Review: Brooks & Gao, Streatham High Road

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Specials board at Brooks & GaoDown the road from Beyrouths (more on this place another time) and next door to The Indigo Tree lies Brooks & Gao, a rustic coffee shop where we visited for lunch and forgot to try out the coffee.

Brooks & Gao

The decor is typically rustic, with exposed brickwork the main feature, and blackboards featuring the specials. Mismatched bottles of tap water are readily available on each table.

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While we can’t comment on the coffee, everything else they had to offer would happily satisfy a hungry belly. It’s not the place for a typical brunch so don’t come here expecting eggs benedict. However they serve a mean doorstop sandwich, whether you like a foccacia or ciabatta with your filling.

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Baguette at Brooks & Gao

We tried the grilled limo pork loin, manchego cheese and piquillo pepper baguette (£5.80) and organic rare breed topside, spinach and aioli on focaccia (£5.20). They heat up your sarnies before serving and the ingredients are lovely and fresh – it’s served crisp but not burnt a la Caffe Nero or Starbucks.

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They also serve generously sized slabs of sweet loaf, along with brownies, tarts and cronuts…the list goes on.

It’s a very family-friendly environment; the majority of customers had small babies but it’s welcome to young couples, too. If you visit anytime soon order the fig and green salad – the customers sat next to us tucked into a large plate of it, complete with mozzarella and balsamic vinegar – food envy!

Just one thing let it down – the peppermint tea was served with a glass tumbler. Call us old fashioned, but what’s wrong with a good tea cup?

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Milk, Hildreth Street

Formally Le Petit Bistro (which admittedly we never visited), we tried to get into Milk during Saturday lunchtime to no avail. We ended up at The Fat Deli (which will be posted in the near future) but Sunday brunch was a success. And then cake…

Hildreth Street is a little hit and miss if we’re being honest. There are a couple of great spots – Fara, The Wine Tasting Shop, Bunka Boutique – but there are far too many closed-down shops on that route, which is a shame because as a pedestrianised spot it could make a really great shopping spot. Hopefully the recent addition of the weekly Hildreth Street market will encourage this.

Anyway, back onto Milk. It’s a small setting but they’ve made the most of it – cramming tables in but you don’t ever feel like you’re on top of each other. The kitchen area is impressively small; they obviously have a bit of a slick operation going on to produce and serve cooked food to hungry punters. The brickwork and wallpaper are very shabby chic indeed; like a big family kitchen in the country. There’s some space outdoors without having passers by squeeze past – it will make an ideal people-watching spot come the warmer months.

Their menu is modest, offering mostly egg-based brekkies. A lot of their menu seems to offer classics with a twist; omelette with feta cheese nestled between the spinach and mushrooms, and banana bread with passionfruit.

Their breakfasts feature sourdough bread; light and spongey and great for mopping up the orangey yolk. The presentation of all the cooked food is beautiful – try and spy the English breakfast on the serving spot by the kitchen in the picture above. Nice garnishes like rocket and vine tomatoes that compliment the food rather than overwhelm it (hello corriander/parsley etc).

Eggs Benedict, omellete, a pot of tea, cappuccino and a slice of banana bread came to £22; pretty similar to other Balham coffee spots. We like. Just go before 1pm to grab a table or be disappointed.

PS: they seem to have an occurring theme of dolls heads dotted around the place, and on the menu. When asked why, the answer was “because it’s fun”. OK.

Enq. Milk, 20 Bedford Hill (Hildreth Street).