Backdoor SALON @Brixton
Cannon and Cannon
18 Market Row
Brixton. What are the first thoughts that just sprung to mind? I’ve been in this city long enough to know that, to the old-school Londoner, this area isn’t usually associated with anything overly positive (but then again, South London is still soooooo rough right Northerners?). Over the past few years though, due in part to London’s expansion southwards, Brixton has begun to evolve, shedding itself of its shadowy past and now, unknowingly, has become quite a respected hub in the London food community. Of course it’s hard not to be respected when you have superstar eateries such as Honest Burgers, Franco Manca, The Joint, Bukowski Grill and Wishbone calling you home. So it really didn’t come as a shock when the boys from The Backdoor Kitchen (henceforth known as ‘BDK’ in this post) chose this lively suburb to be the location for their latest supperclub.
Just a bit of background to start, BDK is the brainchild of the charismatic Roman duo of Rob and Fabio and for the past 2 years, they have been hosting and serving up fantastic dishes with an Italian twist at their supperclubs. Past events they have hosted included themes such as Spanish/Italian fusion, classical Roman and Forgotten Recipes. I had the pleasure of speaking to both of them during my visit and what really stood out was that both had a real love of great food and a desire to share it with as many people as possible. They are both passionate about what they do and you can’t help but get caught up in it, even if you don’t share the same feelings about food. On a personal note, knowing this made my overall experience that much better as I knew the care that had gone into each dish. Like Fabio said best himself, “Food tastes better when there is a face to it.”. Well done sir.
On this day (and as they have done the previous Sunday before my visit and 1 more after), the boys had ventured away from their home comforts of Bermondsey and were making camp on the top floor of Cannon and Cannon located on the trendy Market Row in Brixton. I arrived with only an open mind given that I was a BDK virgin (wow, that sounded a lot less dirty the first time I read it…) but having walked past Franco Manca, Bukowski and Wishbone on the way, needless to say I was also a little hungry.
Walking upstairs, I arrived just as the brunch session was ending and was lucky enough to be shown a table and have our drinks orders taken (for more on this, head over to Views of the Booze (Hag)). To say the place was lively is an understatement. The place was bustling and filled with the buzz of people who were enjoying themselves on a lazy Sunday afternoon. My idea of a lazy afternoon though didn’t involve unhappy children so I was quite thankful (and pleasantly surprised) to find that the dining room completely mellowed out for the aperitivo session creating an extremely relaxed atmosphere in which to enjoy the meal ahead.
The aperitivo session today feature caponatina di coppa, biltong and capperi, limoni ripieni, grigliatian pollock, frittata salmon and funghi and arancini di zucca and nouja. As you can imagine, I had no idea what was really coming my way and being an idiot, I failed to remember there was a thing called a menu. Truth be told though, Italian is such a sexy language that they could’ve served cereal with milk and I would’ve been perfectly content so long as they called it “cereali con latte”.
The caponatina di coppa is a salad of marinated courgette, sultana, pine nut and caponata mixed with Roman Coppa and Pecorino Romano cheese. If you thought that sounds like a mouthful, you’d be right but with it came a real depth of flavour. The sourness of the marinade was offset by the sweetness of sultanas, saltiness of the coppa and tanginess of the cheese making the overall dish very enjoyable. The fact that the marinated vegetables still retained a bit of firmness was an added bonus.
For those sharp-eyed readers, you would’ve noted that one of the dishes was biltong which is a beef jerky originating from South Africa (so no, not really Italian at all). This jerky didn’t have to travel quite that far and could be found being sold by Cannon and Cannon. I’m not usually a fan of cured meat but I found it really delightful. The meat was chewy but not overly dry so it didn’t feel like you were gnawing away at a piece of rubber. The meat had a deep rich flavour which just seemed to keep going. It was served with a caper, tuna and cannellini bean dipping sauce which provided a tasty contrast and when eaten together, felt like you were tucking into a miniature surf and turf; a novel idea which was well executed.
The limoni ripieni is an octopus, mint, Provolone Piccante cheese, garlic and olive salad dressed with olive oil and lemon juice and served tantalizingly in a half lemon. This dish too was a wealth of flavours as you are first introduced to a hint of mint, lemon and olives before the aroma of the cheese and octopus is released. The octopus was grilled to perfection (firm to the touch but soft to the bite).
The grigliatian pollock is a chargrilled squid dish served with squid ink and a saffron mayo. The squid was, like the octopus, perfect but what made this dish was the saffron mayo; it was to die for. It was seriously spread-it-on-your-finger-and-you’d-chew-it-off good. Amazing.
The frittata salmon and funghi put simply is a salmon omelette cooked with mushrooms and Parmesan cheese. One cannot stress how important fresh ingredients are to a dish but this is a prime example of how the overall dish can be greater than the sum of its parts if you use good parts. The salmon provided a beautiful creamy taste whereas the mushrooms were wonderfully fragrant and left a lasting aftertaste which is a joy provided mushrooms tickle your fancy.
Last dish and finally I got to something I recognised from the menu (and was therefore able to show those around me how cultural I clearly am).
“The “arancini di zucca and nouja” is clearly an arancini!” I boldly proclaimed with the greatest sense of self-worth.
“Ok, but what is it cooked with…?”
“Um…ah…uh…butternut squash cream, pepper, spicy Italian sausage and mozzarella…” I sheepishly read from the menu as I sunk back into my seat. Order restored once more.
I wasn’t kept quiet for long though as I can, hand on my heart, say that this is the BEST ARANCINI I HAVE EVER HAD IN. MY. LIFE. The coating was perfectly crisp and light and the butternut squash cream was just amazing. Fillings were spot on and just when you thought you were finished, the chilli kicked in to remind you your world has just been rocked.
Walking away after the meal, I couldn’t help but wonder why it took me so long to get into supperclubs. You get amazing food, in a cool atmosphere with fantastic people and you don’t have to take out a mortgage to do it. It really did feel like I had just finished a meal at a friend’s and not to be cheesy, but maybe I just did. Till next time BDK.