Friday October 4th - South London is very quietly being taken over by Antic, the group responsible for Effra Social, Brixton Dogstar, Battersea Mess and Music Hall, and Tooting Tram & Social. They are trying to bring the social club back to London, and it seems to be working. Balham has two quirky Antic boozers so I decided to check them out, along with the charming Poulet Rouge in between for some food. I was accompanied by Coral, Lucy and Amy, who make limited Team List appearances due to a strict "no school nights" policy.
Our first stop was Hagen & Hyde, one of Antic's newest pubs. It is right next Balham Station on the High Street, so many punters might dismiss it as a rubbish station pub - more fool them. It also looks vaguely like a shop, with coats and other garments on show in the windows. Every table inside is a different shape and size, and the walls are covered in all sorts of vintage paraphernalia.
I arrived first, so I got myself a very tasty pint of By The Horns Hopslinger, and found a quirky table in a corner which had a bookshelf in the middle of it, just in case you don't like the people opposite you. I'm sure this will also be used regularly for some classic library style flirting through the shelves. I resisted the urge to sit at one of the two upright piano tables - I'm not sure I would feel comforatble putting a pint on top of a piano anyway!
There were plenty of beers to choose from and a couple of interesting ciders as well. They have built a separate dining room upstairs that specialises in fish, seasonal game and colonial British fare, and they are still decorating a large space at the back. In any normal pub, it would feel odd having part of the place unfinished, but it doesn't seem to matter here at all. After a couple of drinks we moved on to get some food elsewhere, but I will definitely return as it is charming little pub and it was not too busy considering its location.
We only had to walk for about a minute to get to Poulet Rouge, a cosy new restaurant that focuses on rotisserie chicken, galettes and crêpes. They don't take reservations but we were seated straight away. The turnaround is pretty quick, so there should hopefully never be too long a wait. The design is simple and lovely, with colourful patterned floors and an open kitchen visible at the back where the chickens can be seen rotating away.
The girls all went for bargain £5 1/4 chicken with various sides that turned up in attractive baby Le Creuset pots, whilst I went for the Chicken, Chorizo and Rocket Galette (only £7.00) that was fantastic. I can't see myself ordering anything else next time or even bothering to look at the menu, it was that good. The sides were a hit too - we sampled the Chorizo Cassoulet, Corn and Dauphinoise Potatoes. You can turn your meal into a £10 roast of sorts by ordering the Sunday Sides at £5 with your 1/4 chicken. There are also some enticing vegetarian galette options if chicken isn't your thing!
Most of us still had change from a tenner so we decided to treat ourselves to their dessert crêpes. I was expecting your standard underwhelming undersized pancake that you finish in two bites, but instead a monster pudding was put in front of me, which I struggled to finish. We tried three between us - Banana, Nutella & Honeycomb, Vanilla, Pecan & Maple Syrup, and Apple Crumble & Mascarpone, which was probably the pick of the bunch. You can also get a simple Lemon, Sugar & Cinnamon crêpe for just £2.50!
We were all very impressed with Poulet Rouge and I can't wait to take some more people there. They even open up at 8am to serve Breakfast Galettes including a Sausage & Mustard option at just £2.00. They could get away with charging a lot more, but I hope they keep the prices low. They will have to, as competition is arriving in the form of a second Chicken Shop site in Tooting, after a successful year in Kentish Town. Hopefully there is enough for both of them!
We hopped round the corner for a final drink of the evening at Balham Bowls Club, one of Antic London's older establishments. Unsurprisingly, it was originally a Bowls Club which has now been converted into a social pub and restaurant spread over several warm, inviting rooms. It gets very busy but it is a relaxing, fun place to drink nevertheless. I would imagine it is very popular for roasts on a Sunday, when people settle in for the whole day with some board games. Check the pinboard on your way in for info on events such as pub quizzes (on Tuesday), live comedy and film showings (which take place in the beautiful upstairs event space).
Like most Antic venues, they have a nice range of ales including some local produce. I had my first pint from Belleville Brewing Co who are just round the corner at Wandsworth Common. I tried to visit them earlier when I had some time to kill but they weren't open, so I was delighted to see their Thames Surfer on tap at BBC. I was envious of the buzzing atmosphere in the dining room and might have to try eating here next time, if I can resist the temptation to return to Poulet Rouge! Antic can do no wrong at the moment, and I will hopefully report back soon on more of their excellent creations, including Sylvan Post in Forest Hill, and Graveney and Meadow in Tooting. Thanks to Lucy, Coral and Amy for joining me on the Balham crawl - 3 points each.
More info on the SW London microbreweries mentioned in the post:
Belleville Brewing Co. is right next to Wandsworth Common station, which is a 10 minute walk from Balham. They are mostly brewing American style beers. They don't have a brewery bar yet, but if you get in contact they are often happy to let you taste on site and buy some bottles.