By Lindsay Harrison

Prima Donna, 25-27 Market Row, SW9 8LD, Brixton. 
Mon-Wed and Sun: 10am-5pm; Thurs-Sat: 10am-11.30pm

It must be hard running your own restaurant. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to try to please a huge variety of people, all with different likes and dislikes. Even harder is being surrounded by lots of great places in the foodie-concentrated Market Row and Granville Aracade, now more widely known as Brixton Village. There are now many local places who are in fierce but friendly competition to be the de facto choice for local punters.

And now the owners of the Tulse Hill restaurant, Brazas, have stepped into the ring and recently opened Prima Donna in Market Row.  The name suggests Italian, or maybe even tapas, but it is in fact a new grilled meat restaurant. Brixton Village Grill has already established itself, quite rightly, as a forerunner in the terrain by consistently serving fantastic grilled meats and fish with their atomic homemade piri piri sauce. Can Prima Donna step up to the mark?

The menu is limited to a few little starters like bread and olives and the mains are focused on piri piri chicken and soy-glazed ribs, with a couple vegetarian options for those less into the atavistic delight of eating meat off the bone with their teeth.  The wine list is equally limited but I enjoyed a nice Tempranillo/Syrah blend and they do have Sagres lager on tap, which seemed to go down well with some fellow diners.

We split the courgette fritters, one of the vegetarian mains, as a starter. A large portion of eggy tortilla-like slabs appeared, covered in spinach, cherry tomatoes, feta and a balsamic dressing. They were not as light as I had hoped, but had a nice hint of mint, which heightened the courgette flavours and melded quite nicely with the rest of its accompaniments. I would have preferred the fritters to have a bit of a crunch on the outside to give them more texture against the freshness of the spinach and tomatoes. They were a touch too soggy to stand up to the dressing.

Next we had chicken and ribs for mains. I had mine piri piri style (you can have plain if you’re not into the heat) with salad and new potatoes and my other half went for ribs and chunky chips, which also came with a bit of sweet corn.  The chicken had decent heat and flavour, but the breast meat was on the dry side. The legs and thighs were a little juicier than the breast, and overall the skin was crisp and nicely salty. With the chicken came a small portion of avocado salsa, which turned out to be the highlight of the dish. Light with wonderfully fresh flavours of coriander and onion and tomato really cut through the creamy avocado and it gave some much-needed moisture to the chicken.

The ribs were a disappointment. Dry, over-roasted, tough. The soy glaze seemed to have been charred to an inch of its life and what was left was a slightly soy-carbon taste, which isn’t exactly bad if you’re into that, but if they were going to grill the ribs like this, an accompanying sauce would have been welcomed.

For both dishes, the sides of new potatoes and chips were undercooked. To me, this seems more teething problems than anything else. Often the seemingly less important vegetables get forgotten in an attempt to master the main event, so I’d let them off for this, but it is something that can drain the diner of confidence in the kitchen. The sweet corn that came with the ribs was decent, but it is not in season locally, so I would have preferred something that hadn’t been flown in from some far flung country.

We finished with a slice of raspberry and blueberry amaretto cake, brought in from Maurillio, which was, frankly, the nicest thing we ate during our visit. The cake had fat chunks of amaretti biscuits nestled in its lovely crumbly topping. A berry ripple gave it slightly light tangy hit; a moist and quite delightful little treat it turned out to be.

I was hoping for the best when I stepped into Prima Donna. I went in not knowing what to expect food-wise and emerged a couple hours later a little wiser and a little disappointed. Not that the food was completely terrible. It really wasn’t. But it just seemed to be really lacking that extra element which would make it more the obvious choice over its neighbouring restaurants. Perhaps it is the inattention to detail – slightly overcooked meat and slightly undercooked vegetables – that stood out to me. A little more thought and care in the kitchen would not go amiss. Perhaps it is early days and, in time, they will have mastered both meat and vegetables, but it may have been advisable to do that prior to opening a restaurant. 

Meal for two including drinks £41.85 excluding service

Lindsay Harrison blogs at



  1. My First visit to Prima Donna on Saturday evening was unfortunately very disappointing. My rib had so much fat that just looking at it put me off my dinner, once I got to the meat it was dry and tasted of nothing, the gravy was nonexistent, and chips were not cooked. My partner ordered a steak, it was tough and far too rare for medium rare. Although we were both famished, neither of us could bare to finish our meals. The staff were wonderful though, very apologetic and we got the wonderful amaretto cake as well as the meal and drinks complimentary. When there are so many other restaurants to sample, I don’t think I will be returning to Prima Donna….sorry!

  2. This review is based on two visits. We have to wait long time, both times around 35 minutes. They mistaken the orders, both times. Charged us to much on one occasion. When I asked the guy if I can pay because I’m in rusch, he looked at me like I just ruined his day and didn’t even say thank you. Overall, nice food – contrasting with poor service.

  3. I am shocked that you guys have had such a bad experience over at Prima Donna.
    I have been going to this little gem ever since they have open, and in all honesty I have now tried a bit of everything. We visit for breakfast and always go for the full English with complimentary coffee and my Girlfriend always has the eggs royale. What can I say, it all tastes great, you can smell the bacon and sausage on the grill and the hollandaise sauce is sooooo nice. Presentation is really good with toast on a side dish and small individual butters. I can only praise this guys for coming to the market and offering us (me and my gf) great tasting food.

  4. Went here for brunch the other day and have to agree wholeheartedly on the lack of detail. Our fried eggs had been massacred and were greasy and totally hard in the middle. They did replace them on asking and were pleasant about it, but the replacements were still awful. Nothing about the breakfast stood out quality wise and the butter portions were rancid.

    Service was super friendly and they comped us some of that cake which was very nice, but it was telling that they weren’t that busy at 1.30 on a Saturday. I’ll be sticking to the Duck Egg or the Phoenix for a fry up in future.

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