By Christina Pickworth
This week’s lovely heatwave coincided with a Tuesday night girls’ get-together, which of course was then screaming to be done alfresco. We met for a quick drink at The Duke of Edinburgh with its massive beer garden and then hot-footed it off to our dinner reservation at Donostia Social Club, one of the restaurant offerings at Pop Brixton. They have indoor seating too, but the outdoors was perfect.
Unfortunately we seem to have under-estimated how long it takes four chatting women to walk 400m after a glass of wine and arrived 10 minutes late to suspiciously full tables. I had booked online that day, then amended the booking to add an extra diner, and also emailed to ask for a table outside, all things which you’d have thought would show reasonable intent at turning up. I then had to wait another 5 minutes for a staff member to confirm that our specially requested table had already been given away. This put us in a slightly tricky situation, as it was now 8:45pm and everyone was rather hungry, not to mention that one of the party is pregnant and, in the heat, could probably have done with sitting down. I was promised a 15 minute wait for the next available table, which turned into half an hour, but at 9:15pm we were finally seated.
I appreciate that Pop Brixton is a casual dining environment, it was a very busy Tuesday night, and perhaps I should have called ahead, but given that we really weren’t very late, and all occupants at the tables looked remarkably settled, I can’t imagine that it was more than a couple of minutes before our booking was completely disregarded, which was, I’ll be honest, disappointing customer service. It meant that our meal was rushed with no opportunity for pudding, and as we’d bought drinks downstairs while we waited, we had those to finish and so I didn’t get chance to try what looks like an interesting drinks menu, including some lovely sherry options, so I’m afraid I can’t comment on any of those things here.
The food itself is presented as a Nibbles menu and a Tapas menu, with sharing the order of the day. We went for the patatas bravas, heritage tomato salad and selection of meat & cheese from the Nibbles menu. From the Tapas menu we ordered braised Iberico pork cheek, butterbean purée & herb oil, duck breast, with apricot sauce & blueberries, seared scallops with pisto, green chilli sauce & almonds and the tenderstem broccoli with toasted almonds and garlic oil. From the daily specials we added seabass with Serrano ham, and a steak onglet.
I’m happy to say it was all worth waiting for. The patatas bravas were generously coated in a rich and unctuous tomato sauce, and the heritage tomato salad was so simply done but completely divine. The selection of meat and cheese was far superior to similar platters I’ve had elsewhere, thanks to both the meats and cheeses themselves and also the lovely additions of membrillo, capers and very moreish fig slices.
The pork cheek just fell apart beautifully and the butterbean purée was so good I had to go back for again and again. The tenderstem broccoli was absolutely delicious and I would order this every time. The scallop was well-cooked but a little under-whelming if I’m completely honest, as, for me, the pisto, green chilli sauce and almond combination was fine but didn’t set my tastebuds alight. The duck on the other hand was exquisite, the sweetness from the apricot sauce and the jamminess of the blueberries setting it off perfectly – this was the dish where, when all the remnants were being divided up as everyone wanted it. The onglet was lovely, and the tender sea bass was nicely complimented by the saltiness of the Serrano ham.
The puddings sounded incredible too, and I will definitely be dragging Mr Husband back here for a try of those, as well as the sherries! Cost-wise it felt very reasonable too, with all that food coming in at £63. I would really recommend you try it, just make sure if you’re booking a table that you’re not late!
Christina is a screenwriter, agent, and mama to two little people. She is also the founder of This Mama Does cards – inspired by baby milestone cards, but for Mums. This Mama Does, not this mama can or this mama will, This Mama Does. Because all mamas do incredible things every day for the little people they love. Sometimes they just need wine as well.
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