A Battersea gsatropub owned by the Hall & Woodhouse Brewery.
Battersea High Street is an odd place. Quiet, almost desolate, in the shadow of several looming towers, it has surprisingly little in the way of shops or cafés. What it does have, however, is a handful of pubs. One of these, the Woodman, has come under new ownership, and is going for gastropub glory – though only in a half-hearted way.
The interiors are a case in point: the handsome front bar (with Chesterfields, gilt mirrors and old barrels, lit by candlelight) gives way to a dining room that so nearly gets it right. Pale hues and a high, vaulted ceiling give it a New England vibe, while scuffed wooden floors, piles of logs and more candlelight further add to the ambience. But it’s undermined by the crammed-in tacky leather chairs and shiny brown tables.
The cooking was equally mixed. We enjoyed the combination of crunchy crostini, crumbly goat’s cheese and a gutsy tomato and chilli sauce, but the squiggles of mustard dressing were surplus to requirements. Meanwhile, a lacklustre stack of smoked mackerel and potato salad not only failed to deliver the promised hit of horseradish, but came with more of that ill-judged mustard dressing.
Next up, our slow-braised Dorset beef stew was comforting and full-flavoured, though several Dijon-slathered ‘mustard croutons’ nearly ruined the party. Did the owners have shares in a mustard factory, we wondered?
But a terrific own-made white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake saved the day: its salty, buttery biscuit base and creamy, berry-filled middle making us with we’d gone straight to pud. The compact wine list offers a clutch of by-the-glass options, while the real ales come courtesy of Dorset brewer Hall & Woodhouse.
Staff were young and friendly, cranking up the chart music when it wasn't busy, and treating regulars as old friends. A good thing too: given this pub’s location, it needs all the neighbourhood trade it can get.