Putting the pip back into Battersea
As the south west London suburb of Battersea finds itself unexpectedly in the limelight, with the most expensive US Embassy ever built, a mixed-use development at its gigantic power station and the Northern Line on its way, two young chefs have the keys to their dream cafe at the heart of its popular Victorian park.
Chef Annabel Partridge at the Pear Tree Cafe in Battersea Park.
Annabel Partridge has the air of a woman in the right place at the right time. She’s sitting at a wooden table outside her new venture, The Pear Tree Cafe, which she opened with fellow-chef Will Burrett in Battersea Park, SW11, on October 6. ‘I think it’s one of the most beautiful views in London,’ she says, nodding at the lake with its honking, quacking cast of waterbirds, ‘This place was my dream. But I never thought I’d actually get it.’
She arrives just as Battersea’s perfect storm gathers pace (for good or bad, depending on your point of view): the new US Embassy opens half a mile downstream in Nine Elms in 2017 and the Americans are part-funding a new Northern Line tube stop at Battersea Power Station, to open around 2020. All that has triggered the development of the power station itself, Bankside’s big sister and London’s first ‘super-power station’, built in the same period as the cafe. Like King’s Cross before it, Battersea is changing faster than its startled residents can believe: what was suburban is now central, as the city rolls ever outwards – and now its park has a bona fide boutique cafe.
The Pear Tree occupies a drum-shaped 1930s building that has served indifferent food for years but suddenly finds itself rejuvenated: its ceiling has been pierced with an oculus – today filled with blue sky and puffs of cloud – the walls are fluted aquamarine timber and the Crittall windows give onto a vista of autumn trees and water.
The two 20-something chefs worked under Skye Gyngell at the Petersham Nurseries Cafe and at Spring in Somerset House: you can see it in the tranquil decor and flooding natural light – and you will see it in the menu. ‘It’s very produce-driven, very fresh, simple, delicious cooking,’ says Annabel, ‘At weekends we’ll do brunches, like they do in Australia and New Zealand – buttermilk pancakes, baked eggs, that sort of thing.’
Meat is organic and grass-fed, fish straight off the boat comes up from Dorset each morning and veg is supplied by New Covent Garden Market, by the new Embassy. Thrive, the therapeutic gardening charity based in Battersea Park for 25 years, will maintain the plants and, it is hoped, supply produce such as borage flowers and roses for the tables. Kids and dogs – see below – are welcome. An outdoor bar will open lakeside next summer.
Foreign visitors (including North Londoners): it may just be time to head south. Battersea Park has already sprouted a Go Ape! course in the trees, with crazy golf and a popular pizzeria below. It has a zoo, a boating lake, tennis courts, recumbent bikes beloved of even the grumpiest teens, a helluva lot of dogs, thanks to near neighbour Battersea Dogs’ & Cats Home, and now – well now you can get Allpress Coffee. And all is right with the world.
The Pear Tree Cafe opens Monday to Friday 7.30 am to 6 pm (Thursday 7 am to 9 pm) and 8 am to 6 pm at weekends.
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