Cafe Society: Are you sitting comfortably?
Saturday 04 October 1997
I don't know anyone who doesn't love the Sofa Bar. Even the most dedicated North of the River person starts revising their attitude to the south when you take them there. In the wastelandy bit of Lavender Hill, opposite a set of tower blocks it, and its sister restaurant the Drawing Room, form the frontage of the unpromising Battersea Business Centre, though confusingly both are listed under "The Tea Gallery" in the phone book. It's got to be one of the best bars in London.
It's also one of the more barking, being, it seems, the final resting place of all those things you see in junk shops and never quite have the nerve to buy yourself.
The basic theme of orange, imperial blue and gold is heightened by more eccentric objects than all the architectural salvage shops on the North End Road.
You stub your fags out in the lap of a golden mermaid or the mouth of a ceramic frog, tables are covered in stately-home curtain fabric, plates don't match.
Food is classy but unpretentious: hearty quantities of really good bread made on the premises, lots of olive oil, grilling and spices, everything done with a casual cosiness that gives the impression of going round to a really nice person's house and finding that a load of other lovely people have dropped in at the same time.
As long as you're not a complete toper you can eat yourself to a standstill for around pounds 20. And unless you're the kind of person who demands that their food arrive within two minutes of ordering, it's hard to fault.
And yet, here's the mystery: the place is often only about half full. You see people walking along the pavement and reeling in delight when they glance in through the windows, but not everyone has the sense to push open the door. I can only think that it's because most places that look like this are in areas like Notting Hill, where the mumbling Trustafarian ghastliness of the clientele and the exaggerated prices would discourage any normal person.
Don't be fooled: this place deserves to be heaving; if you're ever sloping past, drop in and
The Drawing Room/The Sofa Bar, 103 Lavender Hill, SW11 (0171-350 2564)
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