The Brick Box, Brixton
41 Granville Arcade
020 7274 2211
by Egg Miliband
Brixton Village on a Sunday morning smells of stale fish, corrugated iron and puddles. The Brick Box café is a golden door in the desolation. There’s no one around except for a toddler fleeing from his father and a man hammering nails into a broken drawer outside the café.
A hoodie-wearing waitress waves us in with laminated menus. It’s snug inside. There are floral tablecloths and ghoulish, childlike paintings on the walls and wine on the shelves. The Spanish-speaking staff seem amiably hungover.
Why are we here? For the crepes. Or perhaps the galettes, which employ the same freeform ‘envelope’ system as the crepe but with buckwheat rather than white flour. Feeling rustic, I order one named ‘The Goat’. Ivan, a traditionalist, known to eat crumpets soaked in golden syrup while marching around his house, orders a crepe named ‘The Godfather’.
When the waitress brings our breakfast drinks, she sings their names. ‘English Breakfast Tea with soymilk! Americano with normal milk on the side!’
A man of few words, Ivan suddenly has a faraway look in his eyes. ‘This coffee tastes like… the Camino,’ he murmurs. He walked the trail once, El Camino de Santiago. When Ivan does speak, it’s often about those days, when he was a pilgrim.
My galette is a rhombus-shaped cushion, spilling out over the plate’s edge. Slicing it open reveals a fulsomeness of melting goat’s cheese, spinach, olives, and sundried and cherry tomatoes. It’s difficult to eat the thing with poise, and I disgrace myself by shovelling in overly large mouthfuls and then accidentally exploding a cherry tomato on my fork, spattering my trousers.
Ivan’s crepe – with pepperoni sausage, mixed herbs, and ‘cheese blend’, an ingredient that appears in 80% of the menu items – is crowned with a triumphant fried egg. A rare look of delight flickers across Ivan’s face. He is known to eat like a duck – gulping, not chewing – and when I look up on my third mouthful, his plate is eerily clean and he is gazing over the brim of his coffee mug once more.
The main thing, we agree, is that the food is terrific. In fact, I’d never known that breakfast could be this good. All the mediocre breakfasts of my past suddenly weigh on me.
The galette is so beautiful that I eat the lettuce on the side.
When the waitress collects our plates, still singing, a knife slides off my plate and falls to the floor. ‘Sometimes,’ the waitress whispers, ‘it seems like the cutlery is alive.’ I’m disturbed by this notion, but we all laugh as if this wasn’t a very real possibility.