Take a short walk down Atlantic Road and you will find Courtesan, a modern dim sum restaurant, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Brixton Market.
Step into the red painted former shop and you are instantly greeted with antique bird cages and an interior of dark wood and dim lighting, which feels like being transported directly into Hong Kong’s famously vibrant Bird Market.
At the bar, the staff greet guests with a friendly smile and a drink recommendation. Our Elderflower and Cucumber Collins goes down rather too easily and before we know it, we are on our second.
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Between shaking up cocktails, the barman will explain how Courtesan became the UK’s first restaurant to feature drinks exclusively produced or grown by women. This unique selling point, as well as the venue’s feminine aesthetic, support the restaurant’s inspiration, which draws on the courtesans of ancient China.
As well as the exotic cocktail list, the all-female kitchen team has created an innovative dim sum menu, which focuses heavily on pure, MSG and preservative-free ingredients, while providing extensive vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options.
My friend arrives and we quickly order a mixture of dim sum, noodle dishes, Bao buns and rice dishes.
The plates arrive as they are ready, rather than all at the same time, a laid-back approach common to many UK restaurants these days. Some may disagree with the approach, but here it provides us with room to take our time catching up, and enjoy our food – especially the delicious pumpkin-spiced bao. The creamy verdant mezzelune, king prawn and bean curd Cheung Fun, and the tempura frog legs are other highlights. All three are consumed in near silence – a testament to their near perfection.
When summer arrives, Courtesan will be introducing an entertainment programme in its late-night entertainment space, with a variety of residencies and one-off performances. Expect burlesque and cabaret acts, live jazz music, DJs, and even the odd West End star.
Whether it’s for a quick bite and a post-work cocktail, or feasting with friends and taking in a show, or even dancing the night away, Courtesan is the perfect one-stop shop for Brixton locals and tourists from around the capital alike.
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