Pretty distressed: Three Eight Four review

Nick Buglione warms to Three Eight Four’s small plates and cocktails

Nick BuglioneIt’s a numbers game. For these guys. I’m at Three Eight Four, just round the corner from Seven and it’s the same bunch who have just opened Two Hundred in downtown Peckham. Took me a while of course.

Three Eight Four, home to small plates and cocktails, is not so much distressed, more borderline traumatised. A decent effort has gone into charmingly looking like there has been no effort at all. Mismatched everything, naked walls, old school chairs, retired shabby chic bus seats and supermarket shopping baskets as lampshades.

Throw in a sneer and bad service and this could be the cliché of all-too-hipster hangout. But the service is great; it’s a bar with a smile on its face and it’s not casa identikit anything.

Seven is now, in Brixton’s accelerated development, practically old school as they were in the first golden days of the Village revival. So, as I imagine most of us know, they do some good cocktails. Ditto Three Eight Four.

I’ve been here before a year or so ago when we were a bunch of parents let off the leash (nothing is worse than kiddie-battered 30/40-somethings going for it on their once in a blue moon night off). This is me and Mrs B sneaking off down Acre Lane for a local midweek get together.

Three Eight Four is less Espana-tinged than older sibling Seven but we still kick off with a little festival of cured meats, Jamon de Teruel, Iberico salchichon, chorizo with cabra del Tietar goat’s cheese and guindilla peppers. I am not a connoisseur but I like my charcuterie and this is pretty good stuff.

Not a natural bedfellow of the glam rock cocktail (if I was a purist I should probably be sipping sherry or cold beer) but in the spirit of the Christmas issue, I’m having a Ziggy Stardust, Stolichnaya citrus vodka, crème de cassis, pomegranate, lemon and a garnish of edible glitter. Let’s dance. All deep and very berry. Mrs B votes for the Nightshade, Santa Teresa rum, triple sec, lychee juice, peach bitters and lime. Deadly.

The rest arrives in traditional “small plates” fashion, tonight more or less all in one bulk deluge but I’m in relaxed midweek mode. I guess the trick in “small plates land” is to order as you go?

So say hello to a compelling collision of chicken wings in smoky oriental sticky spice – in a funkily ironic, spoof chicken shop cardboard box, garlic butter prawns (big tiger prawns but even bigger on the garlic) and Chimichurri steak on a bed of rocket, spring onion and chilli. With a tomato and burrata salad. Is that my five-a-day sorted?

Nothing is destined (or intended) to knock the socks off a Michelin judge, but in a snacky kind of way, it all works. The steak is deep marinated and surface sizzled, the wings a spicy elevation. Prawns were meaty and potent (let’s say I was untroubled by vampires for the next few days). Salad was… salad.

More than nice cocktails and dining, Three Eight Four has something less tangible. It has a dishevelled, cosy bustling Brixton charm. Once again, we over ordered (and they have rather microscopic tables) so the bill wasn’t quite as microscopic, but for a drink and a few plates, Three Eight Four is, as Larry David would say, “pretty good”. I see no reasons to curb my enthusiasm.

384 Coldharbour Lane, SW9 8LF | | 0203 417 7309 | @sevenatbrixton