Miss Robinson (£7) which tasted like a homemade lemonade you might have on a hot summers day and again added to that pervading sense of a picnic feel.
Surrounded by some stiff opposition, Brother Marcus could easily have suffered from second child syndrome but instead have pushed the boundaries by adding a more than capable evening option to their armoury. As a debut opening, this is a very good effort from the boys and if looking for something light and fun in a nice welcoming environment, show them some brotherly love.