Elephant Café

25 07 2011

Brixton Village has fast become one of the coolest areas to hang out in South West London. With an eclectic vibe, a plethora of interesting places to eat, and the brilliant Federation Coffee, there is always something new to do and see in this fast-evolving little arcade. Each time I visit, I come away with a mental list of new places I need to try…

Our latest experience: Pakistani street food at Elephant Café.

This tiny little restaurant is a great find. Tables spill out onto the street, and the kitchen area is so close that it’s positively exhausting watching the chef’s head bob back and forth as he turns out dishes at breakneck speed, inches from his customers. We were very grateful to get a table on Thursday night, being a group of five out for a birthday meal.

The menu is short and succinct – no messing – which meant we got to try virtually everything between us. Samosas and Pakoras were a perfect way to start. Both the lamb and vegetarian options were equally good, packing just a little spice; enough to excite the taste buds, without killing those of a faint disposition. Then the main courses: a choice between curry and thalis. Most of us went for the thalis (and the poor guy who took one for the team, deciding to dissent from the common option, looked a little sad as ours arrived!) Lovely, simple, warmly spiced lamb mince curry, served with a punchy daal, rice, raita, salad and naan. The chicken was equally good, with a little more sauce than the lamb. There was plenty of food, and none of us left hungry.

The restaurant has no license, so we took our own drinks: a couple of bottles of wine helped the food go down nicely. And as if the great food and fun environment wasn’t enough, the price was a real surprise: a meal for five, excluding drinks, came to £42. A bargain!

We ended the evening with a stroll through the village, enjoying the bands playing in various aisles, and the colourful lanterns dangling overhead. The newly opened ice cream parlour beckoned to us, but our full stomachs resisted… An excuse to return in the not too distant future.


‘Elegy and Ivory’

15 09 2010

Today marks the 125th anniversary of the death of P.T. Barnum’s famous circus elephant, Jumbo. Born in 1861 in the French Sudan, Jumbo spent much of his early life in France and London, before being sold to P.T. Barnam in 1882. He grew to an enormous 13.1ft, his daily diet consisting of 200 pounds of hay, 1 barrel of potatoes, 2 bushels of oats, 15 loaves of bread and a slew of onions. People flocked from far and wide to see him until his untimely death on 15 September 1885, when he wandered onto railway tracks in St Thomas, Ontario, and was struck by an oncoming train.

To this day, Jumbo’s ashes are stored in a 14-ounce Peter Pan Crunchy Peanut Butter jar in the Tufts University archives. Various taxidermied limbs and are still on display in institutions across America. But on this, the 1 ¼ th centenary of his passing, may I offer my own little tribute to the great beast, in the form of a heartfelt poem:

‘Elegy and Ivory’
(A lament on the 125th anniversary of Jumbo’s tragic demise)
15 September 2010

Barnum’s elephantine friend,
Did meet his elephantine end,
When Jumbo (for whatever motive)
Stepped before a locomotive.

Poor Barnum was left broken-hearted;
Scarce could cope now they were parted,
So treasured Jumbo’s ample hide,
In peanut butter, mummified.

How short his life, how brief, how brusque,
“This world is red in trunk and tusk!”
So let us, with one voice, affirm,
This honorific pachyderm.


For further reading on Jumbo, visit the Tufts Magazine Online.

You learn something new every day…