Review: Brixton's Salon Is An Exceptional Neighbourhood Restaurant

Salon, Brixton ★★★★☆

Helen Graves
By Helen Graves Last edited 32 months ago
Review: Brixton's Salon Is An Exceptional Neighbourhood Restaurant Salon, Brixton 4
The bright dining room at Salon in Brixton Market.

We spend a lot of time rushing to the hottest new restaurants because it's fun and it’s also our job to let you know about them.

The thing is, there are a lot of good kitchens out there that have been quietly grafting away for years. We’re talking about the places that are in the background being brilliant but are overshadowed by hype and the slobbering frenzy to get to each new opening.

This can be particularly true of neighbourhood restaurants, and if you’re lucky to have a good one, then you should support it, or be prepared to let it go. We’re thinking the likes of Franklins in East Dulwich, The Drapers Arms in Islington or — you’ve guessed it — Salon in Brixton.

Just when you think you've seen every preparation of kale...

Nicholas Balfe opened the restaurant above Cannon and Cannon charcuterie in January 2013, and what at first was a separate entity has now been consolidated with the shop downstairs. You walk through a deli (important note: they make excellent toasted cheese sandwiches), up a staircase and into a space that’s part restaurant, part supper club, part your friend’s trendy flat that makes you green with envy.

Grab a seat near the window if you can because looking down into the market below provides some first class opportunities for people watching.

The food has always been good, but it seems to have ramped up a gear and is now quite clever — very pretty, full of technique but with a casual, easy-going flair. They’ve just launched a new, extended set menu, serving a whopping seven courses for £44 per person and we kept going back to check the price thinking, 'they’re really serving all that food for that much money?'

Super pretty food - skate, samphire, and elderflower.

We started with an excellent snack of tempura kale and anchovy mayo — just when you think you've seen every preparation of last year’s trendiest vegetable. Next the very summery ‘peas, sorrel and wild garlic’ — cooling granita, fresh pops of pea and a nest of sweet pea shoots and peppery nasturtium leaves. It was as green as Kermit’s legs but definitely tastier.

Nick and his team really are good at making food look lovely, as you can see from the arrangement of skate, samphire, and elderflower. A meaty segment of fish was topped with glistening, salty sticks of samphire and scattered with tiny elderflowers, like something a pixie might wear in her hair.

Wicked surf and turf. 'Nduja, asparagus, almonds and clams.

One of our favourite dishes was ‘clams, almond, asparagus, ‘nduja’ – a powerful soupy bowlful of contrasts, that looked and tasted incredible. 'Dexter rump, tomatoes, and burnt onion' had a glorious old school feel about it, with familiar, comforting flavours and 'lemon, verbena and meringue' was a refreshing end to the meal, composed of curd, meringue, ice cream, jelly, crumb and cake. Oh, how we do like a dessert that ticks as many boxes as possible.

Classic flavours. Beef with tomato and burnt onion.

Can you tell that we loved Salon? It’s basically the perfect neighbourhood restaurant because we struggle to think of a time when it wouldn’t be suitable to go. Casual lunch? Tick. Special dinner? No problem. They also do brunch and sell cakes and other lovely things made on site in the shop downstairs. It just feels like a really happy space, dedicated to celebrating the best of British produce, while having fun at the same time. Amen to that.

Salon, 18 Market Row, Coldharbour Ln, SW9 8LD. Londonist was invited to a preview of the extended menu at Salon.

Last Updated 06 July 2016