“After a few years on the restaurant scene, we decided that we wanted to start up our own ventures, and have the freedom to create our own menus,” says James Lakie, co-founder of StudMuffin, a new addition to Pop Brixton.
Since launching in 2015, Pop has (amongst other commendable feats) functioned as a carousel of restaurants and street food vendors, some more compelling than others. Conquering the unit formerly occupied by Duck Duck Goose – one of 2017’s most loveable openings, serving Peking goose and ambrosial prawn toast – Halo Burger has recently brought its plant-based ‘Beyond Burgers’ to SW9: the culinary equivalent of Frankenstein’s monster, fashioned to look, cook, taste and ‘bleed’ like fresh beef burgers. The world’s first vegan, ‘bleeding’ burger joint is branded with the iconic pairing of bright red and yellow synonymous with the world’s most ubiquitous fast food chain, launched with the pledge: “Everything at Halo Burger is created to do better, be better and taste better.”
Another new opening, StudMuffin has also received McDonald’s comparisons for their core USP – English muffins loaded with decadent fillings, yet this does them absolutely no justice. (Strong praise from a man who makes no secret of his guilty pleasure: the occasional enjoyment of a double sausage and egg McMuffin). Born from a street food operation, James Lakie and Matthew Woollard launched StudMuffin having previously trained at Leith’s School of Food and Wine – where they met – and worked in high-end restaurants such as St. JOHN and the Reform Club.
“We wanted to be able to design a menu that would allow us the creative freedom to play around with ingredients and flavours, and use our classical training to bring something new to a traditional dish, and English muffins were the perfect vehicle for this,” James explains.
“English muffins have a great texture, are soft and a great vehicle for carrying ingredients. We found the popular brioche buns often fell apart when eating a burger or a sandwich. The muffins retain their structure really well. Plus, no one else is really doing it so it was a great niche for us to get into the street food market and stand out.”
With a small handful of bar stools, the menu here is relatively concise yet the offering is a beacon of quality over quantity. ‘The StudMuffin’, the restaurant’s signature, is a reasonable contender for south-west London’s most eminently edible burger. Aged beef patties harbour an ideal fat-to-meat ratio, cooked medium-rare and generously seasoned. A tower of insalubrious sin, the burgers are piled between slices of toasted English muffin alongside melted cheese, streaky bacon, gherkins, onion jam and the operation’s eponymous burger sauce. The Halloumi Muffin, on the other hand, is a remarkable vegetarian option, utilising often excessively cosseted halloumi, like so much anodyne rubber. Here, the halloumi is breaded and deep fried, teamed with a roasted garlic mayonnaise, slaw and pepper chutney which adds a fair whack of heat. The inclusion of fresh basil is an interesting, welcome accruement.
At the time of writing, StudMuffin is also offering a Christmas special: taking most key elements of a typical British Christmas dinner and elevating them significantly. This muffin is filled with a glorious combination of turkey schnitzel and a stuffing patty – not unlike bubble and squeak – with cheese, maple sprout slaw, sage and truffle mayonnaise and sweet cranberry ketchup.
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The plain fries are fine, showered with a moreish blend of salt and paprika, though the Christmas fries are almost as rousing as the muffin, topped with more of that cranberry ketchup and sage, truffle mayonnaise. While clementine segments are an unusual, less welcome guest, a generous heap of pigs in blankets crowns the fries alongside scorched Brussel sprout petals and crispy shallots. Refined yet unpretentious, deeply reassuring: this is comfort food as it should be.
Speaking on the new restaurant’s permanent location, James Lakie says: “Pop was great place to start because their team offer a lot of support for small, local businesses. We were also great fans of the place as customers with all the great food that was already here and well established, we wanted to test ourselves in this environment. We also really liked the ethos of Pop, with the community fridge on site and all vendors taking part in the community investment scheme.”
Moving forward, following the initial popularity surrounding StudMuffin, do you have any plans to roll-out any additional sites?
“At the moment we are 100 per cent focused on Pop Brixton. However, we will of course love to get into a brick and mortar site. This would again allow for a larger and diverse menu as we don’t have much space in our kiosk! You never know when an opportunity can arise, but this is definitely a long term goal.” Fingers crossed!
StudMuffin can be found at Pop Brixton, 49 Brixton Station Road, London, SW9 8PQ.