The theme of food as medicine goes back as far as Hippocrates, but Brixton locals Chris Edwards and Dave Treganza have decided to take it to a new level with the recent opening of First Aid Box on Herne Hill – and the results are quite astonishing.
The new all day café and cocktail bar serves up all the 'nutrient-rich' beverages your doctor would recommend. Don’t mistake First Aid Box’s cocktails for your average grog, though – when it comes to innovation the owners’ culinary experiments match those of a high-end chemist (but with far more palatable results).
Those with a soft spot for cucumber ought to sample the Cucumber Sherbet Fountain, a luxurious blend of fresh cucumber, French Grey Goose vodka and poire, served in a long-necked bottle and topped with a lime and cucumber sorbet – and a few cardamom droplets. Worth sampling too, is the "Brockwell Park Bramble" (served with an accompanying syringe of Chambord) or the "Ranunculus Sour", which comes with its very own pill bottle of Prosecco – it's quirky but avoids being gimmicky, and the fun presentation never feels at the expense of the flavours.
But the real triumph is in First Aid Box's food. Chef Joe Knowlden – who spends his time darting back and forth from his kitchen at the illustrious Shrub & Shutter, his first solo venture after working at the Clove Club – brings his expertise to the kitchen, and the results are near perfection.
The starter of smoked wild sea trout served up with sharp goat's curd, smoked tomato and crisp rye is stunning: all the ingredients are carefully and where possible, locally sourced, and their organic label is more than reflected in the flavour. A rich, finely chopped steak tartare topped with a "62" quail's egg" adds another level to the well crafted selection of starters: it's marinated delicately in garlic and onions to complement, but not overpower, the flavour of the beef.
The menu changes regularly, based on what's available – if the wild Cornish seabass is on offer we'd highly recommend it: served on a bed of olive oil mashed potato, in an unusual, rich Ajo blanco sauce – a "white gazpacho" made from raw garlic, almonds, bread, olive oil, sherry and vinegar. Accompanied by wild baby spinach, the fish is rich, meaty and falls apart under the fork – rarely does seabass get better than this.
The menu also offers a profusion of locally sourced cheese, charcuterie, fish and vegetables for you to soak up the medicine with. Crudo, ceviche, carpaccios and terrine all make appearances in addition to the apothecary's potable delights.
Larger than a first aid box but not quite the size of a private hospital, the cocktail bar is walk-in only, and limited to four people per party. The vibe is intimate, the service friendly, the lighting atmospherically dim, and most importantly, the offerings are delicious without exception. Don't be a hypochondriac – head down to First Aid Box: it's just what the doctor ordered, we promise.
|What||First Aid Box restaurant review|
|Where||First Aid Box , 119 Dulwich Rd, Herne Hill , London, SE24 0NG | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Brixton (underground)|
01 Dec 15 – 01 Dec 16, 9am - 11pm Tuesday - Thursday; 9am - 12am Friday & Saturday; 9am - 5pm Sunday
|Website||Click here to go to First Aid Box's website|