It took a long, long time, but someone finally (re)developed Battersea Power Station. Dubbed as ‘the first and only pub to open at Battersea power station’, ‘No 29 Power Station West’ is Darwin and Wallace’s latest creation. We went down to see how things are shaped and shaping up. They have stormtrooper pop art and the best croquettes.
Modern European / Bar
People living in all of these fancy new build skyscrapers in Battersea, you finally have somewhere a little more local – D&W are all about the ‘neighborhood bar’ after all.
Food and drink people seeking looking at the next step up (in terms of price & quality) from the large chain bar experience – but not willing to go ‘full restaurant’ (though you can get a very reasonable sit down meal here). ’tis a place for fancy drinks that are not too fancy. It’s not a pub, despite what they call it.
In a Word
Battersea is back (well, almost)
Darwin and Wallace describe each of their watering holes as a “neighbourhood bar and restaurant…more home than high street” – I think what they’re getting at is that, although they are a chain, each is unique. They are not decked out in such a uniform fashion as some of their high street competitors, and they have paid a lot of attention to both the drinks menu and the décor.
No 29 is the fifth D&W to date, opening inside the fabled (delayed?) ‘Circus West Village’ development on the 28th July. It’s situated between the Battersea Park and the iconic Power Station – the redevelopment is still in its early stages, No 29. joins 22 other independent bars and restaurants eventually to open onsite.
I am told No. 29 is the only pub here. To be honest, it’s much more of a bar than a pub, so I’m not too sure if that’s a credible claim to be made. Soapbox: Just because you serve more than two beers on cask does not make you a pub, the industry needs to be clearer about how we use this definition /Soapbox.
First things first, if you’re planning to visit here DO NOT, for the love of God, try to come via Vauxhall bridge. You will be subjected to a haphazard, hazardous, sprawling and labyrinthine building site; and you will be very late :(. Instead, come via Chelsea Bridge, and follow the river down for a relaxed, scenic and timely arrival.
In terms of what they are going for with the décor, it appears to be a combination the area’s Victorian era heavy brick industrial past, mixed up with opulent, optimistic 1920s splashes; think the art deco stylings of that halcyon time just before the world economy crashed and Europe descended into two decades of waking nightmare. Except it’s mid 2017 and there’s weird pop art on the wall.
Said art (which isn’t really weird) comes from Stoke Newington’s Hang Up Gallery and unlike much of the more generic art you often find in restaurants, these pieces are actually quite appealing and thought provoking. I find myself stopping to browse all of the frames, which is unusual as I am a massive pleb who doesn’t know his Dadaism from his Surrealism.
We’re seated upstairs under the high ceilings and some very large, industrial looking windows. The initial impression is of a very new, well thought out environment, taking some inspiration from East London – there are hints of higher end luxury in the seating areas, such as the curved velvet banquettes and the eccentric details in the selection of artwork and accessories.
I think my favourite part is moody alcove full of book shelves, trailing foliage and vinyl – situated behind an empty set of DJ decks. The areas with high ceilings lack ‘the cosyness factor’ – seated by a window wall with a high ceiling and clinical white paint leaves my partner feeling a little exposed. She describes the lighting and layout as ‘a little stark and misplaced’.
Follow the stairs downward to a second bar and ‘Screen Room’ – it is quite cavernous and entirely vacant when I visit. Quite a site to behold, I am told that it is popular for business breakfasts and the obvious private function. The fact that it is empty gives us plenty of time to explore its fascinating alcoves and tilework.
‘Cool’ era Jazz initially sets backdrop – this music later changes to jazz as the mood intensifies and the place fills up. A very young hip crowd can be found here on this fine balmy evening – these people are most certainly not tourists, but what we used to call ‘Yuppies’ – upwardly mobile professionals with Canadian, Kiwi and American accents congregating in this one spot, so far from the homeland.
The Food and Drink
As a place that puts more of an emphasis on food than drink, there’s nothing too ridiculous or surprising on the menu here. The food is of the Modern European variety you find in most places like this – a cuisine style with almost limitless options and combinations. No raw vegan interpretations of haute cuisine or experimental street food here.
The first two portions from the ‘small and sharing’ are very small relative to their cost. In terms of portion, it’s more ‘whilst you wait’, than ‘starters’. The mains, sides and desserts are a little more reasonable for the price.
Sticky short rib bites £7.50
Rather good indeed and oh so honeyed. The beef is creamy, and slightly spicy – so pulled that you’re forever retrieving errant muscle fibres from thick honeyed sauce at the bottom. I enjoy it, but it is a little too sweet for me. A mouse sized portion (assume that this mouse likes beef).
Beef and black pudding croquette £7.50
Here we have what is, unquestionably, the best croquet of my life (…I’ve had a fair few croquets by this point). The savory black pudding and silky soft beef , which have a yielding texture, contrast wonderfully with the crunchy, salty breaded exterior. I wish there were more of these on the plate, they are phenomenal.
Summer chicken pie £14.95
With parmesan filo pastry, new potato, tarragon and crème freche. The filo pastry top cracks immediately under the weight of your fork, and is almost like a cheesy poppadum. Like any pie, it is hotter than sun (disclaimer: it is not actually hotter than the sun, because the core of the sun is 27 million degrees Fahrenheit – and a pie of this temperature might destroy the restaurant)
Aaaaanyway, once you break the topping the inside is *almost* like a hearty chicken soup. I don’t know if this is an overactive imagination primed by one too many Thai Green chicken curries, but there appears to be a Thai influence on the dish.
Potatoes hide underneath, and must be excavated from the soup-like filling. The chicken is shredded thinly and distributed everywhere, with the odd solid chunk that is quite satisfying. This is very much like a reinterpreted British pub pie with what feel like Thai curry influences and an ‘experimental topping’. I like it.
Truffle Macaroni Cheese £4.50
The best kind of ‘I want to get fat now’ food, now with added truffle. The truffle itself doesn’t really hold its taste very well (you can taste the truffle, but it lacks that meaty umami that makes a well executed truffle dish so magnificent and satisfying). Redemption comes from the fact that the subterranean layers are marvelous; soft and cheesy underneath.
It actually gets better the further down you go – apparently the reverse of all other mac and cheeses that I have tried. It looks small but is so, so filling. I later regret finishing it, but enjoy every bite.
Bavette Steak £19
With ‘house made’ fries (fries made inside a house instead of a factory?), watercress (haven’t seen you in a while) and bearnaise (better not screw this up).
My partner tries to order it well done and the kitchen comes back with a strong recommendation for medium. Education results, and I think future steaks will be ordered rarer – success.
Once it arrives, the meat turns out to be delicious. It reminds me of the really thin style Minute Steak served on a good cheesesteak sandwich that you’d get in the Philadelphia (as in it is a little ‘charcoal like’ but still quite tender). It is obviously cut thicker.
The bearnaise is what you want bearnaise to be, nothing more to say about that. And the chips – they don’t look like much at all but are 9/10 in terms of crunch and saltiness. Unlike ‘just OK’ chips, none survive.
Garlic Greens £4
Greens are garlic butter and coriander heavy. Very satisfying and promptly demolished by my plus one. A low carber’s dream
Raspberry Posset £6.95
With orange blossom and pistachio
I admire this more with my eyes than my mouth, as it is ordered by my partner, she of the sweet tooth and second ‘dessert stomach’. I snipe a few spoonfuls of it – the whipped cream is, unsurprisingly, delightful.
To be honest, it was what I expected – and what you come to expect from the Darwin and Wallace guys. An extensive drinks menu backed up by a pretty good food menu, built into a storied/historied venue (is ‘historied’ a word? …spell check says no). Whoever chooses their sites must have a lot of fun and budget.
It’s slick, but not too slick. This approach has worked very well for them elsewhere and I doubt it’ll fail them here. My main reservations would be that some of the starting dishes could do with either an increased portion size or lower price. The location is also quite desirable – if not a little off of the beaten track, but for the next few months (maybe years?), it will be a pain to get to from the east side.
Would I return? Probably not (due to the distances involved) – but if I lived or worked anywhere nearby, I could see myself spending more time here…
29 Circus West
Battersea Power Station
London SW8 4NN
0203 857 9872