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Monday 29 September 2014

BrewDog - Paperworks & Kerb - Bistro Union

A trio of South London delights for you today, in Battersea, Elephant & Castle and Clapham.

Wednesday 18th September - BrewDog Clapham Junction? BrewDog Battersea? Let's go with BrewDog South to avoid an argument, as their fourth London bar completes the BrewDog compass along with Camden, Shoreditch and Shepherd's Bush.  

A year ago, a beer bar in Battersea would have seemed out of sorts for the punk stylings of BrewDog, but a lot has changed.  The Shepherd's Bush branch saw a move towards more casual New York influenced watering holes with its arcade machines and plentiful natural light.  In July, they rolled out new packaging, doing away with their striking bottle art and replacing it with a laidback and informative letterpress design.  

And then a fortnight ago they launched their first lager / pilsner, imaginatively called This. Is. Lager.

"This is the end of brainwashed, glassy-eyed beer consumption.
This is the start of something special.
This is craft beer.
This. Is. Lager."

Are they dumbing down or is it a bold move? I haven't made up my mind yet, but in my opinion, this and the new Brixton Porter don't compare well with the more established core beers - Punk IPA, 5am Amber Ale (no longer 5am Saint) and Dead Pony Club.

Anyway, I digress. I've got a soft spot for pretty much every BrewDog bar I've made it to for one reason or another.  It all started with my first taste of Punk IPA in Edinburgh during my annual trip to the Fringe festival 2011.  And an evening at BrewDog Shoreditch (with their superb Underdog cocktail bar downstairs) marked the beginning of Matt The List last February.  

So, beer and branding chat aside, I'm delighted that they have finally landed in South London.  And what a great little boozer they have created.  Very funky interior design, a central bar and outdoor seating create a welcoming vibe that instantly fits with the rest of Battersea Rise.  With the Breakfast Club & King of Ladies Man next door, and the likes of Draft House, Brew, Franco Manca and Lola Roja round the corner on Northcote Road, locals have never had it better.

Charcuterie boards from Cannon & Cannon went down a treat with sour Mikeller Spontanpeach and the BrewDog Russian Doll series, whilst Siren Shattered Dream and North Coast Rasputin kept the imperial stout lovers happy.

With exciting Meet The Brewer events and tap takeovers from the likes of Dieu du Ciel on the horizon, I'll be back before too long.


Friday September 19th -  I'm still playing catchup after a summer mostly spent in North America & Scotland.  Being a bit slow on the BrewDog front doesn't much matter, but I'm kicking myself that I didn't make it to The Paperworks when there were still plenty of warm evenings to look forward to.

Corisca Studios has followed Street Feast's shining example and transformed a disused space into something wonderful, with fantastic food & drink at its heart, and music and foodie events on rotation from Wednesday-Sunday.  It's almost always free entry but check their website for more details before you go.

We went along on a Friday night which tends to be Carnival del Kerb, an evening in the company of some of the finest street food traders in London organised by the wonderful Kerb collective.   The lineup will change most weeks, as many will also be doing stints at Street Feast sites in Dalston & Lewisham.  I wonder if Kerb & Street Feast have squabbles over them...

"You can only see You Doughnut on the first Saturday of every month." - K
"As long as we get Bleecker St Burger on Friday evenings" - SF  etc.

Drinks came first though, and we never really made it past the craft beer bar.  Bottles from Orbit (very new), Wild Card, Beavertown and Partizan kept us away from the affordable £6 cocktail bar at the other end.

It seems unfair to pick out particular traders just because we chose their stuff this time around, but the shredded duck & pork burger from Bill or Beak and the Crabbieshack soft shell crab burger were rather special.  

There's not much else to say really.  Come hungry, grab a table, bring some friends (and possibly a blanket), and settle in for a relaxed evening of food & drink.

"Bill" from Bill or Beak

P.S. If you want to add some culture to your evening in Elephant, you can head to Hotel Elephant next door for £5 films in a cool setting, or Southwark Playhouse over the road for a little bit of theatre (and a rather nice bar too).


Monday 22nd September - Last but not least, a lovely lunch on Abbeville Road.

My parents and I were mightily impressed by a recent meal at Adam Byatt's Trinity in Clapham Old Town (still dreaming of 14 year fermented sourdough, and the Valrhona chocolate pot).  Clapham locals Chris & Guy also rated his more relaxed Bistro Union rather highly, and we only lasted 3 weeks before ticking it off too.

I've mentioned Abbeville Road before after a visit to Kerbisher & Malt, but I must stress again what a hidden gem it is.  Abbeville Kitchen, Bottle Apostle & Brew Testament, and Ginger Pig are just some of the delights this tiny stretch of road has to offer.  And Bistro Union is my favourite stop so far...

Turning down outside tables and counter service at the bar, we settled in the colourful and well-lit dining area, within sight of the eye-catching snacks board, which rolls down the wall like a hand towel.  

Bistro Union's "snacks" double as small starters, though there was nothing down-sized about our Broccoli & Stichelton Bake (a steal at £4) or the Salt Cod Fritters with Aioli (£5).  Keeping pace with those excellent little plates was Gem, Peashoots, Buttermilk & Toasted Crumb (£4).  London's buttermilk obsession shows no sign of slowing down, which doesn't bother me in the slightest.  

You could just stick to this menu if you were after a speedy lunch as there's so much variety (including a small dessert option), and the addition of a Daily Sandwich makes it clear that they welcome locals in for no more than a quick bite to eat.

Salt Cod Fritters & Aioli - £5

Broccoli & Stichelton Bake - £4

Gem, Peashoots, Buttermilk & Toasted Crumb - £4
After several snacks, we skipped past the starters (which are in danger of being overlooked), and moved on to the Bistro Union Staples and Weekly Specials a.k.a. mains.

Classy, nostalgic comfort food is the order of the day here with mac'n'cheese, fish pie and toad in the hole on the menu.  Dad gave the thumbs up to Smoked Haddock, Creamed Corn and Homemade Sausage (£16) whilst I wolfed down a Salt Beef Hash with Fried Egg and Pickled Cucumbers (£12), which was more of a brunch dish and just what I needed.

Salt Beef Hash, Fried Egg & Pickled Cucumbers - £12
To finish, I chose well with Banana Custard (£5) - a banoffee-style pot of gooey goodness without the biscuit base.  Dad's Plum and Hazelnut Frangipane Tart  (£6) disappeared without a trace.  

Banana Custard - £5

Plum and Hazelnut Frangipane Tart - £6
No frills, no fuss - it was a fabulous filling lunch that didn't break the bank.  Service was charming throughout, and there's plenty more on the menu for return visits.  

The weekend brunch is apparently pretty special, and Sunday evening supperclubs look fun, with no corkage BYOB and free meals for kids under 10. I also like the sound of private booze lockers behind the bar - once your alcohol is stored away, you can make use of it with free mixers whenever you rock up.  If you ask nicely, you might even get a Martini or two shaken for you.

Fingers crossed Adam Byatt gets itchy feet and sets up shop in Battersea next, or I might have to think about moving closer to his restaurants to minimise wasted journey time!

Bistro Union on Urbanspoon

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