Last Thursday, Rosie and I took on a day’s residency at Brixton Market’s Cornercopia. For those of you who haven’t been introduced, Cornercopia was set up by locals, Anne and Ian, to encourage the growth and eating of local and seasonal British food. Ian cooks beautiful and fresh-to-order daily lunches, as well as promoting local preserves on his shelves, where pickled samphire sits next to Brixton Pound marinades.
Due to their popularity and ambition, and as part of the whole Space Makers regeneration of the Brixton Village units on that side of the market, Cornercopia is taking on another unit opposite its current one, and looks forward to feeding more people through the winter. From a Salad Club perspective, what Ian’s doing there is really exciting – as a professional chef he brings direction and originality to a small kitchen. Typical menus include ingredients we’d like to eat more of but don’t yet know enough about, simply because they’re not really easily available: seasonal Kentish cob nuts, ewe’s cheese and greengages have made recent appearances. While our menus and cooking are directly and deliberately influenced by the foods we are excited about buying in Brixton Market, his feel oddly exotic, despite their very current and local provenance.
So when the invitation came to take over for a day while the pair went on holiday, we gladly accepted. In keeping with Salad Club suppers and the fact that we were working in a new kitchen, we decided to stay put with a set supper menu and a choice of two courses at lunch. An 8am shop around the neighbouring stalls and shops got us off to a good start, though that might have been something to do with the mighty fine coffee we nabbed from Federation (these guys are also expanding – it’s good to see people and projects you like reaping rewards). Lunch was a choice of smoked haddock and sweet potato chowder or a fresh market mezze of beetroot salad, roasted carrot and cumin dip and butter bean and rosemary hummus. Both were served with warm flatbreads and mopped up and sold out by the end of service.
The pleasure of seeing people eating our morning’s food in the sunlit corridors of the market was such a highlight – I know I speak for both of us when I say that it was like having a kind of wendy house of a restaurant, but one in which we operated a till, burnt our fingers on the grill and washed up hundreds of plates. In contrast to our secret suppers, where we’ve often been secreted away in the kitchen while our girlfriends manage front of house, our residency here gave us direct involvement and conversation with those we fed, and that just served to make the whole experience richer. Even as we chopped veg or rinsed crockery, we were able to chat on with the smiling faces coming through the door. We got to tell them a little about Salad Club and a little about Cornercopia.
Over the course of the day, we made friends with Gareth the fishmonger, who took it upon himself to chase a couple of haddock fillets round the market for us when his stock ran out and our lunchtime demand meant we needed to get another pot of soup on. And at some point, a local grower used to dropping off his produce with Ian, gifted us instead with a box of his tomatoes, which made their way into the pot. By 6pm, we’d sold a couple of our plum tarts at the counter and were geared up for the 1st birthday of the Brixton Pound, who lent their steady beats to the backdrop of a wonderful Brixton evening. For those who hadn’t managed to book a table with us, we piled plates with cold roast beef* and salads and handed them out to hungry dancers.
* Expertly sliced by Rosie’s steady hand on our very own Italian deli slicer. Very fancy!
If you know of a similar space you’d like us to cook in, please let us know. We’re still taking bookings for private suppers too! Email us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org