One of the last things Brixton needs is chain-run cocktail bars pushing out long-established and much-loved local establishments.
So it’s good to see a Brixton institution gearing up to offer an experience you won’t find in a chain … or, probably, anywhere else.
Brixton resident Hammant Patel-Villa’s Courtesan on Atlantic Road has been known since it opened four years ago for dim sum with a difference.
Starting tonight (22 September), after a few trial runs, an interior makeover and a launch party earlier this week, Courtesan adds tea, cocktails and burlesque to the mix.
The food menu has been updated and all the drinks on the list have been produced by women – beat that you chains.
We’re promised that the atmosphere will match that of the legendary night clubs of Shanghai in the 1920s (No opium for me, thanks).
Not having been there, we couldn’t comment, but gypsy jazz and spectacular flesh-flashing burlesque acts at the launch party seemed like a step in the right direction.
And the cocktails do have a decidedly oriental tinge, with ingredients including lapsang souchong and jasmine teas and poppy liqueur (I told you: NO opium). There’s also beetroot powder.
Not only are the drinks all female, so are the chefs. As well as dim sum, they’re cooking up noodle and rice dishes, soft bao buns and specials that focus on MSG-and-preservative-free ingredients, with vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free choices.
If anything, the new décor seems darker than before, but that’s probably how it was in Shanghai. Downstairs you can now sip your lapsang souchong beneath a mirrored ceiling.
A varied entertainment programme is planned, with both residencies and one-nighters.
There will be shows throughout the week with special “Courtesan lates” on Fridays and Saturdays. Burlesque, cabaret, live jazz, DJs, parties and West End performers are promised.