There was a time not so long ago when, outside the centre of London, it was all but impossible to find truly decent restaurants within the M25. Rosie Paterson paid a visit to The Oak, an SW11 restaurant which proves that those days are long gone.
In the last few years, pockets of London have seen the creation and development (both natural and man-made) of individual villages — neighbourhoods with distinct identities, fantastic independent shops and services and landscaped gardens.
There’s Marylebone and the new Battersea Power Station / Vauxhall Nine Elms development to name just a few. And where once we judged an area on the quality of its local pub, now we do so on the standard — and number — of its neighbourhood restaurants.
That number grew by one in Battersea in January with the opening of The Oak SW11, part of a small chain that includes The Oak W2, in Notting Hill. It’s a cavernous, double height space, sandwiched between Battersea Bridge Road and the west side of Battersea Park. Interestingly, it sits next to Nutbourne — the Gladwin brother’s third farm-to-table restaurant in London — and The Prince Albert pub.
Décor verges on industrial, but it’s not uncomfortable and they’ve left a commendable amount of space between the tables. At the front there’s an inviting white and marble-topped bar. Order a cocktail from the refreshingly concise menu (there’s nothing worse than leafing through pages of ridiculously named drinks, only to pick something in a panic from the first page) whilst you wait.
The majority of tables sit on a mezzanine with access to Ransome’s Docks, and an alfresco dining area, beyond. As you wander through you won’t be able to miss the restaurant’s centrepiece table: a giant, quartz behemoth, framed by a living wall of herbs and foliage. It’s perfect for larger bookings that don’t require an entirely private space, and it’s beautiful to boot.
The Mediterranean menu is comprised of small plates, washed down by a drinks selection dominated by French and Italian wine. There’s the obvious: zucchini fritte; burrata, and the more unusual: seared tuna wrapped in tangy seaweed.
The beef shin ragu and rosemary pappardelle was one of our favourites; wonderfully rustic and rich, we came close to ordering a second portion. Servers are a whizz at ensuring you strike the balance between the number and style of dishes just right, but make sure you leave room for one or two of the mini, wood-fried pizzas.
For early risers, the restaurant is now open for breakfast on the weekends (your enviably located to walk off that French Toast in the park) and leisurely lunches.
It’s rare to find somewhere that strikes the right balance between laid-back and bubbly — the former often too quiet for a mid-week supper with friends, the latter a bit too raucous for date night — but The Oak SW11 has got it spot on.
Dinner for two, including puddings, excluding alcohol, around £60 — book via 020-7924 3999 or www.theoaksw11.com.
How to make Nuno Franco’s Sobrasada croquettes
- 400ml whole milk
- 50g Parma ham
- 50g sobrasada (Spanish spreadable chorizo)
- 120g sieved flour
- 100g English unsalted butter
- 30g grated Parmesan
- 1 good pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Vegetable oil – for frying
For the coating
- 2 Eggs
- 100g Panko Breadcrumbs
- 50g Flour
Start by grinding both meats into a saucepan, before adding the milk and nutmeg and bring to a very gentle simmer. Remove from the heat.
Melt the butter in a separate pot, and add the sieved flour slowly on a low heat, gently whisking until it becomes a blond colour — this will take about five to eight minutes.
Remove from the heat and pour in the meat/milk mixture while whisking constantly, until all of it is incorporated. Return to a low heat and cook until the mixture gets thick and dry, whisking every now and then to prevent it from burning. This should take about 20 to 30 mins.
When it’s finished, add the grated parmesan, transfer the mixture to a container and place it in the fridge to cool down. Once cool, roll into balls.
For the coating, pour the flour, whole eggs (beaten) and panko breadcrumbs in three separate bowls. Dip each ball into flour, eggs and the panko, in this order.
Deep fry in 180c vegetable oil until golden brown — around three minutes — then place on a piece of kitchen roll to remove excess oil. Serve with a smoked paprika aioli or Salsa Verde.