This neighbourhood in London’s southwest didn’t always have the best reputation. In Victorian times, the landscape – which was dominated by railway tracks, flour mills, gasworks and breweries – was blighted by poverty. In fact, the industrial hinterland was considered an unpopular place to live – so much so that its train station was named Clapham Junction, after the adjacent district of Clapham, in hopes of boosting its desirability.
Today, however, the riverside district is on the up, thanks to its thriving arts and culinary scenes. The historic Battersea Power Station, with its iconic chimneys, is being given a new lease of life as a buzzing mixed-use hub – the first phase is open to the public, while two more Underground stations have been slated for 2021. Battersea looks set to be London’s next “it” area, so here’s what to check out before the crowds descend en masse.
“Battersea is close to Central London, yet it feels like a completely different world. There’s nothing like being by the water — it’s so calming” — Paul Taylor-Mills, artistic director of The Turbine Theatre
Artistic director Paul Taylor-Mills shares where you can get your culture fix in Battersea
1. The Turbine Theatre
This 200-seater theatre opened in a railway arch beneath Grosvenor Bridge in August 2019. “We launched with an emotional play called Torch Song, followed by an energetic musical called High Fidelity,” Taylor-Mills shares. “It’s been great to use our space for two very different shows so far.”
2. Pump House Gallery
Taylor-Mills is also a fan of this gallery, which hosts ad-hoc contemporary art exhibitions. “It’s something of a hidden treasure buried in Battersea Park,” he reveals. “The [shows] are often very different from the more traditional works that you find at the bigger galleries in central London.”
3. Battersea Arts Centre
Set in the Grade II*-listed former Battersea Town Hall, the centre is a mainstay of the neighbourhood’s arts scene. It stages over 650 performances every year, ranging from drama to dance.
Simon Murphy, CEO of Battersea Power Station Development Company, lets in on some notable new venues at the area’s Circus West Village hub
“This Italian restaurant serves up a delicious Mediterranean menu. It’s well worth a trip just to taste the lamb ragù pasta and tiramisu,” Murphy shares. Other notable dishes include spaghetti alla chitarra (egg pasta) and rabbit cacciatore (stew).
This cinema is set across several railway arches. The three-screen venue shows new releases and beloved classics, and movie-goers can enjoy fine wines, craft beers and cocktails from the comfort of their plush reclining seats.
“This bar has a lovely ambience, with beautiful Art Deco interiors that nod to the Power Station’s architecture,” Murphy says. “It’s great for a pre- or post-dinner cocktail.”
“Battersea has such a village feel — especially along Northcote Road, with its cafés and family-friendly eateries” — Lorraine Angliss, restaurateur and owner of Asian- and Mediterranean-inspired venue Little Bird
Restaurateur Lorraine Angliss, owner of Little Bird, selects her top bites in the district
The place: Helmed by the seafood experts Ben and Robin Wright, this sleek riverside restaurant is the place to go for top-notch seafood.
The food: “Go for the roasted scallops with chorizo and cauliflower purée, and the Thai marinated seabass with Asian slaw,” Angliss recommends.
The place: A popular artisanal bakery serving up a selection of breads, cakes and pastries.
The food: Classic and toothsome breakfast and brunch fare. “I like the seeded sourdough with smashed avocado and toasted seeds,” declares Angliss. “All the cakes are amazing, too.”
The place: A lovely, lively pizzeria located on Northcote Road that’s outfitted with rustic-chic interiors and also includes outdoor seating areas.
The food: Authentic Italian food, including Neapolitan-style pizza. “I especially love the pizza with tomatoes, capers, fresh basil and a whole burrata on top,” Angliss says.
Down by the river: What to look out for at the district’s weekend River Walk Market
This cheesemonger sells everything from feta to gouda and tomme to Comté. The latter two varieties are handpicked in eastern France for sale in London.
2. Kats Kalma
Their beauty and personal care products are natural and sustainable: think goat milk soap bars, lavender and bergamot bath truffles and rosewater facial mists.
Sink your teeth into scrumptious cakes and tarts from this award-winning bakery. Wares include a plum frangipane filled with almond cream, and a gluten-free lemon and polenta cake.
“The locals in Battersea are such a lovely and eclectic mix of people. I also like the fact that I can cycle everywhere” — Kandy Rohmann, teacher at Battersea Yoga and local resident
Kandy Rohmann, a local resident and teacher at Battersea Yoga, shares her favourite spots in the area
First up, start your day by stretching out with a hatha yoga class at independent studio Battersea Yoga. Then, amble over to leafy Battersea Park for a hearty breakfast – be it buttermilk pancakes or a maple and paprika bacon sandwich – at Pear Tree Cafe. If the weather is cooperative, grab a seat outdoors for views across the boating lake.
Rohmann recommends a leisurely stroll around the 81-hectare Battersea Park. If you’re up for more action, there are activities aplenty: try ziplining at Go Ape or take to the water on a rowing or pedal boat in summer. Then, have a late lunch at Northcote Road, which is lined with great Italian restaurants such as Osteria Antica Bologna and Numero Uno.
According to Rohmann, checking out a show at Theatre503 is a must. The 63-seat theatre champions first-time playwrights, staging everything from short plays to full-length dramas. Thereafter, wind down with a drink at one of the pubs in the area, such as The Latchmere, which just happens to be downstairs from the theatre.
A timeline of the historic Battersea Dogs & Cats Home
Battersea Dogs & Cats Home is arguably the UK’s most famous animal rescue centre
1860: Concerned about the suffering pups in the area, Mary Tealby establishes the Temporary Home for Lost and Starving Dogs.
1871: The shelter relocates from Islington across the river to Battersea Park Road, where it has remained ever since.
1883: The shelter starts taking in cats in addition to dogs.
1960: Women are allowed to work in the kennels for the first time.
2002: The shelter changes its name to the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.
2019: The shelter has cared for over 3.1 million animals to date – currently looking after about 7,000 annually.
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This article was originally published in the December 2019 issue of SilverKris magazine