Battersea park’s zoo, Chinese pagoda, lakes and water fountains have now been joined by a new lakeside café. Like coming across a mirage in a desert, finding it leaves you in disbelief of what you’re seeing. The formerly tired and down-at-heel café has had such a transformation that it takes a while to drink it all in.
Pear Tree Café opened in early October and is run by Annabel Partridge and Will Burrett, former protégés of the legendary Skye Gyngell of Petersham Nursery and Spring at Somerset House. Their credentials alone suffice in drawing patrons to this new venture and it draws a broad church. Dog walkers, families, couples, and groups of old and young alike are welcomed, virtually all of whom were in attendance on the autumnal day we visited.
The café is architecturally captivating: being circular and a single storey, it has an art deco feel. Its floor-to-ceiling black crittall windows allow light to flood in and its roof protrudes over part of the outside seating area, sheltering it from probable rain. Foliage decorates the exterior.
Inside, the mint walls, white ceiling and dainty marble cylindrical drop-lights do not go unnoticed. On entering, customers are faced with a stunning horseshoe shaped, white marble-top bar with pale pink tiles and tall French style bistro chairs. The circular skylight allows more natural light to flood in. The aesthetic is stunning and very likely to become an Instagram sensation.
Orders are to be placed at the bar. The drinks menu is comprehensive with inspiring choices. We tried the green tree smoothie made from spinach, kale, almond butter, avocado, banana, maca and blueberries. It tasted healthy but felt too thick, and in many respects could be a meal in itself. Perhaps lighter beverages would’ve made better companions for food during lunchtime.
We started with the chickpea pancake with grilled aubergine, datterini, mint and labneh. The softness of the pancake lent itself well to the smokey aubergines, oven roasted baby tomatoes and creamy labneh--it will no doubt become their calling card.
Next up was the charred squid, which had been cooked perfectly. It mingled effortlessly with the preserved lemons and steamed, purple sprouting broccoli. The chilli oil added a subtle kick to the whole dish without overpowering it, and the toasted almonds gave the dish a further layer of pleasant complexity.
Our final dish, the buffalo ricotta with deep-fried violetta artichokes, domestica and basil oil, did not disappoint either. The crunchiness of the deep-fried artichokes was complemented by the saltiness from the ricotta; the domestica and basil oil lifted the dish to finish it off, like an opera singer ending intentionally on a high note.
Presented beautifully on white plates, the portions balanced the generosity of the rustic with the sophistication expected of such culinary pedigree. Individual flavours and textures stood out whilst being combined brilliantly at the same time. The chickpea pancakes and the buffalo ricotta dishes, were probably the best vegetarian dishes we've eaten in London for some time.
Skimming through the breakfast and brunch menus (‘baked eggs with paprika and cumin, preserved lemon yoghurt, crispy kale’ and ‘smashed avocado with wood sorrel, pickled cucumbers, feta, chilli, spring onion and za’atar’) and the chance on an evening meal on Thursdays when the place opens until 9.30pm, we found clear reasons to return.
Don’t be misled by the “café” in this restaurant’s name; the food is on par with lunches we’ve had at Partridge and Burrett’s alma mater–Petersham Nurseries. Even if you order only a snack or a flat white-to-go, expect to be treated with the same care.
Opening hours: Monday-Friday 7.30am-6pm; Thursday evenings 6.30-9.30pm; Saturday-Sunday 8.00am-6pm.