BY PALOMA LACY
Despite last weekend’s sunshine, I skipped off to Battersea with thoughts of a roast on my mind. No research undertaken, I’d decided that The Oak would surely be the place for a traditional Sunday lunch.
It sounds like a pub, doesn’t it? I couldn’t have been more wrong but that’s not to say we were disappointed.
On this occasion, ‘we’ included a vegetarian and egg-intolerant friend and her 17-month old, plus my 14-month old – a varied and difficult crowd to please but the restaurant coped admirably.
First to the look of The Oak – the décor is stunning and exceptionally modern in style, with traditional trimming from oak furniture. A clever design team has mixed classic, with the more contemporary sculpted seating around the bar area and tropical-themed tiling.
A neutral, clean and fresh palette, it looked so new that we almost didn’t want to sit down and make a mess. However, we felt comforted by the family feel of The Oak, with lots of groups enjoying an early lunch.
In fact, we found the atmosphere surprisingly convivial, and quickly got chatting with the family sat a few tables away. This was particularly refreshing, a change from the often starchiness of many a central London restaurant.
An enviable location between Battersea Park and Albert Bridge and the endless possibilities it affords for a pre or postprandial saunter no doubt has families flocking to this new neighbourhood restaurant.
Why neighbourhood? Because I could clearly see from the clientele that we were the only first timers here, with the rest, regulars who clearly felt at home.
The Oak is open for breakfast, offering up all the usual “a dozen ways with eggs” dishes, as well as full English and even a full Tuscan, replacing the British banger and rasher with the Italian equivalent.
So what of the main menu? It’s Italian, full of light but satisfying dishes that work well for lunch or dinner. Split into five sections: cicchetti (savoury snacks or nibbles to you and me), small and big plates, pizza and desserts.
There were certainly enough children to warrant a menu just for them.
When asked, the waitress advised there wasn’t one but that the kitchen would happily make a mini margherita or pasta dish, which would raise a smile in most little ones.
We chose one of each to arrive with the main course. I love social dining – nibbling, sharing dishes, while chatting with a friend, is my idea of dining and if we’d been child-free, lunch would have looked quite different.
A few cicchetti and couple of starters, to accompany a few glasses of wine, and that’d have been me happy and complete. A girl can dream, but in reality, Sundays haven’t looked like that in a very long time.
We kicked off with zucchini fritti – courgette spirals dusted in polenta (I think) and fried. Always a favourite of mine because it tastes far more healthy than it is in reality but still one of your five a day and is perfect for sharing (£6).
I felt it was a little on the sweet side, which my friend put down to natural sweetness but I wondered if a little sugar was added. I hope not.
Sobrasada and Parma ham croquettes (£5.50) were food heaven for me, juicy pieces of ham encased in béchamel, coloured orange by the oil from the Sobradada, used in a similar way to chorizo.
My friend’s burrata was welcomed with open arms and even the babies had a bite so a full house of praise from our table. With little ones in tow, lunch had to be a relatively quick, completed before boredom thresholds were exceeded and the noise levels cranked up sufficient to spoil fellow diners’ lunches, so we both ordered pizza.
The list of pizza is fairly standard but as we discovered, cooked to an excellent standard.
A Stagioni was served to me just as I prefer it, thin and crispy, with a bit of bounce to the crust – mozzarella, tomato, roast ham, black olives, mushrooms and best of all, artichokes scattered atop.
Both small and big plates held a certain amount of mystery, peaking interest to justify a return trip.
Perhaps next time, I’ll allow myself a night off and try tuna mojama, pomegranate seeds, sherry dressing, followed by grilled secreto (pork), purple sprouting broccoli and rhubarb ketchup.
Paloma was a guest of The Oak SW11, 39 Parkgate Road, , SW11 4NP. Call 020 7924 3999.