Tuesday, 16 December 2008
A Very Wild Caper, Brixton
Brixton is blessed. Not only have Giuseppe Mascoli and Bridget Hugo opened the best pizza palace in London in Brixton, but they have also brought joy to the heart of South London with a fantastic little organic café/deli called Wild Caper.
Feeling peckish, I went for a walk through Brixton Market and found myself marveling at how busy Franco Manca was. A friendly crowd gorged themselves on heavenly pizza and glasses of yellow lemon syrup. It took all my mental strength to resist settling down and ordering a spot of lunch.
A sign for the Brixton Fish Market dragged me further into the alleyway, luring me towards some interesting little stalls and shops. I walked past an intriguingly anonymous café and had a double take. Something about it had caught my attention. And I haven’t got a clue what it was. See for yourself…
Inside I was greeted with impeccable organic produce and charming staff. The first thing I spotted were some lovely chanterelle mushrooms, that Rosie from the café around the corner has mentioned on her café’s blog. Then my attention was caught by the organic wine selection. I busily checked my change and worked out how much pocket money I had to spend! I selected an organic bottle of red wine called Diogene which is the house red at Franco Manca down the street. It should make a good impromptu Christmas present.
Then I found my left hand had grabbed a pack of brown paper with the number 2.70 cryptically written in black marker pen. I looked down at the label and realized that I had grabbed hold of a pack of organic garlic, fennel and pork sausages. Lunch. It was strange because I had no control over my hands at all. It was like I was being controlled by someone else with a remote control. My next movement was to lunge towards the small bread counter. The assistant explained that all their bread is baked from organic sourdough in Franco Manca’s pizza ovens up the alleyway. I plucked a baguette from the stand and paid up.
It’s a very curious shop. It’s the dimensions of a medium sized bedroom and was staffed by 3 or 4 people despite me being the only customer. It has been in existence for 2 months and boasts an olive oil urn, some fantastic fresh herbs, organic veg, an interesting organic wine collection, proper spices and salt, amazing sourdough bread, a small café serving soup and home made pasta from their pasta counter and a small but top quality range of fresh organic produce. Apparently they also serve very good Monmouth coffee.
I took my goodies home and made THE BEST EVER sausage sandwich for lunch. I’m not going to patronise/bore anyone with how I cooked it etc. but this is what it looked like.
I wasn’t really prepared to have a sausage epiphany. But I guess you have them when you are least expecting them. This was no ordinary sausage. Somewhere, in the ozone above Greece, in the depths of Plato’s Platonic forms, sits a sausage. And it should be ashamed of itself because it is an impostor. The truly perfect sausage is to be found at Wild Caper. Inside the casing hid bite sized chunks of beautifully tender pork, accompanied by slithers of garlic and hints of fennel seed. The bread was tangy, smelling slightly of hay – the texture was ideal for a posh hot dog. I am gobsmacked and greedily keen for a return visit.
The return visit didn’t take too long. I returned the next day, drawn in by an enormous magnet. I was in desparate need of lunch. Unfortunately, they had run out of soup, so I opted for some pasta, sauce and some olives to take back home. It may sound quite humble. But it was sensational.
I got chatting to a South African lady who I think was Bridget who explained the vision behind the business. My googling of Bridget has thrown up lots of interesting leads – it seems she is a singer, artist, activist and restaurateur – either she is like a modern Leonardo Da Vinci or there’s more than one South African “Bridget Hugo” in Brixton. Her passion and generosity were tangible. I was offered a chunk of amazing nougat to make amends for the lack of soup. I raved about their sausages – proclaiming them to be the best I have ever have. They were horrified that I had roasted my sausage rather than poached it like I should have!
And then Guiseppe Mascoli arrived wielding a pepperoni pizza from Franco Manca and very kindly handed me a slice. I could have stayed there all afternoon, chatting and eating gorgeous freebies. But I had my pasta and sauce to attend to.
My penne pasta with tomato sauce could not have been more simple or more perfect. I found myself drinking the left over cold, sauce straight from the container. Seriously good. Would make a perfect Bloody Mary.
It seems that Wild Caper has already caused quite a stir - on Urban Path there is a 5 page thread debating the merits and downsides of Wild Caper. In fact some of it is pretty heated. I won't even attempt to paraphrase it here - just read the banter for yourself! It cuts to the very core of Brixton's yuppification. One of the main criticisms is Wild Caper's high prices - but I happen to think that it is very good value when you consider the quality of the produce. It's best I've found in Brixton so far.
Thank you Giuseppe Mascoli and Bridget Hugo. I can’t wait to see how Wild Caper evolves and to see what you pull out of your hat next.