A Life Saver, Well Kind Of… | Social Pantry Café, Battersea, London
So how can a little café in Battersea – the Social Pantry, be such a turning point for me? Let me try to explain. Last week all started out fairly normally, Monday was press day at my magazine day job, our first Christmas double so a little busier than usual. On Tuesday Saff and I attended the launch of a Christmas special, a beast of a burger served with a side of mac and cheese. When writing it up I was even going to describe the richness of the meal as artery hardening – a little too close to the truth for me as it turned out.
For on Thursday after a doctor’s appointment for niggling chest pains (which I’d put down the usual stresses of modern life) I was told I had hypertension aka the silent killer. ‘Dangerously high blood pressure’ the doc’s words left me shocked. ‘You could have a heart attack just like that.’ snaps fingers
This was the wake up call that my body has been waiting for – for the last five years or so. I’m sorry body, I’ve not been so good to you of late. No gym (despite winning a year’s membership), very little exercise and the toll of regular three-course review meals (plus cocktails). So we had to postpone a meal at one of our favourite restaurants and go shopping for low-fat, low sugar, low salt foods. Mmm, I can’t wait.
Then, as if by magic, came an invite for brunch at the Social Pantry. To be honest with you, pre-health scare this little café wouldn’t have got me too excited, it’s more the kind of place that tickles Saff’s fancy. But skimming over the small yet perfectly balanced menu filled me with joy. For many of the dishes were not only loaded with items on my ‘things to lower my blood pressure list’ but also sounded bloody delicious too!
Decor is your usual homely shabby chicness – chalkboards on the exposed brick walls, shiny white tiles, mix and match mini Kilner jars for the sugar, salt and pepper etc, polished concrete pots for the cutlery – you get the idea.
It would have been nice and cosy and warm too had it not been for the front door constantly opening to let in the endless stream of customers asking for a table or ordering a takeaway. The tables (for two) were a little haphazardly placed, I wasn’t too fussed but felt a little sorry for the couple behind me who had to eat their brunch with my back in their faces.
We ordered a couple of great quality Union coffees (I’m allowed one a day – down from my usual 3 or 4) and a Super-C smoothie bowl (£5.50), to share. A mix of orange, banana, carrot and coconut smoothie with turmeric and ginger topped with a sprinkling of seeds and a drizzle of local honey. Bit weird eating a smoothie from a bowl with a spoon but I could actually hear my body thanking me.
Now what I really wanted to eat was their fry-up, the Full English Pantry Breakfast (£10) but Saff’s disapproving glare persuaded me to order the Beetroot, feta and red onion fritters, served with soft eggs (£7.50) and I’m so glad I did.
This wasn’t your usual stodgy corn style fritter all heavy and deep-fried, oh no. This was so light, made by gently folding the grated beetroot, onion and feta (plus a few other secret ingredients that the chef wouldn’t divulge) into gluten-free flour, then grilled until golden on the outside yet still soft in the middle. Served with wilted spinach and two perfectly cooked runny-yolked poached eggs. We so want to try to recreate this at home but just know we’d just be disappointed.
Saff ordered the Ultimate Avo on Toast (£9) – the old Instagram favourite of smashed avocado, coriander, lime and chilli on sweet potato rather than toast, alongside roast tomato and sumac but without the feta. Partly because avocado is on my blood pressure reducing list but mostly because she just loves avocado.
I wasn’t allowed anything sweet – doctor’s (and wife’s) orders, although their cakes, biscuits and brownies from Bad Boys Bakery looked absolutely incredible. Plus time was against us, we had to dash across town to IKEA – I know, I know, as if my blood pressure wasn’t high enough already.
We only sampled a few dishes from the all day brunch menu but the Social Pantry’s full menu has something for everyone for every time of day – fresh salads, crusty sandwiches, seasonal soups and savory pastries.
If you’re lucky enough to live or work near Lavender Hill then you’re really spoilt having the Social Pantry on your doorstep. We, on the other hand, are going to have to try our luck at recreating those amazing Beetroot, Feta and Red Onion Fritters at home in our little Kentish cottage.
170A Lavender Hill, London, SW11 5TG
Telephone: 020 8871 1949
Nearest station: Clapham Junction (8 mins walk)
We ate as guests of The Social Pantry, this does not affect our review in any way. We always write with complete honesty.