Everything’s changing. I realise, having only made the move from Bradford to Brixton four years ago, that I don’t have full rights to comment on the long-term evolution those born here are seeing and that’s certainly not my intention. But even in the short space of time I’ve lived here, the amount of new is staggering and I struggle to keep up.
I loved Brixton circa 2012 and, with all that’s going on around, have found myself trying to relive it of late. So, I spent Friday night at Etta’s Seafood Kitchen in the heart of Brixton Village.
Etta’s has recently undergone a bit of a make-over which has really brightened the place up. The investment has made it much more inviting and there are noticeably more butts on seats.
We chose to sit on one of the tables ‘outside’ which double capacity to around 30, at a guess. The vibe was great and only enhanced by the DJ next door at The Joint and the booming welcome from Etta herself. Her smile is catching.
The menu too has undergone a facelift since the last time I checked in. One thing Etta really nails is the pricing with most of the mains, bar the specials, coming in under a tenner. As the name would suggest, it’s pretty much solely seafood.
Etta’s is no longer bring-your-own-booze and we decided it would be rude not to try the rum punch that was on offer. In fact, it was a bit sweet for me and so I reverted back to the decent sauvignon blanc from their wine list. If you are a beer drinker, you’re looking at a can of Red Stripe.
The kitchen is at the back of the unit and whilst I think it’s bigger than it used to be, it’s still pretty compact. Amazingly, though, the starters turned up quickly. A purist plate of golden calamari is a great sight to behold and happily, Etta’s has been perfectly cooked and left well alone. Crispy, crumbly and seasoned, with a seriously-chilli mayo on the side for dunking left a smile on my face.
Salmon ceviche was a surprise menu listing that inches away from the mainly-Caribbean take on seafood. Chunks of soft and citrous salmon, mixed with onions and peppers and seasoned with a soy dressing are accompanied by avocado and coriander to produce the perfect, light starter.
The main menu is a line up of huge catches of seafood cooked in different ways. You can also order a whole sea bass or lobster, and there’s a scallop salad if you’re on a diet.
The spaghetti frutti di mare arrived tumbling with a generous helping of mussels, prawns and squid which made up for the slight lack of seasoning in the tomato sauce. Thankfully, salt was on hand.
There was one dish I’d been really looking forward to having heard and read so much about it. The Caribbean-inspired fish soup is, I’m sure, one of the reasons Etta’s has stood the test of time. The delicate broth is infused with herbs and spices with a hot pepper kick. It’s not one of those hearty, smokey soups. It’s more nourishing than that – think bone broth or a really good minestrone, but more exotic. And it’s got a serious amount of soft, flakey chunks of white fish, mussels and prawns to boot. My only disappointment was that my bowl didn’t have any of the advertised cockles swimming around in it. Maybe next time.
Our total bill came to just over £40 without service charge automatically added which, by the by, I would have happily paid for such friendly and warm smiles. Long live Etta’s!
Let me know what your favourite Brixton stalwart is on Twitter or Instagram @feedingnikki and I’ll try head there for next month’s review.