The Brixton: On the Rise
The Brixton, a glossy British-style pub, is becoming more than just a drinking spot.
Reviewed By Jessica Voelker
A breakfasty bar snack: the Brixton’s fried, sausage-wrapped Scotch egg. Photograph by Scott Suchman.
Comments () | Published January 7, 2013

The Brixton
Address: 901 U Street, Northwest, Washington, DC 20001
Phone: 202-560-5045
Neighborhood: U Street/Shaw
Cuisines: English/Irish/Scottish
Opening Hours: Open Monday through Friday for dinner, Saturday and Sunday for brunch and dinner.
Nearby Metro Stops: U Street/African-American Civil War Memorial/Cardozo
Price Range: Moderate
Dress: Upscale Casual (jeans okay)
Noise Level: Chatty
Best Dishes Samosas; Scotch egg; tuna tartare; shepherd’s pie; fish and chips; leg of lamb.
Price Details: Starters $8 to $17, entrées $17 to $26.
Special Features:
Weekend Brunch, Breakfast, Good Bar/Cocktails

Slideshow: Inside The Brixton

At the Brixton, on DC’s U Street corridor, a wooden bar, shiny as a Beefeater’s belt buckle, anchors the downstairs dining room. Upstairs, a burgundy leather sofa faces a fireplace and an ornately gilded mirror. A heated deck tops the roof, perfect for witnessing the revelry below.

From the get-go, the six-month-old pub—from brothers Ian and Eric Hilton, who also own the District’s Marvin, Chez Billy, and the Satellite Room—was fated to become a go-to neighborhood spot for a frothy pint of Boddingtons or Newcastle. But its promise as a dining destination has been less clear.

The first time I ate there, shortly after it opened, a server couldn’t identify a single cheese on a sampler platter, and an appetizer of samosas showed up looking—and tasting—as if it had come out of a Trader Joe’s freezer. A mixed-greens salad withered under too-salty dressing.

But then something curious happened: The Brixton got good.

Chef Jorge Pimentel inherited the kitchen from Jeffrey Jew, who never returned to the restaurant following a brief stint on the current season of Top Chef. Pimentel has tweaked the menu: Recent additions include an entrée of rosy little lamb chops—irresistible when dredged through creamy tzatziki—and a trio of tuna-tartare towers with slices of pear, garlic chips, and capelin roe. Beer-battered haddock with skinny fries, a terrific malt-vinegar rémoulade, and a side of mushy peas is one of the best fish-and-chips plates in town. And while novelty probably prompts most orders of the Scotch egg—sausage-wrapped, dipped in panko, and fried golden-brown—its lovely contrasting textures showcase the kitchen’s culinary chops. And those lifeless samosas? They’ve been replaced with dumplings as flaky as those at the best Indian restaurants.

Still, flaws remain: Buttery, sesame-marinated grilled kampachi is saddled with a side of soba noodles in a flavor-starved broth, and the horseradish vinaigrette on the mixed greens still delivers too much salt. Upstairs, a surly attitude behind the bar sometimes eclipses the charm of drinking on the roof. And cocktails—such as a wanly flavored Pimm’s Cup—have been uneven.

But it’s hard to grumble when a place that could easily get by on handsome looks and plentiful booze aspires instead to create truly good food.

This article appears in the January 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.

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  • Joe W

    I just went to the Brixton a couple weekends ago, and none of the food items mentioned (except samosas) are on the menu anymore. They've switched to some fusion/international small plates format. No fish and chips, no lamb chops, no tuna tartar, no scotch egg and no kampachi. The new menu is on their website and has been since it was introduced.

    Could their be some note added to the review, as it's extremely misleading?

  • Jess Voelker

    Hi Joe,

    Thanks for writing in. It prompted me to check in with the Brixton. Here's a look at the new menu that you encountered, and how it compared to the one I reviewed.

  • Joe W

    Thanks for following up! I was pretty disappointed with the change as I felt they really found a good formula (and it was nice to have a decently priced place with real entrees and not small plates). I also think they might be stretching themselves too thin now, as a lot of the new menu items don't seem to have the same quality.

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