I can finally stop moaning. All my dreams have come true and it’s thanks to SW16 Bar & Kitchen in Streatham Hill. As a dweller of a less-than-trendy south London suburb – which, incidentally I adore – my bugbear has long been the lack of really good local restaurants. But I can confirm this vacancy has at last been filled.
There are a couple of decent ones but on the whole the choice isn’t staggering and I literally yearn to be able to stagger home from a local haunt. In autumn last year came the news that Streatham Bar & Kitchen was to open – very near to where I live – and we waited with baited breath to see what it would bring.
Beset by further lockdowns and on-going restrictions, it opened, and closed and then opened again, muddling through on a takeaway collection service of fresh pasta (which did a roaring trade for Valentine’s weekend) before finally opening for real a few months ago.
General manager Jenni, head chef Antonio and a handful of others work as a team to serve a loyal customer base of repeat business that’s growing by the day. These guys provide service that’s more common place in ritzier locations than Streatham. The team’s collective restaurant CV is impressive, including a trendy Shoreditch hotel and Yotam Otellenghi.
The cocktail list and skills of the mixologist are to die for. Seriously good drinks, made by people who know what they’re doing (this may sound obvious, but it’s not always the case – the recent cocktail renaissance has left anyone with a bar thinking they can mix the perfect drink, but I have seen and tasted some shocking examples).
‘The team’s collective restaurant CV is impressive, including a trendy Shoreditch hotel and Yotam Otellenghi’
I loved Rum Rookery – a gentle nod to a local beauty spot. The Breakfast Martini was my favourite – utterly smooth, so much so that you don’t notice the alcohol straight away but it’s a creeper so do watch out.
My family and I have visited twice in the past month and the welcome has been warm each time. Families, groups of under-30s, those accompanied by parents visiting from out of town and the mummy crowd, escaping family life for a while – all life is here. Dogs are welcome too.
As with all solid neighbourhood restaurants, it’s open from 10am for brunch and there seems to have been a particular stampede for weekend brunch of late. Halloumi and Portabello mushroom brioche bun served with tomato chutney sounded rather good.
The informal nature of the Mediterranean menu lends itself to sharing small plates as starters at lunch or dinner. In fact, during my third visit, I’ll forget about the main course all together and it’ll be an adults-only affair consisting of all the starters and much of the cocktail list (not to be disparaging of the main course choices, but starters are my thing).
The menu changes regularly, keeping the most popular dishes, and I just pray that these have remained when I’m next there. Fresh anchovies, burrata and tomato salad, beet babaganoush and house-made sour dough focaccia were all beautifully prepared and eaten with great gusto. Probably just one more dish would be needed to make a complete meal next time.
‘Fresh anchovies, burrata and tomato salad, beet babaganoush and house-made sour dough focaccia were all beautifully prepared and eaten with great gusto’
Fresh pasta looms large on the mains, with tagliatelle, spaghetti, orecchiette all made under the watchful eye of Italian native, Antonio. Aubergine ravioli, with butter emulsion, tomato concasse, and sunflower seeds, caught my eye, attracted by the flavour combination.
As is usually the way, the list of mains is usually finished off with a meat and a fish dish. At the moment, that’s grilled bavette steak, rocket panzanella salad and N’duja hollandaise, and pan-fried sea bream, romanesco sauce, rainbow chard, grilled spring onions, pickled mussels and hazlenuts.
Apologies for the lack of observation regarding pudding but that’s not generally where my interest lies. There was definitely a refined tiramsu, presented in a rather trendy fashion, in what appeared to be a water glass and mention made of a deal struck with Hackney Gelato.
SW16 Bar & Kitchen has certainly strengthened Streatham’s position on the food map and I for one am truly grateful. After years of searching, I’ve finally found my own neighbourhood restaurant.
5 Streatham High Road SW16 1EF; sw16barandkitchen.com