Nick Buglione gets all ‘British tapas’ at Smoke and Salt
Tonight is pretty much exactly what Pop Brixton was invented for. Hot summer night, alfresco terrace, lots of international bright young things (on Instagram) and interesting, genuinely original dining coming out of a sea container. The former home of Kricket, poster boys for Brixton boxpark pop-up stardom, is now where two guys Aaron and Remi bring you Smoke and Salt’s modern dining, ancient techniques.
A sea container can disguise many sins and much of Pop’s dining is style over substance and/or just OK food. Smoke and Salt’s seasonal small plates are anything but. As a foodie dabbler in the worlds of curing and smoking, each plate comes with technique, presentation, precision, enthusiasm and invention.
For starters, try their Boston Sour, a rye whiskey and infused sorrel reinvention of the classic sour. And then let it rain small plates of British “tapas”. And don’t let the simplicity of the menu fool you, there are some complex techniques coming out of the tiny kitchen.
From sourdough and whipped butter to heritage tomatoes with a whey vinaigrette and a deep (home smoked) swirling ricotta. And everything looks beautiful (for you Instagram food porn junkies).
The menu is a restless seasonal beast and changes all the time. Tonight we tried panelles (Sicilian chickpea fritters) with spicy ketchup, chicken with truffle ponzu and daikon slaw and a super slow-cooked pork belly with broccoli. All distinct, multi-layered on-point cooking.
But the best of the illustrious bunch was cured chalkstream trout and jalapeno salsa and, a surprising first for this fan of tartare, a merguez tartare of spicy lamb with flatbread and harissa. All north African spice and uber-tender lamb. I like surprises. Nothing is overdone, nothing is over-presented and nothing is overworked. Restraint is a virtue.
Food reviewers are prone to over-gush or knee-jerk criticise, but I would be hard pressed to find any criticism whatsoever. The staff are fully engaged and clearly committed, each dish is a little world unto itself and for a man who is suspicious of tasting plates (as they are often an excuse for scattergun service to suit the kitchen), Aaron and Remi’s plates work in a logical harmony.
Each one a little global flavour adventure. If there was a candidate to follow in Kricket’s sea container to Soho stardom template, Smoke and Salt could easily be the next to follow. Neo fine dining with its tie loosened.
Pop Brixton, 49 Brixton Station Road,SW9 8PQ | smokeandsalt.com | 07421 327556 | @SmokeandSaltLDN