“If you go down to Brixton today, you’ll come across Market Row” is how the old nursery rhyme goes…I think. I did indeed have reason to go down to Brixton yesterday and, sure enough, I did indeed come across…well, I think you get the picture. In amongst Brixton Market is this covered thoroughfare that was once one of the market’s arcades; these days, its home to many a trendy culinary delight.
If you’re on the hunt for food, it seems to be that you start off at one end of Market Row and keep walking until you find a premises that has free tables. So you’ll see the queue wildly snaking out the door of the (very small) pizzeria Franco Manca at the start (if you begin at the Electric Lane end) and think “Man, that place must be good”. Past all the other eateries – including the empty-ish frozen yoghurt place Chillbox (admittedly, it was winter and ridiculously rainy when I was there – not typical fro-yo weather) – until you start despairing at having reached the end and not yet found somewhere to eat.
But wait! What’s this? Happy Dumplings have some free tables! Dumplings? I like dumplings! Let’s eat here!
(Note: Excessive use of exclamation and question marks not required to eat at Happy Dumplings.)
So Happy Dumplings it is. Although they also do noodles and soups, you come here for the dumplings and other similar starters. With no steamed BBQ pork buns left (gargh!) we made do with another couple of options – one set of fried pork dumplings, another of the prawn ones. And then a third option (with a quirky name – so quirky that I’ve forgotten what it is, oops) of what we had also assumed was savoury but turn out to be a red bean type affair as a steamed bun option.
With five dumplings each for the two fried options, and three large ‘sweet’ ones (very prettily presented) plus a large Tsingtao beer to share (you can bring your own wine), the bill for two came to just under £20. Cheap as chips. Or dumplings.
The dumplings had a decent amount of filling, with the ‘skins’ relatively thin and pleasingly so. I’m glad we tried one of the steamed options in the end, even if it was a mistaken order (on our part)
The service is rather ramshackle – although the place was excessively busy as everyone tried to escape the rain (with many having a quick pre-gig meal, as we were) there was lots of having to ask for chopsticks, sauces and other items (the bill!) several times. Our table neighbours also seemed to get served lots of dishes they hadn’t ordered, and then charged for some too. (This was of course rectified, I have to point out.) The service, for the most part, is very friendly, however.
It’s definitely a (London) budget kind of place – you’ll fill up on the cheap choices, and you can get a selection to share amongst your group to try different items. It’s a quick and easy meal of decent quality – it sure ain’t fine dining, but you don’t expect that. Just try not to mind the service too much.
And if you’re there in winter, bring a coat. Or rather, keep wearing your coat. That arcade (Market Row) gets cold!
20-30 Market Row