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
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
But then something curious happened: The Brixton got
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
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
This article appears in the January 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.