Interviews

“Eat fish, that brain food will get you smart” : we pay a visit to Chip Shop BXTN



“Eat fish/that brain food will get you smart”
Food – Ghostface & BADBADNOTGOOD

Words: Oscar Burton Xi
Photography: Joshua MacPherson

You know those shows that feature an over eager DJ dropping the first 20 seconds of Juicy, mixing through to the first 20 seconds of C.R.E.A.M and following it up with the first 20 seconds of Mass Appeal? We all know that feeling. It’s great, it’s classic, but it’s cheap. That’s what I expected Chip Shop BXTN to be when I first heard about it. A glorified hip-hop rip off where all the chips are ‘loaded’ with repetitive audiocheese. I’m pretty happy to say, that’s not at all what Chip Shop is.

Chip Shop is the second hospitality-focussed endeavour of Michael Lythgoe, a Liverpudlian born gent who settled in Brixton two decades ago. He spent several years in France training his hospitality bones both in back and front of house. Michael says that the concept of this new venture is simple, to “bring good food and good music together under one roof, in nice surroundings. Strictly old school hip-hop and good feelings.”

Along with Cidalia Rogrigues, his firey partner and girlfriend he set up the meat focussed Brixton Village Grill which has been going strong for five years. Michael feels pretty comfortable in Brixton, explaining that with its rich musical history, strong community feeling and new influx of openings, it was the perfect place to open Chip Shop. “I found it very similar to Liverpool in the sense that there’s a real community feeling which is missing a lot in London. I’ve lived all over [London] and its always just strangers inhabiting the same space. I’ve seen all the changes here in the past decade but it hasn’t lost its vibe.”

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Cid is from Portugal, and takes point when it comes to setting the menu. “She’s been cooking since she was old enough to hold a knife” laughs Michael. It’s unsurprising than, that the Portuguese outlook runs deep in the chemistry of chip shop’s style. There’s a certain school of cooking which holds that the more stress you put a piece of meat through, the more you mess with a vegetable, the more you strain a sauce, the better the food is. Nothing illustrates how pointless this is than the Portuguese approach to cooking. The produce is treated with the respect that it deserves to really bring out the true flavour. Despite being a staple of the stereotype English diet, battered fish actually came to us by way of Portugal, and these guys do it right. Portions are big and the plating is no nonsense.

I’m there on a hazy Sunday and it’s an all smooth Tribe kind of feel, with lashings of g-funk and jazzy original sample tracks.

Classic parings on the menu do not disappoint. A starter of scallops with chorizo and samphire is exactly that, and comes together beautifully. It’s not reinventing the wheel, and its glorious because of that. The house made birds eye chilli sauce is not something you should pass on if you like heat. It’s a family recipe of Cid’s from Mozambique and has a warming spice to it tempered with a strong citrus tang that cuts through the burn. If they bottled it, Nandos would fold in a day.

The mindset of simplicity above all also translates to the bar. There’s one beer on tap, crisp Sagres which really hits the spot with the food and isn’t unfriendly at all after five pints. You can also grab a sangria on tap, which seems like a novelty but really shouldn’t be, its surprisingly bloody lovely.

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The place blends elements of a classic chippie with those of a gourmet fish restaurant. Featuring cheeky classics like proper curry sauce and house made pies, you can also go to munch on whole lobster and steamed mussels. There’s a takeaway hatch too for cod and chips on the go. All their fish is supplied by Southbank Fish, based just around the corner in New Cross and is delivered daily, yup, even on a Sunday. Nothing comes in frozen.

The playlist is seriously impressive, definitely not a hatchet job compiled by searching hip-hop on Spotify but truly crafted by someone that knows their history. I’m there on a hazy Sunday and it’s an all smooth Tribe kind of feel, with lashings of g-funk and jazzy original sample tracks. The playlists are tailored to the feel of the day. “From Tuesday we work our way up to the weekend and its gets livelier it gets louder. By the time it’s 10 o’clock on a Friday you gotta shout to hear yourself! Everyone’s eating with their heads bopping”. The sound system is tight with a decent bass which does the music justice. Michael is also pretty up on his French and UK hip-hop, still keeping with that 90s feel, so don’t be surprised to hear the likes of MC Solar and Rodney P alongside Pete Rock and Big L.

The interior of the place is completely on trend, but not in an overly gaudy way. Exposed brick, sand blasted scaffolding planks and that popular industrial feel. Alongside posters of classic album covers and portraits of the golden age greats there are graffed quotables which, although kind of obvious, make me feel strangely at home. The service is casual but attentive, and very social. Joe who works the bar has just moved down from Birmingham and makes trap music. Beto, the head chef stands in the pass window watching the floor with a frown but cracks the warmest smile if you go for a chat.

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It’s inevitable that questions of gentrification are being raised at any new opening in Brixton, and Michael is pretty aware of these issues. “I guess it’s inevitable, but it’s really down to the local boroughs to move with responsibility, to look after the local people, to not alienate them and keep a balance in the area. If Brixton isnt happy about something they will stand up and make themselves heard, more so than other areas really. They’ll take a stand on it, and I think the local authorities are aware of that and I think they’re making the effort to keep to that.”

Alongside getting Chip Shop running as tight as can be on the food front, Michael wants to start running laid back intimate events there; small DJ sets, Q&A sessions and other community minded happenings. Just a few nights after I went in for a chat, rapper Kyntro (undeniably one to watch out for this year) filmed a music video there. “The sky’s the limit really” explains Michael. “I’m looking to do as much as possible without going cheesy with it, just keeping it as real as possible.”

Chip Shop BXTN is located at 378 Coldharbour Lane, SW9 8LF. Opening Times are 11.30am – 2.30pm and 6-11pm on Tuesday to Thursday and 11am – 11pm on Friday to Sunday.

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