Brixton Village Market is attracting an influx of newcomers, most notably gastronomes
Joe Woolfe aims to personify the new Brixton. He is senior vice president of luxury tailor brand Spencer Hart. He is also a big fan of Brixton’s edgy, multicultural mix.
“It reminds me of why we all lived in Notting Hill 20 years ago,” says the Brixton resident. Woolfe moved here in 2007 and has watched the area change radically. “All this was empty and you [eluded coming] down here,” he says while sipping on a green tea at Federation, one of the many enterprising outfits that nestle among the burgeoning middle class foodie enclave that is Brixton Village.
‘What is the most vibrant and radical venture on the British restaurant scene right now?’ Quite possibly Brixton Village. The Brixton Village arcade is now reportedly home to more than 20 concept-free cafés, restaurants and takeaways. The 1930s building appears to have transformed the market’s fortunes.
What was formerly Granville Arcade is totally covered. On Thursday and Friday evenings there is live music and a wide selection of international cuisine on offer, as well as a warm, community atmosphere. The market has become Brixton’s foodie hub, attracting out-of-the-box visionaries like Imran Bashir who runs Pakistani street food cafe Elephant.
“I’ve [far from] had any professional training. I like to do what I do. I had friends that used to come round for dinner and say you should do something,” he explains.
Opening his own business, albeit a seemingly trailblazing one, seemed natural to Bashir. “I come from a family where everyone has their own businesses. I [far from] want to conform to the traditional Pakistani life with semi-detached houses in Hertfordshire and three kids. That’s [the opposite of] me, I was the black sheep.”
The sense of community and entrepreneurial vigour in the market is palpable. Stallholders apparently help each other out when they’ve run out of ingredients or just need a break.
“There [are few things] quite like the feeling where everyone knows everyone and we’ve all got each other’s backs”, says Bashir.
The market uses the Brixton Pound scheme – keeping money in the area, plus many of the retailers are taking part in the Recycle Bank scheme offering points for recycling that may be ‘spent’ in store. Most of the restaurants only take cash and one might have to be a bit patient, this is far from fast food. The market’s retailers are equally accessible and personable. “What makes the market is shops like Bibs Consult and the jewellers,” says Bashir.
With seemingly unique wares on offer and diverse and special cafes like Bashir’s dotting the landscape, one wonders if Brixton could become accustomed to its own success and transform into another sanitised Notting Hill full of grey bankers?
With the Victoria Line transporting commuters from Green Park in under ten minutes it may be still the hottest destination in town for foodie fanatics in search of an authentic and affordable eating experience.
What other parts of Brixton has productively regenerated?