Phoenix Restaurant, Brixton
441 Coldharbour Lane
020 7733 4430
by Malcolm Eggs
Discuss breakfast with a Brixtonian and they'll mention the Phoenix. Wedged just off the corner of the pumped-up jugular that is Coldharbour Lane, it's not merely "the Phoenix" - it goes deeper than that: to regulars it's the very meaning of 'greasy spoon', the Platonic form of bacon and eggs. The no-frills wooden tables and laminate walls have attracted the endorsement of Classic Cafes, while the white toast would have a place on the 'breadstuffs' shelf in the Brixton Folk Legend Library, were such a library and such a shelf to exist.
With all this in mind, I really wanted to love it for just being there, just standing firm for everything such places stand for. The tea was perfect tan, and the staff were full of Devil-may-care South-of-the-river charisma, this morning discussing the finer points of domestic violence intervention with a couple of shady local entrepreneurs. An old man perused the Telegraph over two egg on toast, and a younger man, wide-eyed, eavesdropped on it all openly, the rain outside generously emphasising the cosy interior.
But when my All-Day Breakfast Special (£4.50) arrived, I could not love it, I could only like it. The egg, beans and bubble had read their job descriptions and fulfilled them to, if not beyond, the letter. The sausage was respectable, if only 2nd Division. The toast had indeed hit on some long-forgotten ratio of grilled-bread to butter, giving it a special alchemy of toasty tastiness. But I had asked for my bacon to be crispy and yet there it lurked, beneath the beans: a murky underbelly, one side heated, the other palest pink. I know it's traditional to take your bacon soft. But then boiled pig's head is traditional, and I don't like that either.