A Muddy Brunch at Brixham’s Coolest Cafe
Any cafe that calls itself The Curious Kitchen is bound to bring a Muddy editor sniffing about the place, isn’t it? And besides, it was about time I made a pilgrimage back to Brixham to cathartically cleanse myself of some dodgy memories.
You see, me and this fishing town on the English Riviera have got previous.
About ten years ago, I found myself at Brixham harbour at the crack of dawn, with a horrendous hangover, to produce a day of filming out at sea, alongside one of those huge, smelly Russian cargo ships that looks like a block of flats from land. I’ve no idea what got filmed, since I spent most of it trying desperately to focus on something that wasn’t moving to steady my heaving tum. It was, frankly, a car crash of a day. But we’ve all been there, haven’t we? No? Just me then.
Well now that I’m older and much more responsible *cough* I’m ready to bring you bang up to date with what happened last weekend; this time I went, I saw and my belly well and truly conquered.
The Curious Kitchen is a cafe that opened in the autumn last year on Middle Street, just up the road from the harbour front. For those coming from out of town, it’s smack bang opposite the main car park; head down the hill from here and you’ll find yourself on the harbour front which is flanked by pretty pastel-coloured houses on the hills.
Next door to the cafe is a rather trendy-looking lifestyle boutique, a few doors further down is a funky cocktail bar and, at the bottom is Mitch Tonks’ cool chip shop Rockfish, where there also happens to be a world-famous fish market; so I got the impression that this is a happening part of the town.
No sooner were we through the door, and someone was straight out of the kitchen and over to the Mudlet, crouching down to her three year-old height. She’d brought her camera with her (I train ’em young) and he happily posed for her impromptu photoshoot. It turns out that this was Ash (above), the head chef and face of the Kitchen. And that welcoming vibe wasn’t just an Ash-ttribute (ha!), either. They’re all a really friendly bunch who seem genuinely chuffed that you found them.
So that’s the service nailed, with a big fat tick. Let’s get down to business. What drew me here is the menu, indeed it is intriguing. I’d say it has a split personality of its own, with half of it focused on the healthy, nutritious and imaginative for veggies and vegans who are bored of the usual suspects on the menu; the other half downright indulgent. Freak shake anyone?
Or perhaps a great big, DIY doughnut (insert the filling of your choice with the syringe).
Worth knowing that, from his teeny-tiny kitchen, Ash makes absolutely everything on the premises (apart from the sourdough bread, since his kitchen doesn’t have some tardis-like feature, allowing him to stash all the kit). You’ll find no shop-bought peanut butter, ketchups or granola here. The happy upside of this is that the place smells amazing first thing, as all the cakes are cooling on wire racks in the window.
Brunch is an all-day affair (9-3) and took nearly all day to choose. Well what would you go for: brioche french toast, blackened banana bread, scrambled eggs on sourdough with chorizo? All of the above? Yep, of course we did. I had to draw the line somewhere, for the sake of the ever-stretching elastic on my pants, but I could easily have gone for the ‘shakshuka’ too, a concoction of cumin, baked eggs, tomatoes, harissa and coriander, with sour dough toast.
Orders in, we finally had the chance to look up and around us. For 10am on a Sunday the place was nicely busy, a mix of family breakfasts, hungover friends hanging out and the odd lycra-clad cyclist who clearly makes a habit of this pit-stop on a weekend. The decor is industrial, metals, reclaimed floorboards for the counter, exposed original tiles and dark, moody shades on the walls. It definitely feels like a cafe that followed the wrong signs to Brixton and happily arrived in its alternative destination, Brixham. The whole package feels on the pulse, interesting and exciting, but the backbone is the food, which lived up to the promise and was scoffed down by the Muddy tribe.
It turns out that Ash, Torbay born and bred previously worked at the very highly regarded Cafe Ode in Shaldon where he found his inspiration for sourcing local ingredients. He also honed his own style and ethos there: to be honest, inventive, fresh and healthy. You can tell that he’s found his rhythm here and he’s at popping point with ideas for the future, but he told me he’s wisely waiting until he’s experienced the ebb and flow of a full year and survived the madness of a summer season in south Devon. This place won’t be taking its foot off the gas, I’ve a feeling it won’t be long before it starts to make a real splash about town and beyond.
The Muddy Verdict:
Good for: Absolutely everyone. The music is good, the coffee is great, the tables are big enough for groups, with high chairs aplenty (it’s really family friendly) and small enough to tuck yourself away with the papers. It’s a decent spot to people-watch too. You’ll feel unhurried and nicely set for the day ahead. Families with mudlets in tow will love the ease of the harbourside, with its replica of Sir Francis Drake’s ship and watching the boats come and go as they land their catch of the day. Couples will find Brixham makes for a decent mooch around, with a few lovely-looking boutiques and if you’re up for it, you can walk out of town and around some serious beauty spots, like Battery Park, or take in the coast between Brixham and Kingswear.
Not for: err, good question. I guess if hipster and trendy aren’t your thing, then you might be tempted to walk on by this one. You’d be mad to, though.
£££ Big portions, brilliant prices. Breakfast can be bought for between £5.50 and £9, and the rest of the daytime menu is between £8 – £10.
The Curious Kitchen, 14-16 Middle Street, Brixham, TQ5 8ER. Tel: 01803 854816. thecuriouskitchen.co.uk