Brixton’s Feminist Dim Sum, Cocktail and Live Entertainment Venue Relaunches
Courtesan– a dim sum restaurant, tea room, cocktail bar and subterranean late-night live entertainment space has relaunched this September after extensive refurbishment and we have been invited to review.With re-styled interiors and exteriors, a new food menu, and an all-female produced drinks list, Courtesan channels the legendary clubs of 1920s Shanghai creating a world that combines the exoticism and rituals of ancient China with prints of Chinese erotica, red velvet cushions and cabaret-style table and chairs.Cocktails are around the £9 mark and use Asian ingredients such as Lapsang Souchong Tea, Poppy Liqueur and Jasmine Tea. We tried the Opium, a fragrant and refreshing blend of Poppy Liqueur, Alchermes -the Italian spirit with nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla notes, Gauthier Cognac, Lapsang Souchong Tea and Beetroot powder. My favourite was the Courtier – a grown-up drink again featuring Lapsang Souchong tea, Naked Grouse Whisky, Famous Grouse Smoky black, Chilli and Fig Liqueur. If you enjoy a Boulevardier this would be your drink with its light smokiness a hint of sweetness from the fig, and the mild bite of chilli.
Dim Sum means ‘to touch the heart’ and was originally a series of small bite-size dishes produced for the Royal Courts in China. The great Chinese families were represented at court by ladies known as courtesans who were a far cry from the high-class hookers of later years. In honour of this tradition, there is an all-female chef team at Courtesan led by experienced dim sum chef Feng Juan Xue. The menu at Courtesan features Dim Sum, Noodle Dishes, Rice Dishes and Bao Buns with an emphasis on MSG and preservative-free ingredients, whilst providing extensive vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. What really excites me about the menu is its Gujarati, Italian and West Indian influences which on the face of it are not obvious fusions with Dim Sum; but on meeting the charming and passionate half Gujarati-half Italian owner who grew up in Brixton it all starts to make sense. But how will it taste on the plate?
To accompany the food we drank a lovely full-bodied Soave Classico alongside a lighter Pinot Grigio from the groundbreaking gendered wine list. Our first dish was a classic King Prawn with Beancurd Cheung Fun with a wonderfully slippery texture and a hint of crunch.Next up was a platter of crisp deep fried seabass with a moreish sweet wasabi sauce. The batter was perfect, hot and dry and the plateful was soon gobbled up.
Open seven days a week, from lunchtime until late, Courtesan is the perfect destination for Brixton locals and is worth a detour as it offers something quite unique delivered to a very high standard at a decent price.
69-73 Atlantic Road, Brixton SW9 8PU