The Ritzy Café

Tel: +44 (0)20 7733 2229
Address: Brixton Oval, Coldharbour Lane, SW2 1JG
Cuisine Type: Modern European
nearest tube station Brixton

In the midst of Brixton lies a gem in London’s cinematic landscape – the Ritzy Cinema. Showing a great mix of mainstream and independent movies, the cinema is licensed and looks wonderful, both inside and out. Through a small doorway lie some stairs leading to screen 5, and as one ascends these stairs we hear the chatter of excited voices, smell the faint whiff of cigarette smoke, and hear the last few contorted chords of a jazz riff followed by cat calls and a burst of clapping.

Well, the good news is they haven’t re-released Buena Vista Social Club. These sounds and smells are for real, because yet another doorway at the top of the stairs takes you to a different world – that of the Ritzy’s new jazz café.

It’s an exciting and vibrant experience, a far cry from the dimmed intensity of Ronnie Scotts. A band plays in the balcony area while 50 people squeeze and fight (all in a civilised middle-class London way, mind) over ring-side tables so close you could even join in (if you were that way inclined).

And more importantly, the choice and quality of food makes you often forget that you’re in either a jazz club, let alone a cinema.

Table service is excellent, as was the lack of a wait before our starters arrived. A hugely generous plate of houmous, pitta bread and olives was filling and delicious, while a plate of seafood sushi (yes, other types do exist) was light and just as it should have been. We were told that the sushi accompanied a Japanese film season at the cinema, and had been made by a thoroughly Japanese sushi chef- it certainly tasted like it.

There are snacks such as grilled sandwiches available, but where the Ritzy Café excels is their pizza menu. Far more interesting than any Pizza Express bill of fare, ingredients such as chorizo, pesto and the now compulsory rocket are mixed and prepared to a high standard. I had a pizza with dolcelatte, pesto, nuts and rocket, which was lovely and utterly warming for a winter’s night. Since eating there the pizza menu has become even more varied, which can never be a bad thing.

Desserts, too, have a place in the generous menu, and we had two wonderful examples of pancakes jam-packed with healthy alternatives such as ice cream, cream and maple syrup.

There is a varied and inexpensive wine selection, and you can expect to pay up to £5 for a starter, around £7-9 for a pizza, and no more than £4 for a dessert.

Special menus are regularly put on to coincide with other events and film seasons, which is a nice touch. The food is lovely and freshly prepared, the service is good, but where this place excels is its friendly, unstuffy atmosphere. Finally, London gets a place where we can enjoy a nice, inexpensive meal, in airy but warm surroundings, with a glass of wine in our hand and a funky tune in our ear. We arrived hungry and left as friends.