Sunday, 10 November 2013
Purl at The Bedford, Balham
Nicknamed 'Planet Janet' by Andy Warhol, my ex-landlady is a confidante to the famous and a dog-walker-to-the-stars. She also has the uncanny knack of honing in on unloved 'hoods, buying a property there for buttons, "making the area fashionable, darling" then selling out when it inevitably goes supernova. Decades ago, I'm told, her coterie was incredulous when she vacated a swish Kensington mansion beside Biba and set up camp (in every sense of the phrase) just off Notting Hill no-go zone, All Saints Road. "Stroll on, white trash" growled baseball bat-wielding Yardies, loitering with intent to supply, outside the boarded-up mini-mart; as she went in search of weed no stronger than Silk Cut before settling for 10 Embassy Regal. Well, W11 was no Knightsbridge back in the day. After another astute move - to Battersea's Shaftesbury Estate, now laughably rebranded South Chelsea by some - she identified boring Balham as 'worth a look.' I was aghast. "Balham? As in, lampooned by Peter Sellars as 'the gateway to the South?' Do cabs even go there?'' Planet Janet's Midas touch did not desert her. Where once were takeaways guaranteed to give you the trots, locals can now trot along to swish brasseries or fill up on Franca Manca's pizzas. Shonky shops have rapidly been replaced by artisan bakers, twee gift emporia, cocktail bars and those twin barometers of any 'burb's kudos, Waitrose and Foxton's. The arrival of splendiferous Marylebone molecular magicians Purl at local landmark boozer The Bedford, speaks volumes about Balham's new status. Watch its young City workers go bonkers for bubblegum martini (grape bubblegum-infused vodka, egg white and popping candy) and café creamer (an espresso martini topped with condensed milk foam) at around £9 a pop. Purl aims to reprise ‘forgotten classics no longer available at HQ, as voted by our followers on Twitter'…. i.e people with way too much time on their hands. This will surely mean the reappearance of the W1 bar’s rummy smoke-billowing prestidigitation, Mr Hyde’s fixer upper. What does need to be fixed up here, however, is the room's gloomy lighting and decor. 1930s film projections aside, on launch night, it felt more Greater Grimsby working man's club than Great Gatsby glam With a little tweaking, it should shape up us SW12's sauciest speakeasy. Will Planet Janet be in for a green fairy - a Dalmore 10 sazerac caressed by a wispy absinthe air cloud? No chance! She recently sold up and shipped out. If you too want to make a mint, follow the van, old man, and don't dilly dally on the way to up-and-coming St Leonard's-on-Sea where the clever cow has bought a des res for less than the price of a Balham bedsit.
77 Bedford Hill, SW12 9HD 8682 8940 www.purl-london.com