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Wednesday 21 August 2013

London Restaurant Reviews - Courtesan

Courtesan – Brixton’s new den of iniquity?

Words & Photography by Simeen Kadi

Where: 69 Atlantic Road, Brixton SW9 8PU http://thecourtesan.co.uk/

About: The Courtesan is a new(ish) bar and restaurant in Brixton where the walls drip with the tears of a courtesan undone and the dim lighting adds to the louche allure. 'Who is free and who captivates?' asks the menu as, indeed, I was captivated by the dim sum and cocktails and found it difficult to prise myself away.

While the decor evokes opium dens of a romanticised Orient, the real attraction here is the dim sum. The cocktails aren't too shabby, either. Owner Hammant Patel Villa has brought together a crack team of dim sum ninjas, alumni of Hakkasan and Royal China, to deliver a dim sum menu that reassures with beautifully executed classics and excites with creative cultural fusions.

What we drank: There is a large selection of exquisite teas but the cocktails are not to be missed. Treacherous Heart was a heady blend of plum wine, Martell, red bean and chili - not for the faint hearted. More delicate but still packing a punch are the cocktails named after the legendary courtesans considered the four great beauties of China - at once sweet and seductive. Xi Shi, named for a woman once considered so beautiful that 'fish forgot to swim', blended Havana 7 year old with Prosecco, Dry Ancienne Curacao and Chrysanthemum honey while the less ethereal Courtier brought together Lapsang Souchong, aged Glenlivet and Laphroig whiskies with Fig liqueur and chili.

What we ate: The menu here is dim sum ranging from the classics to more innovative and creative flourishes such as the Jerk Chicken Parcel in Rice - a genius blend of flavours and a well-judged nod to the restaurant's environs.

Szechuan Style Ribs were slow-cooked and yielding with a crunchy and fiery coating - these are now officially my favourite ribs.

The classics were created with an assured hand and were as good as some of the best in London - Char Siu Buns were filled with an unctuous honey barbecued pork, Soft and chewy Cheung Fun was given an extra dimension with the addition of a crispy layer of beancurd. King Prawn Dumplings were plumply filled with fine, translucent casings but had the added zing of wasabi which worked very well.

Baked dim sum included a Duck Puff which is unusual as most baked puffs contain pork. This one was a buttery and light puff pastry around dense and peppery slow-roasted duck.

Crocodile Bites were commendably cooked but lacked the umami punch or the intoxicating spice of the other dim sum.

Likes: The dim sum is excellent and the cocktails will make you stay longer than you planned. The late licence is another reason to stick around.

Dislikes: Alas, Brixton is a bit of a schlep for me so, sadly, I won't be going as often as I would like.

Verdict: A great addition to the burgeoning Brixton scene and a dimly lit den of seduction - a good alternative to the bright lights of the excellent eateries in nearby Brixton Village.


  1. Great album, thanks for the review. www.rhiacharlescourtesan.****

  2. This place is on my to do list and keen to go even more after your review! Fortunately Brixton is actually convenient for me!

  3. I notice,unlike in other restaurant reviews,you do not any prices of dishes for the Courtesan???I had a look at the menu and thought the prices were prohibitive !!!


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