Despite Brixton’s position as one of the capital’s culinary hotspots, it is fair to say that there has been a lack of choice in terms of quality pubs and bars outside the market movement. Coldharbour Lane has recently seen the opening of Market House, which surely hopes to occupy this space.
Split over two floors, Market House is billed as a bar, diner and music hall with a speakeasy vibe; which perhaps is to say that it isn’t really sure what it is. To most, it would be a modern pub with a late licence. Having said that, its modern refurbishment will appeal to many, with modern branding on the outside, and soft furnishings and jazzy wallpapers brightening up the interior. It’s safe to say Market House is jumping the gun with its ‘speakeasy’ labelling, but the décor definitely has a sophisticated touch that works well for late night boozing.
On a Thursday evening, as the bars and restaurants of nearby Market Row are buzzing, the atmosphere in Market House is somewhat downbeat, with only a handful of customers dotted around. This is to be expected with Thursday to Saturday being nearby Market Row and Brixton Village’s main late nights. That said, the atmosphere is pleasant, the service is helpful and as the site has had a number of uses over the years it may just take a little time to bed in and let the locals know it’s here. Bear in mind that Market House stays open until 4am at weekends, hosting live music and DJs in its upstairs music hall, so it may not be in full swing until after dinner hours.
The kitchen pass is open, which serves as temptation for those who maybe didn’t plan to eat. Ingredients are locally sourced from Brixton Market, dishes are well priced and portioned and, most importantly, they are damn tasty, too. Starters can be ordered as a sharing platter, which at three for £10 makes for a good low cost option. The whitebait add a nice crunch and lemon aioli is the right balance between lemon and garlic, but chicken wings may leave you wishing you ordered more.
The seriously good steak sandwich (£9) doesn’t disappoint, with its tender steak, rocket, oven-roasted red onion and cherry tomatoes. Chips are included, served thin and skin-on; so often the letdown of this kind of dish, they are well worth a look just as a snack (£2.50 with dipping sauce).The Market House burger (£8) also meets the mark, again on both price and quality. Brioche bun, organic beef patty, tomato, lettuce and those tasty skin-on chips make up a classic burger, which can be pimped up with extras - cheese, bacon and gherkins. Pleasingly, there are plenty of vegetarian options on the menu, with mains including spinach and ricotta spanakopia (£8) and roast veg and goats cheese tart (£7).
Market House’s wine list is well put together and reasonably priced by the glass (starting at £4) or by the bottle (starting at £14). Everyone will be happy with a wine list that champions taste rather than whether it’s red, white or rose. Prosecco, again by the glass or bottle (£4.50 / £24), adds a bit of well priced sparkle to proceedings. Beer lovers will be pleased with a reasonable selection on draught and bottled beer options, including Greenwich’s Meantime. Cocktails are a bargain before 11pm at £5 for classic Mojitos, Margaritas, Martinis and more. The Bloody Mary is perfect for those who like a bit of kick but it may be best to say if you’re a touch sensitive, to allow your bartender to bring the heat down a notch.
The Last Word
The Market House may not have the edginess of some of its neighbours, but all the same, it delivers something that should serve Brixton well both day and night, seven days a week, which can’t be said of neighbouring Market and Village venues with limited opening times.