The Courtesan on Brixton’s Atlantic Road was always a funny little spot. I’d been a few times and had always experienced slightly odd, erratic service, and a strange atmosphere, probably because every time I went it was virtually empty.
The food however, was something else. Beautiful dim sum, perfectly crunchy veggies with chilli and the best wonton soup in the land.
The cocktails were good, if a little expensive compared to the food, and all in all it was a great choice for dinner in Brixton Ã¢â‚¬â€œ this was before Pop Brixton opened with the likes of Donostia Social Club and Duck Duck Goose but still, it was no mean feat what with the volume and quality of restaurants on offer in the area.
The Courtesan reopened in September after a refurb – it still serves beautiful dim sum and cocktails but is now also a tea room and underground entertainment space.
The restaurant and bar, peppered with neon lights and bright red graphics, is soon to be furnished with jade velvet booths and large silk lanterns, and will feature vintage Chinese artefacts throughout. Prints of Chinese erotica hangs on the walls, while red velvet cushions and pouffe seats sit alongside the cabaret style table and chairs.
We popped along to sample their new wine and spirit list, which is exclusively populated by drinks produced or owned by women, in honour of the legendary courtesans of ancient China, and the history and tradition of the stories that they told.
The food is still great, with glossy Szechuan ribs, crispy seabass and dumplings bursting with scallop and shrimp, wasabi king prawns and soft, sweet crab. Pumknin bao buns were appropriately fluffy and soft, with the orange filling complimented by turmeric and other spices.
Cocktails are heady and exotic, and draw from Asian ingredients such as lapsang souchong tea, poppy liqueur, jasmine tea and beetroot powder.
We kicked off with the Courtesan, a combination of Blossom’s sour cherry syrup, Briottet cherry liqueur, Square One vodka and a splash of Prosecco Ã¢â‚¬â€œ very fruity and easy to drink, so remember that a couple may well get you more tipsy than intended (so I hear).
The drinks feel decadent and unusual, and they’ve definitely managed to do something a little different with the recipes. The glassware and colours of the cocktails feel vintage, as if you’ve stumbled across something a little special. It’s special for Atlantic Road anyway.
In addition to its lovely food and drink offering, I’m really keen to go back and have a look at the new entertainment space. We hear the venue will be presenting a wide array of shows throughout the week with special’Courtesan Lates’ shows on Friday and Saturdays.
Appropriately enough for the theme, the bar will host burlesque and cabaret acts, live jazz music, DJs, parties and west end performers, making it a great all-round spot for Brixton.
In the days of huge chains popping up on every corner, I really do hope the fun, independent, quirky Courtesan will bring in the crowds.
69-73 Atlantic Road, Brixton SW9 8PU