Fantastic beasts and where to find them: Beast of Brixton

Nick Buglione talks toasties with Beast of Brixton

Time passes quickly. Has it really been four years since James Duke-Evans and Will Nelson moved into what used to be Upstairs to launch Beast of Brixton – two townhouse floors of cocktail parties, sparkly get-togethers and ever-popular Sunday roasts (and hangover cures).

Well now they have moved downstairs to launch a “beastly” all-day café where once was Opus. So armed with two junior journos (my daughters) we went down to sample their toasties and find out more.

As my friend Jake “floating office” Pollard will tell you, they do “a mean” kimchee toastie and “damn good” coffee although daughter#2 is instantly attracted to the range of Korean fizzy drinks.

Will’s mother in law is Korean, hence the influences, and it’s her homemade kimchi that populates the signature toastie.

It’s a homely, wood-panelled room (shortly to be extended further) and pavement terrace with hanging plants, low-level reggae and arty walls – that is going to host all sorts of things come the evening. By the day it’s all about toasties, brunchy sarnies and coffee.
We tuck in while chatting to Jimmy. Kimcheese toastie, more traditional ham, cheese and spring onion, and for me, a classic (untoastied) BLT.

They use a blend of mozzarella, cheddar and gruyère so it’s all nicely stringy. Jake is right, if there is a better toastie in SW2, I am yet to discover it.

Mates since uni, Jimmy (former head of hotel security) and Will (former graphic designer) seem genuinely interested in Beast being a local hub that local groups can feel at home in and where hot-desking Brixton laptoppers can plug into the free wi-fi. Fuelled by coffee.

Jimmy explains the coffee: “We went to coffee school which was brilliant. Our Beast Espresso from Alchemy is 75% Guatemala Red Bourbon Honey from Finca San Sebastian and 25% El Salvador Red Bourbon Honey from Finca Las Mercedes. It has chocolate, honey and pecan notes and its 100% direct trade.”

And they have pretty ambitious plans from everything from more toastie inventions (including a banoffee toastie) to wine tastings, “We’re about to expand our wine list from three to about 25 bottles, from some exciting suppliers. We’ll be hosting regular wine and gin tastings, with nice food pairings.”

Alongside croissants, pain au chocolat, as well as our toasties there is a pesto chicken and cheese with sun-dried tomato. Vegans can try the aubergine and houmous sarnie, and they do an interesting tuna wasabi mayo. They also have non-dairy milk options. All very modern.

“We’re experimenting with our next wave of sandwiches during the day, but at night we’ll soon also be serving raclette from the grill, as well as charcuterie, cheese and plant-based boards to share while you enjoy a cosy bottle of wine with friends. We want to be able to look after you right through the day via a decadent cheese toastie.”

Will cheerfully admits: “We’ve become a bit obsessed with cheese.” Daughter #2 has become a bit obsessed by the prospect of a banoffee toastie.

Daughter #1 wonders why Brixton? Jimmy explains, “I was born in Lambeth and we’ve always gone out in Brixton. It’s an exciting place. Back in the early noughties there were plenty of well-spent nights. “It took us so long to save for the business that we were excited to be able to afford a Brixton site.

“We thought we’d been priced out already but we were lucky – we could have ended up as The Beast Of Bracknell.”

Beast is literally the nearest thing to my house so it’s a no-brainer for the Bugliones. Daughter #1 is planning to come here and do her homework, Mrs B will undoubtedly be booking in for the wine tastings and daughter #2 wants to spend her pocket money on Korean fizz. Keep your eyes on Beast of Brixton, things are looking interesting.

Café: Monday–Saturday 8am–6pm, Sunday 9am–5pm, Bar: Friday and Saturday 5pm–2am, Sunday roasts: 12pm–6pm

89 Acre Lane, SW2 5TN | 07514 753063 | | @beastofbrixton