It is impossible to talk about what might represent the best restaurants in Brixton without talking about displacement. In the year 2022, it is possible for a guy on TikTok to make a glossy highlight reel of samey restaurants that entirely omits the Black and Afro-Caribbean food cultures upon which the area’s new “restaurant scene” first violently laid its foundations.
Mr “Come with me to Brixton” probably shouldn’t have taken all that flak; a TikTok is a symptom of a wider, deliberate malaise. In an area in which the Windrush generation weaved its cultural fabric since the 1950s, aggressive policing, poor provision of housing and amenities, and resultant local anger that brought riots in the 1980s and 1990s has given way to talk of “regeneration” — once wealthy, middle-class White British people moved in. Since at least 2009, the influx of then cheap, then fashionable burger places, wine bars, and the like has brought capital both cultural and fiscal to the area, inviting landlords to raise rents and price out local businesses.
Honest Burger and Franco Manca, both now established brands with considerable financial clout and private equity backing, started in Brixton in the late 2000s — Franco Manca was a rebrand of a pizzeria that had been there since the 1980s. Black-owned businesses in the area have not been afforded comparable opportunities for growth and development, though Brixton Village’s championing of Adejoké Bakare’s Chishuru was a small counterpoint before it closed in 2022. The eviction of local delis, fishmongers, and grocers on Atlantic Road by Lambeth Council and Network Rail in 2016 is long in the local memory, and Hondo Enterprises, which pulls the strings at Brixton Village, has repeatedly and aggressively attempted to nudge out stalwarts like Nour Cash and Carry.
Brixton is far from the only area to fall victim to the milquetoast culinary homogenisation that happens when landlords become tastemakers, but it shares a deep, slow-then-fast, uncanny agony of displacement with Peckham, areas now dominated by and reshaped to cater to people who would have resisted setting foot just two or three short decades ago. So while it is now rightly acclaimed for a great culinary plurality, it bears repeating that what had to be vanquished for it to become this way was once a bedrock of its own.Read More