Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Bickles - Brixton

The streets were deserted, filled only by the lights that danced atop a fortnight's rain. This was December 30th, the twilight zone, the witching hour extended to a day; a day when everything shuts down in preparation for the carnage to come. We should have known better. Door after door closed and Brixton looking like a suburb from far further south on a typical Monday night. Even Brixton Village - that bastion of middle class foodie delight - was locked down, it's roller doors tightly gripping the floor.

The mood became slightly frantic. A troupe of drinkers, their tolerance for each other worn to a nub by Christmas festivities, hungry, thirsty, and cold. The orange glow of Bickles was missed once, but after a string of pubs promised little more than a drink and a lukewarm reception, we retraced our steps, took the punt, and crowded six around one of their five tables. From the outside, Bickles has the look of a takeaway first and a restaurant second. Never judge a book by it’s cover, of course. The staff were on hand to offer friendly advice to those for whom jerk chicken is not an everyday occurrence and to point out that a bottle of marinade from a display cabinet is not a condiment for customers to try. Unfortunately, they weren’t quick enough with a warning on the hot sauce - cue profuse sweating to the point of tears from one of the party. All his own fault. This was clearly a liquid of pure spiced evil: blood red with a sheen of chilli infused oil floating on the top. The banana sauce on the other hand was just warm enough for my tame tastes.

I have little experience of Jamaican food - maybe something homemade with Reggae Reggae sauce or a friend’s attempt at jerk chicken - so I can’t say whether this was good, bad, or indifferent compared to the other options in Brixton. What I can say though is that I found it very very tasty. The oxtail took some picking to strip the bone bare - always a ringing endorsement of a meat. Tender, sweet with spice, but not too hot. The rice warm with flavour and the peas well textured: a great accompaniment for shovelling down with the small scraps of meat. The salad - a token gesture to one of the five-a-day - I overlooked. The other dishes, the classics of jerk chicken and pork, seemed equally good choices and all were a firm filling for the £7 or so they cost.

Empty at first, full when we left. Bickles is a popular spot even on a quiet night - a sure sign of quality. If you visit, carry your own alcohol as they don’t offer anything to drink and steer well clear of that hot sauce unless you have a mouth of wax.

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