A Brixton Village old timer, El Rancho de Lalo serves up mountains of classic Colombian fare in a friendly and authentic atmosphere. Whilst other Brixton village eateries may be trendier, or create more of a stir, El Rancho is steadily pleasing its customers with its laid back and no fuss approach.
El Rancho de Lalo can be spotted by its distinctive frontage of white walls, dark wooden panelling and a fake tiled roof. The haphazard but charming exterior works to create the appearance of a traditional Colombian café that could well be high up in the Andes (a bit of imagination may be required here). Inside the no frills, traditional touches continue with an open kitchen staffed by what could be the happiest chefs in south London, working amongst hanging meat (the meat theme will continue unabated throughout), Colombian knick-knacks, vibrant paintings and small tables bunched closely together. Like all Brixton Village eateries, the room is small, cosy and has its own character; in this case traditional, friendly and honest.
The air of authenticity is further augmented by the clientèle, reassuringly made up of diners whom appear to Colombian - or at the very least, south American. Whilst many other Brixton Village ventures feel like they are frequented mainly by food bloggers or people queuing for the 'next big thing', El Rancho's clientèle don't seem interested in any of that – they are here for good, hearty, filling Colombian grub. This isn't the spot if you want glamorous surroundings, refinement, or to impress a date (the food coma wouldn't help any kind of romance) but if you want no frills, satisfying eating at a great price, then you'll be happy to join the diners sitting happily hunched over platter-sized plates. Diners are of all ages, with children welcomed with open arms, fed sweets and showered with hugs on their departure. All in all the atmosphere is just as you would expect of a south American restaurant, so expect passionate service, loud conversation, lots of laughter and rich, hearty food consumed with gusto.
The no-frills feeling continues through to the food served; El Rancho de Lalo is all about strong flavours, absolutely humongous portions and food so comforting and filling you may be need to be stretchered out. The menu is extensive and all about the meat. The bandeja Paisa, the Colombian national dish, is so filling you wont need starters (or to eat again for at least 12 hours). For just £9 you are served fried pork belly, Colombian sausage, steak, fried egg, plantain, smoky kidney beans, corn bread, avocado, rice and salad. There is so much food here it could easily be shared and will leave you wondering how they make a profit. However this is not a case of cheap cuts of gristle, devoid of flavour, the food delivers on taste too. The pork belly is the stand out – crispy, perfect crackling splinters away to reveal tender, deep pork meat, and is complemented perfectly by the smoky kidney bean stew. This is the ultimate in comfort food - so comforting, in fact, you'll be in something approaching a meat coma for the rest of the day. Desserts are available but unless you are undertaking some kind of Man vs. Food challenge they wont appeal.
There are Colombian soft drinks, and fresh fruit juices will help to cut through the rich meat and refresh your palate to help you try and finish your feast.
The Last Word
As Brixton Village becomes ever more trendy, El Rancho de Lalo remains steady and dependable. Serving its loyal and happy customers tasty, comforting, traditional Colombian food that will satisfy even the largest of appetites, all for a price that wouldn't get you a sausage in other parts of town.