We arrive at Bellefields just as it’s getting dark. The clammy haze of heat and noise that follows us through the centre of Brixton falls away as we enter its crisp coolness.
The newest addition to Squire and Partners Department Store is certainly on brand, the cavernous space bright with exposed beams and warehouse lighting, adorned and fresh in mint greens and shades of wood.
Marble tables and towering booths circle its open bar, the centrepiece around which this new restaurant revolves.
The wine list at Bellefields is extensive, entirely European, following the pre-2020 definition, and reasonably priced.
Our bartender brims with knowledge and pairing ideas. The organic red we select on his recommendation is sharp and crisp, if not deep, and complements the food and atmosphere well.
The gin list and cocktail selection are equally as enticing and we decide to sample these on another visit.
Bellefields pride themselves in their support of local businesses and source many of their spirits locally, from Brixton Brewery, Brixton Gin, Balham-based Hayman’s & Merchant and soon, and possibly most excitingly of all, will be serving Brixton’s first home produced ‘Market Row Rum’.
The menu is split into snacks, plates and sides. We glide past the snacks and straight onto plates, which are offered in small or large sizes to be eaten alone or shared, as mains or starters.
This transforms what is otherwise a simple menu into something much more: a rather enjoyable exercise of personal autonomy.
We start with the octopus, prickly and tender. Served in Bellefields signature style with suave simplicity, it arrives on glazed stoneware reminiscent of distant shores and sourced fresh from day-boats on the Cornish coast.
The single octopus tendril really is the star of the show here, the wilted spinach and lemony butterbean mash are nothing to write home about but rather both, literally and metaphorically, a subtle bed on which the perfectly cooked and almost unseasoned octopus lies.
As we move on to the next course the music, which has until now been unidentifiable European ambience begins to vibrate, the tables around us filling up with the smartly dressed bourgeoisie, winding down after a busy week or up to new networking opportunities.
Many of Bellefields customers have come straight from the adjoining offices, studios and workspaces. Mambo Italiano starts playing and I fall deeper into the cool seats, unsure whether this is the effect of the music or the wine that slips seamlessly from my glass between courses.
The mains arrive; a deep bowl of linguine vongole, where perfectly al dente pasta serves once again as a mere nest, a blank canvas on which clams buttery in texture and creamy with garlic shine.
Similarly the butternut squash, which I feel I must try after multiple recommendations, has a textural softness and subtlety that allows the baba ganoush all of its smoky glory. And it truly is glorious, as we sway with the rumba from southern Europe to the east; consistency in this menu is found through the fresh simplicity on which single flavours are drawn out.
The lack of complexity of these dishes, like the calm you feel on crossing from Brixton high street over its threshold, provides a space for the smoky aubergine to be experienced without confusion. There are more beans and pine nuts, but these, as with those accompanying the starter, go almost unnoticed except perhaps as a pleasant textural differentiation.
Once we have sucked up the last of the broth, deep as the stoneware in Mediterranean sea, the pudding menu is presented.
Here we begin to enter true comfort territory. European staples of tiramisu, creme brûlée, baklava and Greek celebration cake.
They are all executed well, the brûlée perhaps a little less than set and the baklava as you would find in the independent supermarkets and newsagents that populate Brixton.
The Karothopica, a Greek celebration cake of spiced walnut served with tart yoghurt and honey is more exciting. Rich and almost savoury it coats my mouth in that particularly good form of indulgence, that after such a fresh meal is welcomed.
The true highlight of the pudding menu is, however, the rice pudding arancini. A sugar-coated deep fried ball that sits on a bed of deep purple plum jam. I swallow it down in a few bites with a mug of espresso so small I turn for a second to check I haven’t slipped, with the final sips of wine into Lilliput.
Turning back to the table I tell my partner, that the next time we get home to Brixton station and I am feeling particularly low on blood sugar he should bring me here for one such ball and one such coffee and all will be well again.
The waiter tells me there is an older man who comes almost daily to get a single arancini and at only £1.50 a pop, in comparison to a menu that is on the pricier end of the scale; I can see why. So, my recommendation: go for the octopus and baba ganoush, stay for just one more rice pudding arancini.
As we go to leave I take a picture of the guitar playing skeleton mosaic that dominates the back wall and send it to my sister’s Spanish/ Mexican girlfriend with the caption ‘appropriation?’, she replies in seconds with: depends where you are.
There appear to be only three clams in the pasta vongole dish. That’s not good.
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