For the first issue of food & arts journal The Gourmand, I asked 2 Bears (Raf Rundell & Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard) to join me for a tour of then-newly foody destination Brixton Market – we ate fancy tapas, drank good booze and discussed the relationship between food and music
Photography Sat Bulsara
A magical musical tour of Brixton Market with house heroes 2 Bears
Music and food are two sensual pleasures that for some reason rarely come together in sweet harmony. It’s cool to bang on about getting wasted, but not to jam about ham or rock out about ragout. After all, the Velvet Underground made their name with songs about smack, not sandwiches. To explore this dilemma, we met up with uncannily ursine duo Raf Rundell and Joe Goddard, architects of many fantastically fun and unpretentious house tunes as 2 Bears, and set about eating our way round their home turf of Brixton’s revitalised and extremely exciting food market (where Raf’s wife runs Rosie’s Deli-Café.) But first, cocktails…
PART THE FIRST
THE COCKTAIL HOUR, WHITE RUSSIANS AND RUM & BASS
Location: Seven at Brixton
Cocktails: Bloody Mary (Joe), Mojito (Raf), White Russian (Rod)
Gourmand (G): It’s not exactly the cocktail hour is it?
Joe (JG): Not 12.30pm on a Friday.
Raf (RR): Any hour, let’s get the cocktails in! Are you a cocktail man, Joe? You always have the makings of a White Russian in your freezer, don’t you?
G: They do nice ones here, but they do take some time to make. How do you make your Old Fashioned, Joe?
JG: It’s bourbon, a little bit of sugar syrup, angostura bitters and a twist of orange… my dad puts a cherry in. It’s a totally delicious drink, and it’s one of the original cocktails – like a New York, or a Manhattan.
G: It’s a real ‘man’s cocktail’. Whereas the problem with cocktails is they can sometimes be…
RR: Like a glass of milk?
G: Yes, well I’m standing here drinking a white Russian in the middle of the day (laughter), but a whiskey sour is nicely 1950s… it speaks of men in hats.
RR: Totally, it’s like Mad Men.
G: Joe, did you learn the recipe from your father?
JG: Well, he’s got this book by this dude called David A Embury he’s like a hard-drinking lawyer from the 50s in New York, and he wrote a book about the original cocktails. The other thing I should say is there’s a track on the new Hot Chip record named after a cocktail – its called “Dark & Stormy”, which we drink a lot on tour.
G: Ah, golden rum and ginger beer with lime, isn’t it? My friends and I call that a Rum & Bass.
JG: Rum & Bass? (laughs) That’s a good one. Our manager Amos is from Tennessee and he’s a big connoisseur of rum – so on our rider every day, there is a different bottle of old rum, different kinds of bitters… it’s basically for him after he’s finished. We drink a lot of espresso martinis as well, which is the perfect thing if you’ve been asleep all day and you have to play a show!
G: The “Dark and Stormy” song, have you just taken the name for the song, or is the song, uh, cocktail-related?
JG: It’s the typical, quite stupid and increasingly annoying Hot Chip joke where I thought it would be funny to write a quite serious song, but name it after a cocktail that we like drinking on tour. There’s a bit of darkness to the music, it’s minor, epic, gloomy… dark and stormy sounding. Actually, we might change the name if we think it’s too much of a gag, but I thought it would be nice for Amos as he’s been a friend of ours for years, and he’s a real fan of the drink.
RR: Joe’s much more the cocktail connoisseur.
G: What’s your poison, Raf?
RR: A pint of LA-R-GER, innit. (Laughter)
JG: The most European fizzy lager about will do him!
RR: (Increasingly insistent) Premium-strength continental LAGER!
JG: You can take the man out of Kent…(Laughter)
G: OK, I think these cocktails are working. Should we go upstairs and get something to munch on?
PART THE SECOND
PINTXOS AND ACID TECHNO
Location: Seven at Brixton, upstairs
Drinks: Premium-strength continental lager.
Food: Plates of tapas
G: OK, so here we are in the ‘chill out’ room. I like it up here, it reminds me of a Brighton squat party in the mid- 90s. All we need is the Orb playing, and the muffled bang and squeal of acid techno coming up through the floorboards. So, what are you guys eating?
RR: Some figs that have been soaked in something, quite boozy-tasting… with some blue cheese, quite tasty actually.
JG: It’s a good combination, isn’t it?
RR: And here we have the classic chorizo and manchego, you can’t really beat that. How about you, Joe, what are you tucking into?
JG: (muffled, sounds of munching) Anchovy and tomato.
RR: I love a bit of anchovy in any form, really. The menu is very typical tapas, it doesn’t seem like they’ve fucked with anything too much, which is good. It is always nice to see pimientos de padron.
G: Oh, all hot and with the salt crisped on the outside. Delicious.
RR: They are easy to do at home. You just buy a bag of them and stick them in a frying pan.
G: It’s that weird thing when you get them in Spain, and like one in ten are really spicy! Do they do that deliberately?
RR: No, I think it is just the chillies.
G: If it didn’t happen naturally, you would want to invent it – it’s like the Russian roulette of the spice world. Spain is one of my favourite places to eat. When you tour, where do you like to eat?
RR: We’ve played in Spain. We had a great meal in Barcelona, actually.
JG: Tonight, we are playing the Sub Club and there is a brilliant restaurant in Glasgow – there’s an old Italian community that has been there for a long time, I think they have a few around the city called Sarti. We are always happy when we go to a place, because we can go for dinner! That is the first thing – we were talking about doing a gig at Elephant & Castle in March, and were saying that will be fun because we can chill out and eat beforehand.
RR: The Dragon Castle (a dim sum palace on Walworth Road) is great. Actually I like the Elephant for food – there is a really brilliant Polish place in the shopping centre that does pierogi. There are always loads of Polish people in there, and it’s cheap. You can get a schnitzel and a pickled cabbage and whatever for a fiver. And there is La Bodeguita, the Columbian place that is pretty trashy but nice and does good cocktails. Though the Elephant itself is a bit of an irretrievable shithole.
JG: There are some good food places but they are going to rip the whole thing down, aren’t they?
G: There is that enormous Stalinist tower-block that they’re knocking down. Every day, a steel shutter went up over one of the flats and… how weird and scary must it have been to be one of the last people left in there?
JG: Or a really dedicated smackhead. It is either an old granny who is resistant to change, or it’s someone barricaded in behind a steel crack door. That building has been used so much on the telly in the last few years. If there is ever an “edgy” scene to be shot, like for Luther… actually, I think John Luther lives in that block.
RR: We should do a photo shoot outside there. It is the most techno-looking place in London.
G: The food is much better in Britain, these days. 15 years ago, in pubs you could only get a horrible, defrosted burger, or a ham and cheese toastie if you were lucky.
RR: And those were usually made with synthetic cheese and chucked in a microwave.
G: And now here we are sitting around in an arty recreation of a 90s Brighton techno squat eating fancy fig tapas.
JG: I think places like this are still relatively scarce though, in comparison to Manhattan where there is a much higher general standard of food. You have got these little pockets in London, like here which is fucking amazing right now. But they are still kind of scarce.
G: In Manhattan, I found this place called Joe Shanghai, and they do soup dumplings. Oh my God! Have you ever had those? I heard there is a place here in China Town that does them, too.
RR: Yes! Opposite that crazy Dutch pub De Hems.
G: You sort of nibble them open and then hot broth explodes into your mouth…
JG: I’ve never figured out how they can wrap liquid.
RR: Do it with a syringe?
JG: Or is it magic?
RR: I love these food ideas spreading around the world. Like Vietnamese sandwiches (Bahn Mi) are really happening now. There is one on Old Street, but you haven’t been able to get that in this country until recently. I first had them in San Francisco, and I was thinking, this would be an amazing thing for London. So much flavour: chilli, coriander, sweet, spicy.
JG: I think it’s the same with Mexican food. In Brooklyn a few years ago, there were loads of cool taco places opening up and it seems like that is starting to come here more now. Like that place Casa Morita round the corner.
G: Maybe that’s why it’s fun at the moment in Britain? New York has had great food for decades… but this is like our Summer of Love for food! What is the most exotic place you have played and eaten?
RR: Well, we went to Malawi and played a festival. There was lost of stalls doing barbecues of quite bizarre pieces of meat that was pretty good.
G: I was in South Africa recently, and slightly disappointed I didn’t get to try a “Bunny Chow”.
JG: Keith Floyd went to the original place in Durban where they hollow out the loaf of bread and fill it with curry. You put a loaf on its end and chop the end – take the lid off, put the beans inside: genius.
RR: It was born out of necessity though, I think. It comes from apartheid, there’s a story in the Madhur Jaffrey curry bible, and it was a way that someone who wanted to feed people but can’t give them a plate, could give them something to eat… I made it once, it’s delicious.
G: Do you cook a lot?
RR: Yeah, a fair bit. I used to work in a kitchen when I was a young man. I worked in the Oyster House in Whitstable. It was invaluable, really. It taught me common sense in the kitchen. People are really afraid of cooking, they don’t get it.
JG: There is that older man thing, that it’s not for them.
RR: Like my granddad used to make duck a l’orange once a year – that was it. And my poor grandmother had been turning out meals for 40 years… and he does duck a l’orange one Sunday and that’s all anyone talks about. That’s typical man cooking! Obviously, Rosie does it all day – and what she is brilliant at is coming home and going, oh fuck, we have nothing in the cupboard, so take that, that and that and making something tasty.
G: That is proper cooking. Not like a precise science experiment where it all takes six hours.
RR: Yeah, and you use every pan in the kitchen! Sometimes it’s nice to follow a recipe, and sometimes it’s not.
JG: Yeah, those are the days when I enjoy it massively, like I’m going to have a simple purpose – I am going to make a really great stew and freeze some, and feed my family. That is actually the thing I want to do the most after I get off – to chop vegetables and lay the table.
PART THE THIRD
BURGERS AND FOOD TUNES
Location: Honest Burgers
Drinks: Sam Smiths organic lager.
Food: One Honest Burger, two specials (beef with black pudding, crispy apple tempura, caper and tarragon mayonnaise), triple-fried rosemary-salted chips
G: Right… lets talk meat. What’s the best burger you’ve ever had?
RR: I made a few at home that I was really very pleased with.
JG: Do you know that place in Berlin called White Trash Fast Food? It’s owned by Peaches and her husband. Maybe it was a drunken night, I had just arrived in Berlin and I had the “Elvis”: barbecue sauce, pickles and onions.
G: Like an old-fashioned 1950s burger, where they steam the bun?
JG: Yeah, I think that is a part of it?
RR: (authoritatively) You put a cloche on top of the grill, and that steams it. Once the burger is almost ready, you toast the bun a bit – that is what they do at Meat Liquor, or whatever it is called now – and you put a cloche on top and it steams itself. That is why the bun is a bit shiner.
“You know, I really like ‘Strings of Life’, but I don’t want it banging in my ear while I eat katsu” – Joe Goddard
G: Do you think it is strange that there isn’t more music about food? Both music and food are sensual, pleasurable experiences – yet they don’t really come together…
RR: There aren’t too many tunes made about food. There is one called ‘Hungry Man’.
JG: That is a particular favourite of ours.
RR: It’s like a Louis Jordan thing, though it’s not Louis Jordan. This song encapsulates our love of food quite nicely, actually. Maybe we should cover it?
JG & RR: (singing) ‘I’m such a hungry man, I knew a girl in Albuquerque and she made damn good turkey… When I want chop suey, I go to Saint Louis, because I’m such a hungry man…’ (laughter)
JG: Or we could do, ‘Get on the mike and don’t be selfish, get on the mike because you know you eat shellfish.’
RR: With the exception of hip hop, people don’t really talk about dinner. I guess you have Lee Perry’s ‘Roast Fish and Cornbread’.
JG: That sticks out, because it is a simple song about the simple pleasure of food. (Thoughtfully) Actually, I think a food tune could be good, even if it was a version of ‘Roast Fish and Cornbread’. A house tune about the simple enjoyment of something…
RR: You might have started something here!
JG: Quite often, I turn music off if I’m sitting down to eat, I find it a bit distracting.
RR: We used to go to the Jazz Café. There were times when I went to see Richie Havens and my dad had to take us because we were under 18. We had to eat a meal, as that was the only way we could get tickets. We sat upstairs and ate, and he was downstairs. It’s wicked I think, the idea of having a meal and seeing a show at the same time.
JG: There was a time when DJs were so ubiquitous. There was a DJ everywhere. I remember going in to have dinner at Fujiyama on a Friday night and there was a DJ! It is a massive turn-off. You know, I really like “Strings of Life”, but I don’t want it banging in my ear while I eat katsu.
(Burgers arrive. Silence on tape, sounds of munching.)
Unidentified Voice: (Slightly muffled). Oh… that’s a good burger.