1 year ago
There are few places that can boast a 30 year lifespan, especially in the tumultuous hospitality world. But San Marino is one of those places.
If you’re a Brixton-er worth your salt you’ll know about San Marino. For starters they’ve been in Brixton since 1993 and over those almost 30 years of life they’ve grown an extremely loyal customer base. Though it’s a sizeable cafe it can be hard to get a table, so impressive is its popularity. And one step through the door you’ll quickly see why; they’ve got a lot going on and warmth really does ooze from its bricks. But it’s not as though they are resting on their reputation. San Marino is moving with the times, and by that we mean that they’ve split their cafe in two and opened a bar in the back half. We went down to check out both sides of one of Brixton’s favourite spots, starting in the cafe.
Open every day, it’s an authentic Italian where you’ll get freshly made great tasting food at all hours. They do an all day breakfast menu as well as paninis, pastas, smoothies, an incredible coffee offering too… If you’re craving it, San Marino probably have it. We were craving a full English breakfast, a spicy chicken and coriander panini and a chicken and pesto pasta in a creamy ricotta sauce. Thank goodness San Marino had all three. The full English was everything you want for a proper, traditional brekky. Sausages, bacon, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, beans, hash browns, buttered toast. A great portion and a plate that will certainly set you up for the day. The panini was clearly fresh that day and absolutely delicious. Unfussy and a perfect lunch if you find yourself needing a quick sandwich in Brixton- way, way better than a Pret baguette, there was no skimping on the filling here. The pollo pesto pasta was warming and sizeable enough to leave us feeling full, but not too sluggish. Again, a great warming lunch option if you’ve got time to sit down. They’ve also got several rice dishes and do jacket potatoes with loads of different fillings, which is exactly what we are wanting for our midday meal now that the weather has cooled down. We will be back for a jacket potato- looking around it is clear that they’re a popular choice from the regulars, and we want in.
To drink we had a couple of coffees (which are done really, really well- San Marino have certainly kept up to date with the London coffee drinkers palates) and some smoothies that tasted as delicious as they were named. The ‘Berry Go Round’ and a ‘Pash N Shoot’. We reckon you can work out what was in them, and we’d highly recommend them too- it’s an incredible price point for a smoothie in London and they’ll give you an extra hit of vitamins, perfect for fending off the winter bugs.
After we’d digested our food it was time to head to the back half of the space ‘Bar Marino’. Having only opened a year ago, this is the hard drinking area of San Marino that is already doing amazing things with their menu. Thanks to Sammy, the extremely experienced bar manager, they are taking a few risks with their drinks offering- risks that are paying off. Not only do they do the classics well, but they are also getting adventurous with other flavour combos that you might not have tried out before.
We gave three a go. The espresso martini was the classic of the night and we can confirm, they really do do the classics well. Espresso martinis can be touch and go- too bitter, too sweet, a bit flat… Well, not here. It was just right and the quality of all the ingredients that went into it was clear. We then moved on to the Brixton Tale (we had to with a name like that!). Using our favourite local distillery, Brixton Gin, this was a peach, hibiscus and Prosecco pink number. As refreshing and light as it sounds and even better that it was made using local products too. Finally we tried out the very seasonal Pumpkin Pie Margarita. There was nothing basic about this cocktail. Smokey with Mezcal and spiced with those classic autumnal flavours of nutmeg, cloves and ginger, this was a big hit. If it is still on the menu when you go we’d highly recommend trying it out. And make sure you take advantage of the happy hour that runs from Wednesday to Sunday from 3-7pm where they offer 2-4-1 cocktails. Seriously, do it.
There’s a sneaky downstairs section to San Marino too- a more intimate drinking area which is great if you want a more cosy experience. Yep, we’ve said it before and we will say it again. San Marino really does have it all.
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