During my short stint living in Tooting last year, I became closely acquainted with the SW neighbourhood's strong foodie scene. And one place that I'd had my eye on for a while (moonily staring in whenever I walked past) was Sea Garden and Grill Tooting. As the name suggests, it's all about beautifully prepared seafood, offering an ever-changing menu of fresh finds from St Ives in Cornwall. But, before I'd had a chance to visit, I moved to the other side of London. So, what great news then, when I heard that they'd opened a second outpost, Sea Garden and Grill Brixton?
Nestled on the outer rim of the market and accessed from Coldharbour Lane, this new restaurant looked cosy and intimate. After I knocked over the A-board on my way in (*ahem*, twice), I stepped through the doors and was met with a small number of wooden tables and unfussy chairs. That, coupled with an eye-catching mural of an octopus on the wall and a well-stocked, glowing bar, gave off a trendy yet wholesome vibe.
As I waited for my pal to arrive, I ogled the cocktail menu, and something immediately caught my eye - the Seagroni (£12). A combo of seaweed-infused gin, Campari and Regal Rouge Red, this quirky concoction was an oceanic spin on your classic negroni, and I loved it - especially the theatrical flair, as it was delivered on a bed of smoking dry ice, garnished with samphire and a slice of dried lemon. When my friend arrived and caught sight of it, she couldn't help but order the same.
While we knocked these back merrily, we ordered a few sharing plates to pair. The smoked haddock arancini (£7.50) was a fantastic start to the meal; three spherical orbs of deliciousness, the outer layer was perfectly deep-fried, while the fish inside was soft and flavoursome, elevated even more so by the curry mayo, chilli slices and the drizzle of vibrant herb oil. Next up, the scallop gratin (£13). It came served in the shell, covered in an unctuous, oozing cheese sauce. The scallops themselves were delicately cooked, silky and sweet, plus the crunch from the breadcrumbs and bacon's saltiness really pulled the whole dish together.
As nearly everything we ordered was very fish-heavy, we also requested the honey-roasted squash (£9.50). A pile of soft squash slices artfully arranged on a bed of blended root veggies, it had a subtle sweetness, coupled with the salty tang of the Cornish goat's cheese, fragrant crispy sage, pumpkin seeds and a splash of herb oil. To help wash it down, we opted for a couple of glasses of wine. I chose the Waterford Estate Sauvignon Blanc (£8), a light, fresh and very drinkable white that paired well with the fish, while my pal went for the Vinho Verde, Casal Garcia (£8), which was sweet and fruity, with strong apple notes.
Carrying on the feast, we went for the crab bun (£15). Think tempura soft shell crab nestled together in a soft, brioche-like bun with pickled carrot kohlrabi, spiced mayo and an oyster dressing. Between bites, we nibbled on the beef dripping tripled cooked chips (£5.50). Though they looked a bit pale at first glance, oh how we were mistaken - perfectly crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, sprinkled in powdered vinegar (so as not to make them soggy), they were devoured quickly.
And then came our final dish: the fish special (£24). The centrepiece of the plate regularly changes, but on this occasion, it included succulent pan-fried seabass fillets laid over tenderstem broccoli and cavalo nero, topped with mussels. Everything was doused in a healthy pool of mussel veloute and herb oil, making each mouthful something to be savoured.
The DesignMyNight Digest
Sea Garden and Grill Brixton strikes a great balance between casual and upmarket. It's humble, homely and fairly well-priced, but whips up elegant, creative plates with seeming ease. I had a lovely time here in the company of my mate (and will deffo be back to try out more of the menu), but I think it would also be great for date nights and even dinner with your mum. A big thumbs up from me.
💰 The damage: Around £115 for two, plus service.
📍 The location: Brixton Village, 14E & 14D Market Row, SW9 8LD.
👌 Perfect for: When you want something fancy, but not too fancy.
⭐ Need to know: The menu regularly changes, so keep an eye out for what's new.