Finding a real country pub in London is like looking for a cockney in Clapham – possible but highly unlikely.
So I reserved judgement when I was invited to dine at The Woodman in Battersea, a historic local pub, recently taken over by country dining enthusiasts James Rogers, the chef-patron, and his partner Annie Broom.
Tucked away at the residential end of Battersea High Street, it was a real surprise to step over the threshold of this Hall and Woodhouse hostelry. It could have been a garish gastro pub after James and Annie gave it a makeover earlier this year. Instead it exudes rustic country chic with an inviting, light and airy decor, comfortable chesterfields, open fires and a warm welcome from staff. So far so good.
James, who picked up awards for the cuisine in his first pub , The Grundisburgh Dog in Suffolk, wanted to recreate the ambience and flavours of the country pub in the city. His evening menu offers a modern take on British classics using fresh seasonal produce, like Dorset beef, braised wild venison, roast belly of pork, served up with award winning Badgers Ales and an interesting selection of wines.
“We wanted to bring the country to Battersea with rustic cuisine – dishes featuring pheasant and duck - the kind of food served back in the day,” said James.
So far it seems to be working with people coming from both north and south of the river to try his food.
We arrived on a Wednesday which was Steak Night. I ordered a juicy sirloin with mushrrom sauce, which just fell away from the knife, with hand cut chips and green beans, while my friend ordered a main of fresh crayfish salad. We selected a medium bodied and fruity Paarl Heights South African Shiraz to accompany the beef and a refreshing Santiago Sauvignon Blanc to drink with the fish. A truly fab sticky toffee pudding completed the meal.
The service was first class – informed and friendly – and added to the enjoyment of the experience. With main courses starting at £9.95 in the evening , steaks from around £12 on Steak Night, and well priced lunches every day and brunches on a Saturday and Sunday, I feel I might be making a return visit to this little country gem in the city.
The Woodman is at 60 Battersea High Street, London SW11 3HX. For more information call 0207 228 2968 or visit www.woodman-battersea.co.uk