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Saturday, 27 April 2013

Gremio de Brixton, Brixton

The first time I visited the Basque Country, I travelled there by ship. Alas, what  should have been a 36-hour pleasure cruise from Southampton turned into a re-run of The Wreck of the Hesperus. A dodgy hot dog gobbled down en route to the port had gone rogue on me. This, coupled with the tornado-swept Bay of Biscay Michael Fish's mob had somehow failed to alert me to, meant the traumatic trip took almost three fraught, sleepless, storm-tossed days. My boat (as a native of Bethnal Green or Bow might say) turned the same shade as my bought-brand-new-for-the-holiday and now-covered-in-puke, pea green Brooks Brothers button-down Chambray shirt.  When we eventually docked at Bilbao - Basque for 'bilious' I assumed - the rubber-legged, swimmy headed, churny-wurny motion sickness was such that it was still with me by the time our pre-booked itinerary demanded we advance to Barcelona, two days later. All of this to say, having managed to keep down nothing but one piece of dry toast, I would not discoverthe delights of pintxos, the Basque equivalent of tapas, until several years after my gastrodisastro maiden voyage to the land of berets, ETA terrorist bombs and exploding guts. For a taste of Bilbao in Blighty, head to new Brixton spot, Gremio. Run in conjunction with South London pub group Antic (Dogstar, Tooting Tram, Balham Bowls et al), it's the domain of proveedores de pukka pintxos, Gremio - señores normally to be found at the chain’s Graveney and Meadow pub in SW17. Cryptically located underneath a landmark church, the candle-lit Almodóvar-esque underworld - all Catholic iconography and matador imagery - is a devil’s playground for its early doors, cool, young, urban congregation. As well as boquerones, piquillo peppers with salmon roe, foie gras and oxtail meatballs and the likes, you'll find quality Spanish wines, sherries, cocktails, Iberian gins, cerveza and sangria set to a suitably sexy San Sebastian/ San Antonio de Ibiza soundtrack - with a bit of flamenco behaviour chucked in for good measure. If you fancy joining the union (as 'gremio' translates into in English) let's just say the Victoria Line is usually a marginally less rough ride than a P and O Line ship in a hurricane. 
The Crypt, St Matthew's Church, Effra Road SW2 http://gremiodebrixton.com/