Jun 25 2020

An afternoon at Hip-Hop Brunch

The 2010s saw the inexorable rise of the London Brunch scene and for us regular brunch-goers, the parameters are largely set in stone. The rules of engagement for bottomless brunch are pretty well established by now; you get in, wolf down your food and focus on maximising the bottomless booze allowance. Hip Hop Brunch (‘HHB’) takes that established rulebook, tears it up and swallows the tattered shreds.

In the best possible way, HHB is utterly madcap. The festivities began at 12pm, with a queue forming some half an hour before that. This particular edition took place in Clapham Grand (more on that later) to commemorate HHB’s 5th birthday, and it was incredibly alien to see such a sizeable queue forming in Clapham Junction prior to noon.

Upon entry, it is full-on sensory overload. There is a main stage where in any other normal event, the audience’s attention would be diverted towards. However in HHB land, the stage forms just one part of a visual smorgasbord in which something is happening in every corner of the room. Several large, Hogwartsesque dining tables dominate the centre of the room, and are flanked by several smaller tables where more intimate groups of 6-8 can dine. In ordinary dining circumstances, 6-8 people wouldn’t be considered intimate, but this is another thing that differentiates HHB; squads turn up en masse (if you want an indication of this, see their website where they sell a group of ten ticket).

The tables (and the rest of the room) are strewn with inflatable microphones and other hip-hop related paraphernalia which the patrons gleefully make use of. Periodically, a member of staff rollerskates across the stage, a professional beatboxer mimics a whole symphony of instruments and another member of staff inks a (temporary) tattoo of Nas on a customer’s arm. All of this passes without much comment from anyone involved, as if it is totally normal. There’s even a magician.

You are provided with a cup upon entry which must be guarded fiercely, for this is the key to securing bottomless drink. However, the usual pleading for additional drink that seems to be commonplace in other brunch settings isn’t present here. Your cup shall runneth over both metaphorically and literally in this scenario. The staff go round table to table offering to fill up any neglected cups, whilst you can also make use of the main bar. There was also a pop-up stall in which alcoholic slushies were provided, so anyone who wanted more was easily able to obtain it.

At this point, I was so absorbed that I had forgot that the brunch actually included a brunch element. The starter is brought out to give the crowd a brief respite from the vibes. As soon as the plates are cleared, the crowd begins to revel again, with the DJ playing a range of hip-hop classics. Shortly after, the main is then brought out, which coincides with last orders on the bottomless. If you have wondered why everything else is in such searing, HD detail while the food description is vague, it is because your humble writer was so deep in the bottomless booze that he forgot the exact specifics of what he had to eat (but can attest that it was nice though). Provided you are good and finish your first two courses, you will be provided with a dessert which concludes the culinary element of HHB.

This is where the fun begins. A gargantuan operation begins where the staff begin to remove the large middle tables making space for a proper dancefloor. The DJ really starts to go in with the tunes, providing the odd break in order to invigilate the hip-hop quiz or instigate the jewel in HHB’s crown; Hip-hop karaoke. Watching the utter panic as one person in a group of 4 is clearly asked to rap a verse they lied about being familiar with is worth the admission price alone. Equally watching someone shuffle nervously on the state and then proceed to absolutely nail their song gives a lovely vicarious sense of achievement.

HHB offer a day party only ticket which permits entry from 2pm onwards, so it gets even busier after the brunch has finished. The newcomers enter, look at the carnage unfolding and wonder what the hell has transpired between 12 and 2.

As previously mentioned, this particular party was at Clapham Grand, however the location is subject to change. The roving location maintains an air of mystique so even repeat attendees can experience something new. HHB is also part of a wider family that caters to all tastes: Garage Brunch, 90s Brunch, Disco Brunch and Bashment Brunch are all things with the same-but-different formats.

By the time I exited, I was alarmed to see the sun still blazing high in the sky as it felt like I had been in the club all night, as opposed to an afternoon brunch. However, that’s the beauty of HHB, you can call it a day at 5pm with a solid afternoon of fun under your belt, or it can be the catalyst for a night out if you are physically able to withstand any further punishment.

Words by Brett Lewis