Area Guide: Battersea
Just Opened London’s Area Guides cover a combination of recently opened venues and established London favourites, to make sure you get the full lowdown on where to spend your time and hard-earned cash.
Words & Photography: Chris Pople
Battersea is a huge, amorphous area of town, a name that can apply from the shops and bars of St John’s Hill in the west to the giant Power Station and US Embassy development almost 3 miles east.
In between there’s the park, of course, more functional than beautiful but with plenty of open space; the famous Dogs and Cats Home that supplies the park with much of its life; and Clapham Junction rail station, so named to convince Victorian commuters they were travelling through a much nicer area of town than they actually were. What there isn’t a great deal of, oddly, is decent places to eat – so we’ve decided to pull together a list of the best the area has to offer if you ever find yourself passing through. Or indeed, happen to live there.
Best for… bistro buzz
Part of the Terroirs/Brawn stable, Soif is that rarest of things in Battersea (and in stark contrast to most of its neighbours on Battersea Rise) – a genuinely mature and sophisticated modern restaurant and wine bar.
The key to its success is its versatility; pop in for a tray of oysters and fizz, settle in for a heartier meal of Mediterranean-tinged chops and whole roast fish, or even just perch at the bar and work your way through their furtively funky list of natural wines; most evenings there’ll be fellow customers doing all three.
Soif, 27 Battersea Rise, SW11 1HG
Best for… burgers
Dip & Flip
The ‘thing’ at this ever-popular comfort food spot is that all the main dishes – beef or lamb burgers or soft-roll sandwiches – are available soaked in homemade gravy, a concept so objectively attractive and decent we’re surprised it’s not been picked up by any other of the gazillion new burger joints that have appeared across town in recent years.
Still, it’s not just about the gravy – the burgers, soaked in their own invention version of melty American cheese, and served nice and pink – are good even before they’re ‘dipped’, and they do a good selection of craft beers to wash them all down. It’s perfect hangover food, so it gets very busy Sunday mornings…
Dip & Flip, 87 Battersea Rise, SW11 1HW
Best for… Vietnamese
Family owned and run, Mien Tay had Lavender Hill locals jumping for joy when it opened in 2009 and since then has only grown in popularity – queues are not unusual in the evening, for one of the charming tables with their inset Vietnamese rural scenes made out of bamboo, or for takeout.
Dishes such as the summer rolls, honey-roast quail, or lamb cumin were instant classics, and the house pho is astonishingly good – this is food made with love and attention, and sold at prices so reasonable the spend per head rarely reaches over £20. On a recent visit, we were excited to see they’d taken over the old fish and chip shop next door for something called Mrs Le’s Banh Mi and Grill. It’s bound, also, to be brilliant.
Mien Tay, 180 Lavender Hill, SW11 5TQ
Best for… pizza
There are actually a few decent pizza options in this part of town – Franco Manca on Northcote Road is always reliable, and Pizza Metro on Battersea Rise has been doing its thing very well for a quarter of a century. But if we were to choose one favourite, it would be Donna Margherita, whose rustic Neopolitan (that is, chewy, thick crust) style pizzas are firmly amongst the best in town – lovingly handmade things with proper San Marzano tomatoes and fresh mozzarella on top.
Pasta dishes are a bit more hit-and-miss, and we lament the loss of the old ramshackle interior to a more wipe-clean refurbishment, but it’s still friendly and good value and well worth a visit.
Donna Margherita, 183 Lavender Hill, SW11 5TE
Best for… Indian
MOTU Indian Kitchen
An interesting one, this. The best Indian restaurant in Battersea is tucked away somewhere near the Heliport, but don’t bother going looking for it – you won’t be allowed in. In fact, MOTU is a delivery-only (more specifically, Deliveroo-only) operation, run by the guys at JKS restaurants who also own Gymkhana, Trishna and Hoppers.
As you might expect from this pedigree, the food is stunning, from fresh naans to powerful lamb keema to slow-cooked lamb shank in a rich, chocolatey rogan josh sauce. It’s unashamedly high-end and quite pricey, but don’t go comparing this to your average high street curry house – this is next generation Indian delivery food.
Lively and bright and with plenty of that wood-panelled Scandinavian charm, Story on St. John’s Hill have brought Square Mile coffee to Battersea for the first time, and the youthful crowd that flock here (more families during the day, more hungover twentysomethings during the weekend) are very grateful indeed that they have.
A lot of money has been lavished on the coffee kit, and so as you might imagine their espresso is expertly extracted and their flat white smooth as silk. But the food is also worth a nod, with nice fresh croissants from a local baker and some decent sarnies.
Story, 115 St. John’s Hill, SW11 1SZ
Best for… cheese
Cheese is almost as much about the experience buying it as the eventual eating, and the youthful staff at this Northcote Road stalwart make the whole journey an utter delight. Of course, it also helps that the selection of cheeses is second to none, from nicely chosen unusual regional French examples to blockbuster British Isles cheeses like Stichelton and St. James. You’ll be told how long they’ll last and how long to wait before eating them, and generally never want to shop for cheese anywhere else.
Hamish Johnston, 48 Northcote Road, W11 1PA
Best for… beer
We Brought Beer
This friendly little beer shop has a selection best described as overwhelming, so you’ll probably need to enlist a member of staff to talk you through your options. Similar to their Tooting sister, they offer growler fills (no sniggering at the back please) and homebrew supplies, as well as over 400 different beers in bottle and cans. In addition, there’s a lovely little quiet garden out back, meaning you can sample your choice straight away. If beer is your thing, then We Brought Beer will be your nirvana.
We Brought Beer, 78 St. John’s Hill, SW11 1SF