It’s hard to remember the old pub right in the heart of Wandsworth which now houses Grand Union’s latest venture. The bar group has picked a winner with this site, which features the most surprising garden. Once inside, the infamous one-way system on its doorstep is a million miles away.
We arrived on a late summer evening, slipped past the tough and ready bouncers on the door and felt instantly drawn into the outdoor space. For a slightly chilly night it was comfortably full with, what my dining companion instantly recognised as the Tonsley set. Lots of smart young, and young-ish, types were making the most of the lounging areas and romantic, candle-lit atmosphere.
There’s a huge circular bar with lots of perching opportunities, cleverly built round a large and rather beautiful tree. The rest of the garden, mostly laid to lawn, is a lot bigger than it first appears and features more than ample table and chair set-ups as well as bean bag lounging areas. The addition of Thai Tree houses is promised soon. My dining companion felt he may not be able to get out of a bean bag once in, so we decided to go back inside.
We ordered drinks and food at the bar and settled into one of the comfy seating areas familiar to Grand Union bar users. There’s the familiar Grand Union vintage décor with flock wallpaper, sofas, rugs and your granny’s lamp. Artwork is classic reproductions - we sat under a rather alarming one of a very stern old lady all too reminiscent of Whistler’s mother. The menu is reasonably priced with gourmet burgers starting at £6.95 and pizzas from £7.45. There are also plenty of ‘lite-bites’, such as tangy BBQ ribs (£4.95) and Roasted Pepper and Goat’s Cheese Crostini (£3.95), as well as salads and ‘stacks’.
The crowd was lively, but civilised, and my fortysomething dining companion was impressed that he actually knew one of the songs playing in the background. Low sofas and soft-ish lighting lend themselves to a chilled-out clientele. Our food arrived. Thai fish Cake Stack for me and Gourmet Burger for my dining companion. We shared the fries. The fish cakes (£6.95) were perfect, in amount and taste. They came with a healthily large helping of very fresh rocket and a perfect sweet chilli sauce. I ate far more than my fair share of the slim-line, crispy fries. The ‘original classic’ gourmet burger (also £6.95), whose eater is very fussy about what’s in his bun aside from the burger, went down very quickly without any shedding of unwanted fillings, and was apparently very tasty.
With a second round of drinks in hand we took another tour of the garden, and marvelled at how such an oasis exists just off one of the busiest one-way systems in London. On our way out we glanced into the private snug with its separate bar. Catering for up to 60 people we thought it would be very useful for birthdays. Incidentally, the main bar accommodates 300, and the garden a whopping 500.
Finally we slipped back out past the bouncers, very pleased that there is now a very decent bar/eatery within walking distance.