Her Ladyship again. As ever, she shares her pearls of wisdom in the 1912 literary curio Samphire. “For we say in the Cinque Ports, ‘I am going to Clapham,’ just as you might announce that you are going to Paris. Also Clapham, being a junction, serves to cloak our ultimate destination from the curiosity of our fellow townsmen.” The Cinque Ports, sometimes referred to as the “Cradle of the Royal Navy”, were a medieval confederation of English Channel ports formed to furnish ships and sailors for the King’s service. The original five included Dover, Hythe, New Romney, Sandwich and Hastings. Lady Sybil Grant demands, “Of course you know the Cinque Ports by now? In any case it is not for want of telling over and over again, in good sound style properly punctuated, and in an English above reproach. However, I am never tired of talking about them.”
A glorious revival has taken place at Clapham Junction. Once the Wandsworth Board of District Works, this mid 19th century stucco fronted portico adorned pediment splatted building has been restored with more than a dash of panache. Its owners, the Church of the Nazarene, commissioned architectural design consultants Studio A Plus to turn all four floors into useful spaces serving the community. Front of house is Fresh Ground, a café occupying the original lobby, waiting room and clerk’s room. Back of house, the beautifully intact former boardroom lit by a roof lantern is now a multipurpose hall.
The breakfast and lunch menu is a healthy mix peppered with veggie and gluten free options. Dishes are named after families connected to the church. The Phineas comprises folded eggs and asparagus on toasted sourdough with halloumi, smoked salmon or bacon. The Andrew consists of Mediterranean vegetables, sundried tomatoes, black olives and feta cheese on garlic infused flatbread. Main courses hover round the £7 mark. So fresh ground coffee and a very ample portion of goodness on a plate for less than a tenner. Service is fast, friendly and efficient. Parents, au pairs and pets will approve.
Over to Reverend Jason Nike: “So, in a nutshell, the Church of the Nazarene has been on Battersea Rise since 1915. It opened as the headquarters of the International Holiness Mission, who merged with the Nazarenes in the mid 1950s. The Fresh Ground project was initiated in 2008 when the Church gave us the remit to look at how we could best serve the local community. At the time of writing we have around 20 groups – fitness clubs, children’s activities, charities and small businesses – using the building. All profits over and above running costs are reinvested in local charities. Two such charities we are currently working with are Wandsworth Foodbank and the night shelter charity Glass Door. Church is weaved in and through all of this.”
First things first. Clapham Junction is not in Clapham. Never was, never will be. When the railway station was first built in Battersea, the Victorians had the bright idea of calling it after Clapham which is 1.5 miles away. The former was a no go zone; the latter as respectable as could be expected south of the river. How things change! Local campaigns regularly erupt proudly claiming back Battersea to where it belongs. Take note Clapham Cluttons on Northcote Road. Never mind all that. At least agents agree the best real estate in SW11 is “Between the Commons”. It’s a heated up toast rack of roads lined with handsome houses cushioned betwixt Clapham Common and Wandsworth Common. For Wandsworth read Battersea. So no matter what side you’re on you’re a winner. As for the Clapham Omnibus it’s long been replaced by the South Chelsea Tractor. This is after all Yummy Mummy Nappy Valley Uppity Middle Class central. Upmarket has gone downstream.
Aside from Battersea Rise the other boundaries of this low rise swathe of bedknobs and broomsticks land are Clapham Common West Side to the east, Bolingbroke Grove to the west and Nightingale Lane to the south. Social distractions aren’t new. William Wilberforce lamented in 1791, “I find that I must as little as is really right ask people to Battersea Rise to stay all night as it robs and impoverishes the next morning… in this way I love my time, and find indeed that less is done at Battersea Rise than elsewhere.” The competition’s stiff, but really, for boys who brunch there’s nowhere quite like Sinabro at 28 Battersea Rise. It’s a reality. It’s a dream. It’s a paradox. Welcome to Parisian Battersea. Francophile Marianne Faithfull’s As Tears Go By aptly plays softly in the background. Do turbot and merlot rhyme? Halibut and Malibu? In Paree do you drop the t? What about Moët? Hard or soft t? But soon life’s perpetual worries and other first world concerns subside and fade away.
“We moved to Battersea three years ago,” relate Yoann Chevert and Sujin Lee, the owners of Sinabro. “We fell in love at first sight with this area because of its urban and suburban mix. We didn’t so much choose Battersea Rise for our restaurant as it chose us. We’ve been looking for premises for four years in London and had several abortive cases.” Sinabro is Korean for “slowly but surely without noticing”. Manager Sujin, originally from Seoul, explains, “This pure Korean word resembles us. We work hard as ants or bees collecting their foods by instinct!” There are just 29 covers in the sparely decorated restaurant: 16 at the bar overlooking the open kitchen, eight in a private space to the rear and the remaining at small tables overlooking Battersea Rise. “We have two, three and six course menus,” says Chef Yoann, originally from Loir-et-Cher. “Eventually it would be good to keep only the six course tasting menu. Our customers say each of our ingredients in a dish have strong intense flavours yet are delicate.” The Michelin Guide says, “Confidently prepared dishes that rely largely on classic French flavours but are modern in style.”
The Connaught. One of London’s oldest hotels, it’s the perfect pit stop for a sybaritic Bolly or four before full steam ahead to the soft opening of London’s newest hotel. The Beaumont. Fedoras at the ready. Restaurant royalty Jeremy King’s and Chris Corbin’s first hotel, the Art Deco styled Colony Grill Room is painted with Twenties American sporting activities. The adjacent Cub Room continues the theme but with a fine line in American whiskeys stops hospitably short of Prohibition. A HemingwayDaiquiri (£11.75) of Maraschino, rum, grapefruit and lime juice hits the spot. Across the bar sit modern writers Dylan Jones and Caitlin Moran. Overlooking the discreet oasis of Brown Hart Gardens in Mayfair, but just a Celebrations Cracker’s throw from Selfridges, The Beaumont possesses that frequently sought yet rarely achieved blend of intimacy and grandeur. The 73 bedrooms and suites range from £395 to upwards of £2,250. Breakfast is included.