Draft House Westbridge, SW11 3AG
- 74-76 Battersea Bridge Road, SW11 3AG
- noon-11pm Mon-Fri; 10am-11pm Sat-Sun
Pub in Battersea, part of a small chain. Previously known as the Westbridge, they rebranded in March 2010 to the Draft House Westbridge in order to emphasise the link with their second pub, the Draft House Northcote.
This is a pub of the gastro variety, though rather less pretentious than some of that ilk. It's perfectly fine to come in just for a drink, and while you can run a tab and have table service if you want to, this certainly isn't mandatory. They have three handpumps for real ale in addition to draft taps for other interesting beers from around the world, and all draft beers are available in thirds as well as halves and pints.
The decor manages to avoid both the stripped-wood cliche of "standard gastro" and the sometimes overly self-conscious quirkiness of the Antic chain — yes, the floorboards are exposed, and yes, there's He-Man wallpaper on the stairs leading down to the toilets, but none of it feels forced. The seating is a mix of high tables, bar stools, and normal chairs and tables (the latter just avoiding the problem of not leaving enough space to fit one's thighs between chair seat and table underside).
Kake, bob, Martin, and Phil visited on a Thursday evening in March 2010. When we arrived a little before 5pm, there were a few other customers in already, and by 8pm the front part was pretty much packed, though there were still some tables free in the back room.
All three handpumps were on, offering Sambrook's Wandle, Sharp's Own (£3.20/pint), and Adnams Wheat Beer (£3.40/pint); we tried the Sharp's and the Adnams, and they were both well-kept. We also tried one of their "pints of thirds", which consisted of a third of a pint each of Sleemans Cream Ale, Anchor Liberty, and Paulaner Weissbier (£4.75 for the three thirds). These were nicely presented in stemmed Draft House branded third-pint glasses, and the staff member who delivered them to our table took care to put them down in the recommended drinking order and give a brief explanation of the characteristics of each.
Food is served all day. We tried a few of the "beer snacks", which are only available in the evening. Ox tongue fritters with horseradish and beetroot (£5.50) photo were a little disappointing; although the tongue was competently cooked, the dish as a whole wasn't very interesting. Peppers padrones (£4.75) were fine, while potted ham hock (£4.75) photo was really rather good, well-flavoured and served warm with sourdough toast, caperberries, and tiny olives.
We also tried some of the main menu, later on. Rock oysters (starter, £9.50/half dozen) were fine, though we would have preferred it if the kitchen had taken the trouble to loosen them from their shells. Squid and chorizo served in their own liquor (starter, £6) were very good, with the oil from the chorizo perfectly complementing the squid. Onion rings (£2.75) were made as one would hope from actual rings of onion rather than the reformed versions found in lesser pubs; they were enormous, and competently fried.
Steamed cockles and mussels (main, £9.75) were less successful, however; the expected cockles were substituted with some other form of mollusc that proved impenetrable without the proper equipment, and even setting this aside, the sourdough bread provided on the side clashed with the flavour of the liquor. However, when the staff realised how dissatisfied we were with this dish, they compensated us with a plate of cheese on the house, including an interesting apricot chutney spiked with occasional (and welcome) bits of black pepper.
Service throughout was very good; swift, pleasant, welcoming, and helpful without being patronising. A 12.5% service charge was added to the bill.
Kake's verdict: I liked it here, and would happily come back, though I wouldn't come on my own after dusk as the lighting was far too dim to comfortably read a book.
Accessibility: A step up to get in, and the toilets are down a flight of stairs with a bend in the middle and a non-continuous handrail.