Smoke & Salt brunch review: Can leeks be the new millennial food?
Ibrahim Salha finds a tiny spot in Brixton that’s reinvented the wheel, well in brunch terms, and uses the largely overlooked vegetable
If certain people are to be believed, millennials are spending all of their money on avocados instead of saving up to buy a house. Clearly that’s nonsense, but it makes you think: just how many avocados are millennials actually eating? Enough to cause deforestation and illness in Mexico’s local population, for a start, which is one of the reasons Smoke & Salt has chosen to eschew them. Instead, the owners of the restaurant have come up with ‘Guacaleeky toast’ (£7.50) – using leeks instead of avocado to brilliant effect.
That’s probably the standout dish on the new brunch menu of this Brixton restaurant (served weekends 11am-3pm), which prides itself on “modern dining made with ancient techniques”. They’re all about curing, preserving and – as the name suggests – smoking.
Even when they’re not smoking, like on the grilled bread that the ‘guacaleek’ sits on top of, you still get the flavour of something that’s seen fire. The smashed leek itself is gorgeous; it’s beautifully fresh tasting, from the peppers and lime juice, and incredibly satisfying to eat – the truest test of a brunch dish. The texture is the only thing that throws you off, as it’s more like hummus than avocado toast (in part due to the tahini), but it’s a memorable version of a hackneyed brunch option. The only trouble is, it’s so good that millennials will now spend all of their money on leeks instead of saving up for a house.
The other dishes offered on the short menu are no less impressive. The steak and eggs (£14) – from the more expensive half of the menu – is a bavette cooked beautifully rare alongside crispy new potatoes and a chimichurri that ties it all together. The fried eggs and sriracha cheese sauce are what tips this dish over the richness scale, and they even feel somewhat unnecessary. Would this dish be equally good without? For me, yes, but that also defeats the purpose of steak and eggs.
It feels like the eggs are what makes this a brunch dish rather than anything else. Eggs also feature alongside the trout, this time poached to better effect. They complement the smoked ricotta (both made and smoked in the tiny container restaurant, apparently) and grilled broccoli that sit on the plate. A great, lighter option.
The size of the restaurant and the quality of the cooking don’t really equate, at first glance. It feels like this is the first step towards something greater – perhaps finding their feet and experimenting with the menu and techniques until they find a permanent home outside of the containers of Pop Brixton, like Kricket, which was previously in this location and now has two permanent restaurants, with a third opening soon. That would be a slight shame, as the experimentation is what makes it such an interesting place to eat, but you wouldn’t bemoan them spreading their wings and smoking in a bigger location, as this level of cooking deserves a larger audience.
Smoke & Salt; Pop Brixton, 49 Brixton Station Rd, London SW9 8PQ; 07421 327556; smokeandsalt.com; open daily
Smoke & Salt guacaleeky
100g leek, chopped
35g Greek yoghurt
½ green chilli
Large pinch of salt
1 clove garlic
½ onion, diced finely
½ red pepper, diced finely
20g lime juice (1 x large lime)
A small bunch of coriander leaves
Put a pot of water on the stove on a high heat and leave to boil. Blanch the chopped leeks in water for around a minute to soften and then transfer into a cold bowl of water to chill. (Cheat: place the chopped leeks in a microwaveable bowl and cover with cling film, then microwave on a high heat for one minute until softened.)
With a blender or food processor, blitz the chopped leeks, yoghurt, tahini, salt, chilli and garlic until you have reached a consistency that resembles guacamole. Stir in the diced onion, diced red pepper and lime juice, and fold in the chopped coriander leaves. Adjust levels of chilli and season to taste.
Toast the bread and then spoon on the guacaleeky generously. Garnish with fresh coriander and drizzle rapeseed or olive oil over the top.