Demi Perera pays a visit to the rebooted Courtesan in Brixton.
When you live in a city as diverse as London you soon learn that there is a list of pulsating, uber cool, queues out of the door, “you’re not on the list” venues that simmer just below the surface. They give this city its edge. BUT you have to be in the know.
Brixton’s Courtesan is one such gem. Owned by Brixton born and raised Hammant Patel Villa (take that gentrification!) this five year old venue is bigger and better than ever. Step off Atlantic Road and step into the lush interiors of Courtesan and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve been beamed back to a well seasoned opium den on the Silk Route (not that I’ve been to one).
Wines and Cocktails
Courtesan boasts an impressive wine and spirits list. All the reds, whites, Champagnes and Proseccos featured are only wines made by women, highlighting the increasing importance of women in the industry. Each has either been crafted by a female winemaker or made by a female owned winery. They feel wholly appropriate for an establishment trying to connect empowered women of the 21st century to courtesans of a by-gone era.
The cocktail list is equally impressive. My favourite was the “Wang Zhaoujun” made of violet liqueur, jasmine tea, Greenals gin and Finlandia Vodka. Yes, it tasted as good as it sounds and smelt even better.
As if the all female wine list wasn’t enough to impress, the kitchen is headed by chef Fengjuan Xue who belongs to that rare breed of female dim sum chefs. The entire kitchen is an all female arena.
The Szechuan style ribs alone were worth making my way across London to get here. They were crunchy, fiery and just the right size. The pork bun was a delight which melted in the mouth. The vegetarian option of pumpkin bun was a first for me and I loved it.
Baked dim sum filled with duck, pork and mushrooms were light and buttery. I could have eaten an entire plateful if I had been allowed to. Similarly, tempura battered frogs legs and fish were light and crisp. Everything was delicious and I wouldn’t hesitate to take my nearest and dearest here for sharing such wonderful food.
With a secret underground room and two late night bars Courtesan offers an eclectic mix of entertainment. You can frequent the venue until 2am on week nights and enjoy burlesque artists such as Vicky Butterfly, Suri Sumatra, live DJs or a vintage jazz band. I was lucky enough to catch Vicky Butterfly on my visit and she was incredible! So it appears that South London has an independent big hitter on it’s hands. Visit, eat, drink and enjoy!
Courtesan is located at 69-73 Atlantic Road, SW9 8PU. Find out more at thecourtesan.co.uk.