147 St John’s Hill, SW11 1TQ || 0207 450 6457 || http://www.powderkegdiplomacy.co.uk || firstname.lastname@example.org
I’d often gone past Powder Keg Diplomacy on the bus, noting the great name and that it always seemed to be full of happy customers, so when I came to research for a night out in Clapham Junction I went on their website to investigate the range (and cost) of their cocktails. I was surprised to discover that there’s a whole restaurant back behind the bar, in the charmingly named “Observatory Dining Room”. I mentally shortlisted PKD for my next “nice meal out” and this weekend I finally got round to going.
“The Rifle Bar” was rammed, even though it was only late afternoon – always a good sign. The Cocktail Menu was a dream – who can resist drinks called “More Tea Vicar” and “The Bee’s Knees” (with local honey used, naturally)? – though at c.£8 a pop they’re a little painful on the bank account. The bar staff seem genuinely knowledgeable, ready to discuss and mix specific drinks for customers. Information dotted here and there revealed PKD’s commitment to working with the British brewing industry – periodically they have special tasting evenings and ‘cask ceremonies’. My other half was sorely tempted by a range of delicious sounding chocolate beers, but decided to stick with an actual dessert in the end – probably best as we were drinking wine (out of pleasingly huge glasses!).
The restaurant, as the name suggests, is in a conservatory open to the light. As it was a bright, summer afternoon for us, we definitely want to return for a winter evening and eat by candle and starlight. The restaurant continues the bar’s decor of quirky Victoriana – empty picture frames abound on every wall, and reclaimed gramophones are used for an impressive, eye-catching light fitting – definitely a feast for the eyes!
Although there are snack and brunch menus, we ordered off the regular A La Carte. A little disappointingly, the menu that we’d scoped out online seemed to be no longer in use, and what I’d pre-chosen was no longer being offered; still, I can’t complain, everything on the new menu looked equally delicious. The cuisine is Modern British – hearty steaks, chicken, lamb – and sides of those trendy “thrice cooked chips” that are appearing everywhere lately.
My other half and I both ended up ordering the chicken – a tad boring, now I came to write about it. I’m not regretful though – the chicken was amazingly cooked, served skin-on with onion and sage dumplings in a broth of vegetables. We cleared down the meat, dumplings and veg and then resorted to slurping the broth itself, from obligingly provided soup spoons.
For dessert – I couldn’t help myself – I had to have the absolutely intriguing parsnip sponge with ice-cream. I can report that yes, it tasted like parsnip (and even came with a chunk and wafer of the actual thing) and yes, it was absolutely delicious. The other half played it safe with a oaty, creamy, berry concoction – an extremely generous portion but he scraped the dish clean.
Throughout the meal the staff were attentive but not obtrusive, never allowing our glasses of wine to get too empty – always good! There was no hard sell of the starters or coffees at the end of the meal, which occasionally happens when we eat out in similar places and can quite spoil the mood. A 12.5% service charge was added on to the bill “for our convenience”; anyone who has eaten out with me knows that this is a massive bug bear with me. I waitressed for ages during my degree and I am a very sympathetic and generous tipper – but I absolutely hate it when restaurants do this (especially for tables of only two covers). To be fair, the menu noted that this was going to happen and that it was completely discretionary, and to ask to have it removed if you weren’t comfortable.
The other half and I are already making plans to go back and try the brunch menu and the cocktails (probably on two separate occasions..!). As I’ve noted, the prices of both food and drink are a little on the steeper side, but I definitely want to return for a birthday or some other such celebratory dinner in the future. After all, where else am I going to be able to eat my favourite root vegetable as dessert??