On the eating spectrum, there are the foods that are seasonal, organic, wholesome, sustainable and healthy – the don’t-I-feel-so-smug-for-eating-this foods. On the other there are the obvious filthy foods – the mac n’ cheese, burgers, fried chicken, kebabs – that are unabashedly dirty. They make no excuses for the fact that they are hugely calorific, high in fat and perhaps questionable in the meat sourcing department; in fact, they embrace their role as the foods we love to eat but know we shouldn’t. We treat the former as something holy, the latter to sate our darker selves.
And rather pleasingly, there is a place in Brixton that embraces both. The Moroccan Café resides on a spot that each one of us has walked passed several times and, in all likelihood, rarely noticed. The unassuming facades of the shops and cafés lining Brixton Station Road are full of treats, but before I discovered the beautiful pastries from Café Max, the tasty coffee at Shawl Café, and the little internet café next door that does printing, I had never ventured into many of them. Yet the quiet nature of the Moroccan Café was on my radar for several months, with murmurings that the food there needed to be tried.
Lunchtimes are busy – the few tables within the small interior under the arch are full; a street food van parked on the pavement outside grills their meat and vegetables. Different languages are spoken, mostly Arabic and Spanish, with English dotted around. The server at the counter is clearly proud of his offerings – he suggests a skewered lamb in a baguette and we also order a lemon chicken wrap and some lentil soup.
The soup is served straight away with bread. Hearty lentils are perfectly cooked in stock and cumin, with carrot and onion and some refreshing parsley – a simple but staple dish that provides comfort at such a basic level. Wholesome, nourishing, healthy, I congratulate myself internally on such a good choice.
Next, the sandwich and wrap arrives and the meal takes a decidedly dirtier turn. In the sandwich, the tender lamb tastes marvellously of the grill. The baguette is fresh and crunchy and comes with creamy, herby garlic, and spicy harissa sauces. These elements on their own would be enough, but the Moroccan Café takes it a step further and adds fries. I have seen this before with merguez sausages, but not skewered lamb. This ribald combination of the succulent lamb, the crunchy bread, the savoury sauces and the salty fries make me want to eat continually, all the while knowing I should probably stop. Immediately. Lunchtime on a Tuesday does not justify such racy eating.
The lemon chicken sounded more virtuous, and we dive into the flatbread wrap. Chicken is cooked with lemons, rind and all, and the resulting flavour is somewhat brash, but still tasty. Even with the saintly addition of salad, it is still enough to render me feeling a touch naughty, knowing that it would be even better under more imbibed circumstances.
Dipping into irreverence is what makes eating so much fun. I like to think that I’m in the first camp that prefers organic and free-range food that has been handpicked by virgins and while the Moroccan Café can do healthy, let’s face it, we all need a bit of dirty fare in our lives. Now you know where to get it.
Lunch for two including service, no drinks £11.50
Lindsay blogs at blondevsbland.com