Discover the story of one of London’s lost rivers, which has been driven underground.
For centuries, the River Thames wasn’t the only big expansion of water in the capital, with many rivers and streams flowing in all directions across the capital. Before water was piped around the capital, Londoners relied on their local rivers for washing, fishing… and some other less sanitary activities.
One of these London rivers was the Effra, which is now mostly subterranean. It started life as a tributary of the River Thames, and now runs through south London’s Victorian sewers. There has been much debate of the name ‘Effra’, which is believed to been first associated with the river in the late 18th century/early 19th century. English art critic John Ruskin (1819-1900), who grew up in Herne Hill, suggested the name was “doubtless shortened from Effrena, signifying the unbridled river”. Other suggestions include it originating from the Anglo Saxon word “efer” (translates as “bank”) or from the Celtic term “yfrid” (which means “torrent”). Various 18th century maps label the River as “Brixton Creek”, “The Wash” or “Shore”. Another recent suggestion is Effra is a corrupted word of “Heathrow” – the name of a 70 acre estate located south of Coldharbour Lane in Brixton. In the 1790s, the land belonging to Heathrow Manor was called Effra Farm. It’s been suggested the section running through the Brixton farm was called Effra, before being expanded to include the whole river.
The course of the Effra River and its tributaries ran thorough the centre of south London (don’t take the postcodes of bordering SE and SW neighbourhoods so literally!), through Upper and West Norwood, Brixton, Herne Hill, Dulwich, Vauxhall, and Kennington. There has been much debate whether or not the lake in Belair Park in West Dulwich was made by damning one of the Effra’s tributaries in the 19th century, if so it would be the only part of the River currently visible above ground. However, the lake is just a few minutes walk from the old Croxted Road (formerly Croxted Lane), where the Effra did run through. When the river was open, it had an average width of 12ft and was around 6ft deep.
Over the centuries, the river and its tributaries were diverted. By the 18th century, the Effra was pretty filthy as rivers were commonly used for waste disposal. In the 1840s, the commissioners of Surrey and East Kent Sewers began the process of culverting the Effra. Civil engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette (1819-1891) incorporated what was left of the open Effra into his revolutionary sewer system in the 1860s. Along the way, huge metal stink pipes were erected to safely expel the gases in the sewer. You can still spot the stink pipes dotted around south London, they look like extra tall lampposts with the light missing. While the river is now subterranean, nods to its existence remain in the local streets. For example Brixton is home to Effra Road, Effra Parade and Brixton Water Lane.
Meanwhile, in more recent times, the course of the Effra has been marked by cast iron plaques dotted throughout Lambeth. Design agency Atelier Works teamed up with local artist Faranak to design 14 different illustrations of flowing water for 30cm plaques in 2016. They can be spotted in pavements on various sites along the river’s 6 mile course. The typescript reads: “The hidden River Effra is beneath your feet.” Some of the plaques sightings include outside the Meath Estate on Dulwich Road (Herne Hill), Rosendale Road just south of the junction with the South Circular (West Dulwich), Robson Road (south side opposite No.5/6, West Norwood), the junction of Rattray Road/Mervan Road (Brixton), among others.
For more of Metro Girl’s history posts, click here.
📚 Further reading:
- London’s Lost River. Paul Talling, 2011.
- River Effra: South London’s Secret Spine. Jon Newman, 2016.
- London’s Hidden Rivers: A walker’s guide to the subterranean waterways of London. David Fathers, 2017.
South Pole Saloon @ Brixton Rooftop review: Be naughty AND nice at south London’s festive playground
When it comes to a festive pop-up, the thought of standing outside can dampen even the most Christmassy of spirits. While rooftop venues are all the rage right now, our unpredictable London weather can make them more miss than hit at this time of year. However, summer destination Brixton Rooftop has had a winter makeover, bringing all the fun undercover in a cosy, heated environment. Taking over the rooftop this season is the South Pole Saloon, providing food, booze and entertainment.
I went along to the launch last week and was initially struck by how big it was, and also how cosy and warm it is. The venue has been transformed into a winter wonderland, with fir trees, twinkling lights and tinsel. Upon arrival, you are greeted by rows of picnic seating with the main bar and small stage behind. To the right, was the street food market, private candy caner cabins, themed VIP rooms and the nightclub in the saloon bar. Adding to the festive spirit were gangs of candy caner girls and naughty elves, providing plenty of material for some Christmas Instagram poses.
The three on-site bars offer a wide range of premium draft and bottled beers, typical spirits and the winter warmer cocktail menu. Among the original creations on offer were The Snow Globe (Spiced Bacardi Rum, Ginger Beer, Angostura, Coconut Syrup, topped with Cocoa Powder) and Santa’s Tart (Bacardi 8YO, Cherry Syrup, Cinnamon Syrup and Lime Juice). We were in the mood for mixing it up so tried the delicious Snow Globe, before moving on to Prosecco. Pretty much whatever your tipple is, you’ll be easily catered for.
With all the booze flowing, there’s plenty of opportunities to line your stomachs at the street food market, featuring The Lambassadors, Fancy Funkin Chicken, Vudu Food and Mac To The Future serving up. My friend and I ordered the classic ‘DeLorean’ mac ‘n’ cheese with a side of spinach from Mac To The Future which was absolutely delicious. Fortunately there was plenty of seating around so we grabbed a table with our drinks and grub and were entertained by the brilliant live music on the bar stage. Late night revellers can head to the saloon nightclub for a host of DJs and club nights performing until 2am over the next month, with Cirque Du Soul, The Doctor’s Orders, Applebum, For The Love Of Garage among the hosts.
Overall, it’s a great winter venue that would make a perfect meeting place for Christmas drinks with pals. What’s great about South Pole Saloon is that there will always be something different. The food traders create special dishes every week to follow the weekly food theme, while supper clubs will also be visiting. Among the events taking place will be cheese nights, bottomless brunches, burlesque shows and shared Christmas party nights, which caters for work or friends’ parties. I’ll definitely be heading back for a festive knees-up.
- South Pole Saloon @ Brixton Rooftop. Open from 23 November 2017 – 1 January 2018. Opening Hours: Thur: 5pm-12am, Fri: 5pm-2am, Sat: 4pm-2am. South Pole Saloon @ Brixton Rooftop, Pope’s Road, Brixton, SW9 8JH. Nearest station: Brixton. For more information, visit the Brixton Rooftop website.
As the weather gets warmer and the nights get brighter, there’s not much better places to be in London than a rooftop bar. This summer, city slickers will be able to enjoy a slice of Cuba at Brixton Beach. The open-air hotspot comes from the award-winning team behind South Pole Saloon, Big Apple Brixton and last year’s popular Brixton Beach Boulevard. Londoners can step away from city life for a few hours as they are transported to a tropical paradise with plenty of food, drink and entertainment.
Revellers will be entertained by a series of events and experiences, including day or night parties, DJs, film and beach barbeques. As you would expect, the bar will be serving up a plethora of tropical concotions with a Cuban-inspired menu. Expect to sip on classics including Rum Daiquiris, Piña Coladas, Cubanitos and Mojitos from Bacardi while you inhale the scents of mint and other hanging, fresh and fruity foliage. While fans of Jamaican beer will be able to visit the dedicated Red Stripe bar, others can quaff Argentine sparkling wine from Moët Hennessy at their exclusive beach side lounge bar. As the nights draw in, guests can dance the night away at The Clubhouse – a covered area inspired by iconic venues such as La Floridita and La Bodeguita del Medio, which will play host to live music, dancers and cabaret performers.
When revellers are feeling peckish, there will be a choice of street food stalls, including Mac and Cheese experts, Mac to the Future, Nanban’s Japanese soul food, Del 74’s Mexican tacos and STAKEhaus. There will also be weekly BBQ pop-up residencies from some of the capital’s most smoking venues every Thursday, such as Mama’s Jerk and Negril.
Every weekend there will be a beach party with entertainment from a range of genres by live DJs, traditional Latin American brass bands and exciting cabaret performances. This summer’s line-up includes Ben Pearce, Norman Jay MBE, Late Nite Tuff Guy, Maxxi Soundsystem, Paul Woolford and PBR Streetgang. Meanwhile, Sunday Sessions will be hosted by the likes of SolidGrooves, Metalheadz, Midnight Riot and Supa Dupa Fly. In July, the Brixton Beach will be hosting Cuba’s biggest holiday, Carnival de Cuba, with their Beach Carnival, featuring Cuban dancers and afro-Cuban drum music.
- Brixton Beach, Pope’s Road, Brixton, SW9 8JH. Nearest station: Brixton. Brixton Beach opens for the summer from 26 May to 1 October 2017. Open Thu: 6pm-11pm, Fri: 6pm-12am, Sat 2pm-12am, Sun 2pm-11pm. For more information, visit the Brixton Rooftop website.
Opening in Brixton this month is the latest branch of Latin-themed bar and restaurant Barrio. Following on from their venues in Soho, Shoreditch and Islington, this is Barrio’s first venture south of the river. I’ve previously visited the central and northern branches and was fortunate enough to be invited to the launch of the Brixton outpost last week.
Barrio is a late-night drinking and dining destination offering Latin American food and drinks. Any Spanish-speakers may be familiar with the word ‘barrio’, which means an urban community or district. With this in mind, the Barrio bars give a flavour of South America with lots of colours, the rich flavours and a friendly, inclusive atmosphere. Like its sister venues, Barrio is a vivacious venue with its multi-coloured interior luring you in. A popular place to sit will no doubt be the converted caravan with its incorporated seats and tables, while there will be an outdoor patio during the warmer summer months.
Upon arrival, we grabbed one of the tables by the bar and perused the cocktail menu, with tequila, pisco and rum some of the dominant ingredients. We started off with the Che Guava (Santa Teresa Rum, Vida Mezcal, Guava, Passion Fruit and Lime), a sharp, refreshing and fruity concoction. I then switched things up and tried a gin cocktail – the South Sea Sour (Beefeater Gin, Cointreau, Pineapple, Grenadine, Lemon and Bitters). Despite the multiple alcohol ingredients, it didn’t actually taste half as boozy as I expected with the different flavours really complementing each other.
The food menu features highlights from Latin American cuisine, including Peruvian and Mexican, among others. My friend really enjoyed the Lima Lickin’ Chicken with Sweet Potato Fries (marinated fried chicken with lemon popcorn and panca chili dip). I ordered one of my favourite Latin dishes from Peru – the Ceviche Amarillo (Cobia white fish, Aji Amarillo Tigers Milk, Avocado, Red Onion, Coriander and Chifles Plantain Chips), which tasted delicious, incredibly fresh and was a perfect sized portion to accompany cocktails.
Overall, Barrio Brixton is good addition to the area’s nightlife. The bar is fresh, energetic and warm with a variety of flavoursome food and drink to keep revellers interested. After being a frequent visitor to the Soho branch in recent years, I’m thrilled there’s one closer to my home.
- Barrio, 30 Acre Lane, Brixton, SW2 5SG. Nearest station: Brixton. For more information, visit the Barrio website.
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I’d been hearing great buzz about long-term pop-up Beehive Place for a while and last month I finally got a chance to sample their culinary creations. Located in a former Victorian hayloft in Brixton Market, Beehive Place is a collaboration between Chef Sam Hodges and Restaurateur Theo Cooper (Chateau Marmot). The menu changes every week and uses sourced, seasonal ingredients from farmers and foragers.
A friend and I paid a visit on a Saturday night and it was a full house. We arrived half an hour before our seating and the bar area was already buzzing with customers sampling the unique cocktail menu. We took our seats on one of the large shared table and started with ‘Apearatif’ cocktails (Beehive honey, pear and raspberry purée, Beehive rhubarb gin, fresh mint spirit and sparkling wine), which was juicy and refreshing. Aside from their cocktails, there is also the opportunity to have your wines matched to your courses should you wish.
Each table was assigned a waiter/waitress, who went beyond the usual job description and took us on a culinary journey through our courses. Our waitress was friendly, attentive and incredibly passionate about the dishes, ingredients and where they came from which was great to hear. As both my friend and I are pescetarians (which we warned Beehive about in advance), the kitchen had made an alternative menu for us from the five-courses detailed on our tables.
To start, we had a radish salad topped with ‘Potash Farm’ walnuts (without the Longhorn topside meat option), which was a light, but flavoursome dish. Next up was Isle of Man scallops and foraged sea aster, two rare food options. The scallops were the smallest I’ve ever seen, but were sweet and delicious, while the aster was an unusual taste, but really enjoyable and overall, my favourite dish of the night. The third course was a new adventure for me as it was my first time eating goose egg. The ‘Clarence Court’ egg was served with ‘A.E. Brown’ asparagus on a bed of rye. My friend and I commented how easy it was to cut and eat the asparagus. The creaminess of the egg really complemented the crunch of the rye underneath.
Our penultimate course before dessert was the very unusual ‘Chicken Of The Woods’ mushrooms, served with broad beans on sourdough bread (Meat option being ‘Capestone’ rock hen, beans, black garlic, Jersey royals and wild sweet cicely). The Chicken Of The Woods were certainly, for me, the most adventurous ingredient on the menu. My friend and I debated what they looked like (I thought halloumi). I found the texture and taste very different from usual mushrooms, but the slight sweetness was really tasty. Finally, we got our sugar hit with ‘Jewel’ raspberry ice cream, served in a ‘Sharpam Park’ spelt bun. It was a petite serving, but perfect after four courses and a quaint way to serve ice cream.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole Beehive Place experience. There was a relaxed and warm atmosphere and the time whizzed by as we chatted over our meal. The staff was exceptional and their enthusiasm for the food really showed. Being introduced to so many ingredients I had never heard of before meant we were really taken on a culinary journey. Beehive Place is only in Brixton until the end of June, so book a table while you can. There’s also a late night bar open on Fridays and Saturdays if you want to head down for a drink and a boogie.
- Beehive Place, 11 Beehive Place, Brixton, SW9 7QR. Nearest train/tube: Brixton. Tel: 020 7206 2376. Open Friday and Saturday nights (and some Thursdays) from 7pm. Only booking until 27 June 2015. Five course tasting menu £35, booked in advance. Limited space in bar from 7pm, full capacity with DJs from 10pm. For more information and booking, visit Beehive Place’s website.
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As you may have heard, Brixton is one of London’s new culinary hotspots with an ever emerging dining and nightlife scene. One such venue making waves in recent months has been the pop-up restaurant and bar Beehive Place, which has just extended its residency through until the end of June.
Having opened last November, this long-term pop-up has won over foodies with its ever-changing menu using seasonal ingredients. Beehive Place is a collaboration between Chef Sam Hodges and Restaurateur Theo Cooper, who founded roaming restaurant concept Chateau Marmot with his wife Danielle Treanor three years ago. Running the kitchen in the beautiful former Victorian hayloft in Brixton Market is Chef Sam (St John/Soho House) and his team. With Spring in full swing, they’ll be sourcing fresh ingredients from around the country, including asparagus, foraged leaves, nuts and flowers, heritage tomatoes as well as lamb and other sustainable and rare breed meats, fish and seafood.
Each week, diners will have the chance to go on a culinary adventure with the £35 five-course tasting menu, which changes weekly. And for those without appetites, the accompanying bar features its own bespoke ‘shrubbery’ of creative, unique cocktails created by mixologists Kevin Darcy (The Burlington Club/Platterform) and Jeff Stuit (Gordon Ramsey/Viajante). DJs will take to the decks later on Friday and Saturday nights for those who want to make a night of it. With Beehive Place only on for a few weeks, we highly recommend you book a spot before it’s too late.
For a review of Beehive Place, click here.
- Beehive Place, 11 Beehive Place, Brixton, SW9 7QR. Nearest train/tube: Brixton. Tel: 020 7206 2376. Open Friday and Saturday nights (and some Thursdays) from 7pm. Five course tasting menu £35, booked in advance. Limited space in bar from 7pm, full capacity with DJs from 10pm. For more information and booking, visit Beehive Place’s website.
For Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.
Move over supperclubs and pop-ups – there’s a new culinary experience on the block… dining in a prison. Following the success of The Clink restaurants in HMP High Down and HMP Cardiff, London is set to get its first prison restaurant staffed by prisoners. Brixton Prison is opening its own branch of The Clink on Thursday 27 February 2014.
The concept of The Clink is to help rehabilitate prisoners and give them some skills and training to utilise when they return to society following their release. The scheme also attempts to bring down re-offending rates. The Clink trains 24 prisoners – who are approaching the end of their sentences – every year, who leave with culinary qualifications.
Of course, dining in a prison means diners will be subject to security checks, so it is advised to arrive earlier than your booking to give yourself time to go through all the necessary procedure. Phones and cameras are not allowed so unfortunately there will be no gastroporn to post on your Facebook and Twitter pages.
- The Clink restaurant in located at Brixton Prison, Jebb Avenue, Brixton, SW2 5XF. Reservation times: Breakfast 7.15-9.15am. Lunch 12noon and 12.30pm. Open Monday to Fridays only. For more information and booking, visit The Clink website.
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I’ve been hearing good things about Honest Burgers in Brixton Village for quite some time. Given I live fairly local, I can’t believe I haven’t been there sooner. Honest Burgers is a small burger establishment with a Bohemian feel in Brixton Village. The venue is a small space with seating both inside and out (although still under the cover of Brixton Village Market) – with cosy fleece blankets on the outdoor seating should you get a bit chilly. Given the size, there is often a bit of a queue outside, but it moves pretty quickly and the wait is definitely worth it. The kitchen area is open inside so you can see your food getting cooked which means you can trust what you’re eating. The simple, wooden interiors and seating means the focus is on the food – hearty, healthy and British.
One Friday in December, I joined a few friends with a wide range of dietary requirements (one pescetarian, one carnivore, one gluten-free and one pescetarian with gluten-free!) for lunch. The menu is simple with only a few options – burgers made of chicken, beef or vegetables with a choice of Mature Cheddar, Red Leicester or Stilton available on top. There is also a gluten-free bun, which both my friends on gluten-free diets said were the most delicious gluten-free buns they had tried. I ordered the sumptuous vegetable fritter – made of cauliflower, sweetcorn, shallots, spices, coriander and cucumber yoghurt (£6.50) with a side order of green salad (£2.50) as I was on a health kick. However, I did try a few of my friend’s chips with rosemary salt and they were absolutely delicious.
All four of us loved our burgers, which we washed down with mulled cider with two shots of rum (a festive addition to their drinks menu), while another pal had a traditional lemonade. The service was friendly and fairly fast given it was a busy lunchtime. One of my friends was visiting from Sydney – a city with high culinary standards – and declared it was the best meal he had had during his visit to the UK. This is going to become one of my favourite local food spots for sure.
- Honest Burgers, Unit 12, Brixton Village Market, London SW9 8PR. Open Mon 12-4pm, Tues-Sat 12-5pm, 6-10.30pm, Sun 12-5pm, 6-10pm. Nearest tube/rail: Brixton. There is also a second branch in Meard Street, Soho.
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