OK, so last week we gave you the rundown on Walthamstow, an underrated London spot where Jo and I spent a jam-packed Friday eating lots of cheese, exploring an exquisite mansion and dining in a restored tube carriage. This time around, your X-marks-the-spot destinations are situated in the city’s south: Brixton and Vauxhall.
I actually had previously heard of Brixton, no doubt thanks to one of the thousands of episodes of Location, Location, Location I’ve watched with my mother over the years. And Vauxhall is pretty much right next door, so the two areas formed a fabulous neighbourly partnership for an afternoon and evening of unusual fun.
Having sifted through an exciting blur of axe-throwing (yes, you read that correctly,) rum punch (no, not consumed at the time of said axe-throwing) and Freddie Mercury performing aerial acrobatics (you heard that correctly, too,) here’s how my memory has organised my south-London Saturday:
11am – 3pm:
London’s greenest hotel – Qbic London City, was the ideal cosy (and affordable!) home base for Jo and I during our weekend stay. When I woke up at 10:30 so as not to miss the breakfast buffet that ended at 11 (priorities people, priorities) I relished the sunlight seeping through the window and the crisp white sheets on the giant king bed. The comfort almost prevented me from bouncing my bum down to the restaurant, but the poached eggs and fresh pineapple proved to have an even more powerful pull than all that nice linen!
That afternoon, Jo and I hopped onto the Tube about a minute’s walk away (shoutout to London’s convenient transport network), ended up taking a quick detour to stock up on some Cadbury chocolates (again, priorities) and then reunited with the lovely Visit London team outside Vauxhall station. We ladies all got in formation for a cute stroll along the grey, iconic Thames, then headed off to our first main activity: Axe-Throwing.
I gotta be honest. I… was not feeling excited by the prospect of some sort of team axe-throwing session. When I first saw it as an item on our itinerary, I may have physically winced. It seemed like the kind of thing where I would turn and say, “each to their own, but not for me!” I could have happily stuck to something like bowling, or a trip to the cinema, or eating a nice bowl of pasta. You know, something on the mild end of the spice scale.
When we arrived at Whistle Punks Urban Axe Throwing, we were led to our cage (YEP a cage), asked to sign release forms (perspiration intensifies) and treated to a demonstration of a man in a ponytail pegging axes at a target board. Naturally, I was convinced I was going to hurt myself, my conviction on par with all those people who ran around in 2012 shouting that the world was going to end.
But when I stepped into the cage, was handed an axe by the instructor and got into the throwing position, I felt READY. Ready to release my hellish redheaded fire (this is the only time I will accept this stereotype as viable, don’t get any ideas) and Get. That. Bullseye.
Actually, I never did get a bullseye. And I only successfully sunk an axe probably 3 times out of 20 odd throws. But it really was a lot of fun letting myself release power and try something new and marvel at the gifted axe masters among us. I would do it again, albeit with a much less shaky signature on those release forms and a much less humble attitude. Next time, mark my words, those lumberjacks better bring it on.
Aggression fix satisfied, we made our way next to Tamesis Dock, a 1930s Dutch barge converted into an adorable bar. The barge’s top deck boasted amazing views of the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye and even – in the other direction – a glimpse of the home of Mr. James Bond himself, MI6. When we got too cold to continue enjoying the uninterrupted Instagram options, we headed to a table on one of the main two interior levels. A band – featuring vocals by a Damon and Jo subscriber! – was playing on the lower level, so we sat sipping wine and munching on nachos with some lovely background music and an intimate atmosphere. We chatted about life goals and family, favourite travel destinations and favourite wines – you know, the classic topics. Then we hopped into a classic black London cab and made our way over to Brixton.
Brixton Village acted as our next impressive attraction. A collection of indoor lanes, shops and rows of restaurants, it engaged every sense and appeared, at least to me, as a cute, unpretentious site for community. We had a dance to the music that was pumping from a DJ booth in the middle of the main drag, grooving alongside carefree strangers, and later Jo and I shared a slice of pizza and cheersed to some red wine at an Italian spot (where our waiter was Brazilian, and excited to learnt that Jo was, too! London is just one of those cities where an Australian gal can have their Brazilian-American friend order for them in Portuguese at an Italian restaurant. I very much stan.)
For dinner, I was treated to one of the best meals I’ve had in recent memory (I exaggerate not!) at Fish, Wings and Tings. Highlights at this Caribbean institution included some spicy prawns, mouth-watering Oxtail, delicious Jerk Chicken, seemingly bottomless glasses of rum punch (who kept refilling my glass? Asking for my liver) and the most delicious codfish fritters that have ever landed on my taste buds. I would honestly catch the nightbus back to the UK just to eat them again.
I was in fact so obsessed with the food that I called a plate of chicken back from a waitress who was clearing it away, just so I could eat the scraps. I may not have any class, but I do have a thriving appetite.
Another gem at Fish, Wings and Tings was its owner – the wonderful Brian. His face is on every condiment – sometimes I didn’t know if I should be talking to him or the sauce bottle – and he spoke with such passion, joy and warmth that we all felt like we were talking to an old friend. Trained in French Provençal cooking and having lived in Trinidad and the US before becoming a London local, his wealth of experiences informs the food that comes out of this familial, diverse kitchen. I will be eternally drooling until I return.
Last but not least to cap off an unforgettable night was a trip to Duckie at the Vauxhall Tavern, via the much-appreciated night tube. Duckie is an arts enterprise with a firm focus on community building, inclusion, quirky performance art and pure, unadulterated fun. Proud champions of LGBTQI+ solidarity and passionate about the power of performance, their weekly Saturday night residency at the Grade 2 listed tavern is, as far as I’m concerned, unmissable. I saw Freddie Mercury (or at least a Freddie Mercury) give Rami Malek a run for his money with a sensational, acrobatic aerial routine, driven by Bohemian Rhapsody’s iconic guitar section and featuring two cheeky butt cheeks in a climactic finale!
The music on offer was also generally fabulous. I’m one of those people who needs songs with lyrics I can actually dance and sing along to when I’m in the clurb, so dancing the night away to the truly iconic ‘Crush’ by Jennifer Paige fulfilled every wish I have ever had in any club ever. Honestly, what a banger.
I think it’s safe to say I’m counting down the days until I can spend another weekend – or maybe I’ll step it up to a full week next time! – in London. The city is truly bursting with diversity, passion and thriving communities, and there’s certainly way more to it than wet pavements, big red buses (as cute as they are) and posh accents. I expected to enjoy London; I expected it to be fun, but I did not expect to leave it feeling so… cultured.
What has surprised you about London? Any neighbourhoods you’d recommend we check out next? Let us know below!