The Bedford is back! I mean, you knew that, since the iconic Balham pub that has long been serving up live music, comedy and good times reopened its doors just before Christmas…
Lead image: The Bedford’s Saloon Bar (photo: Johnny Stephens Photography)
Following the initial launch party, where the delicious canapes hinted at a menu worth returning for, our attempts to sample the Sunday roasts were thwarted by the fact the place was perennially packed to the rafters during its opening month.
So when we did finally venture back, we did so with aplomb. Dinner, drinks and Banana Cabaret – London’s longest running comedy club (in one venue, that is). Now, I haven’t been to Banana Cabaret since I first moved to London, when I shared a place with friends in Tooting Bec – terrifying to think that was over a decade ago.
So here I am, older, wiser, slightly better dressed, and now keener on the comedy side of the evening than dancing till the early hours. On the bill that Saturday evening in late March were Mick Ferry, Adam Bloom, Carmen Lynch and Ben Norris.
Banana Cabaret has played host to some of the UK’s best comedians, including Catherine Tate, Eddie Izzard, Michael McIntyre, Micky Flanagan, Rob Brydon and Stewart Lee, whose faces stare down at you from the wall of fame outside the Club Room.
But first, dinner. The Bedford knows what its punters want – choice, essentially. There’s pubby pub food like burgers, including the vegan Moving Mountain B12 that made its mark on a lot of menus this Veganuary, as well as à la carte mains as pan-fried plaice with samphire, roasted fennel and caper butter, and pork schnitzel with red cabbage slaw, a fried egg and salsa verde.
There are also small sharing plates for the indecisive, and a pizza menu that we, perhaps foolishly, disregarded, since some fantastic looking pizzas came out of that kitchen, including a huge sharing pizza that a table of four behind us devoured.
The steak was excellent – served medium, full of umami juices and really full of flavour, the chunky chips were enormous, practically a spud per chip, although somewhat scant, and the bearnaise beautifully buttery.
I was torn between the sea bream on the specials board and the Wagyu beef burger, so I opted for a small plate picnic for one so as to devour as many flavours and textures as possible – greedy but satisfying.
I had the Burrata with aubergine, tomato jam and a crunchy breadcrumb of some sort – all delicious but I feel the beauty of the burrata is its simplicity, so it could perhaps ditch its friends (although the tomato jam can certainly stay). I also feasted on smoked haddock croquettes with saffron aioli – tasty, but not my favourite – and a dish of utterly moorish baby squid in a cripsy, flaky paprika batter with tartar sauce.
The whole lot was eased down with a beautiful bottle of Les Volets Pinot Noir. If all the water in London dried up tomorrow, I would happily drink that for eternity
The whole lot was eased down with a beautiful bottle of Les Volets Pinot Noir. If all the water in London dried up tomorrow, I would happily drink that for eternity – it’s smooth, a little fruity and light enough to quaff.
We had time for dessert before the comedy kicked off, and I was intrigued by the fried Nutella gnocchi (like crispy little doughnuts) with banana ice cream. It’s odd, but in a good way, although the doughnuts could be a little lighter. The sticky toffee pudding is definitely a winner, but then, when is it not?
A little espresso martini pick-me-up before the show and it was off to the Club Room to laugh our socks off. Rhys James certainly knew his audience, teasing us all with jokes about middle class problems and estate agents, but it was Carmen Lynch that got the tears pricking my eyes, with inappropriate dead-pan humour that I’m just too polite to repeat here.
It’s so good to enjoy dinner and a show in one venue, and something that certainly seems to be making come back with cabaret on the rise. I’m all for it, especially when you don’t have to leave the warm bosom of south London.
Plus, if you really do go all in, The Bedford even has 15 pretty little boutique bedrooms upstairs, so cheers, fill your boots!
77 Bedford Hill, Balham SW12 9HD; thebedford.com