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Powder Keg (Restaurant)

Picture of Powder Keg in Clapham, London

147 St John’s Hill, Clapham Junction, Clapham, London, SW11 1TQ
Cuisine: British
Tel: 0207 450 6457 | Email to Powder Keg | | Transport: Clapham Junction | Write review

Powder Keg Review

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Best for: Victorian cocktails; Victorian conservatory restaurant dining; Victorian time travel in south London.

Great: British gin; British produce; British wine; British beer; British charm; British meat; British taxidermy.

Have a look out your window. Actually, read this, then look out your window. It’s a war out there, and you’re involved. You have to stake your claim, plant your flag, rule your domain to survive in these austere times.

Take the quirky Lost Group, for example, for whom there couldn’t be a more misguiding misnomer. They conquered south London long ago, systematically creating and sustaining the best bar-restaurant in Clapham (Lost Society and Blind Tiger), the best bar-restaurant in Battersea (Lost Angel) and the best bar in Putney (Citizen Smith). They knew what they were doing, and they were doing it right under our noses. They were turning a ‘hood’ into an empire.

No prizes, therefore, for guessing who installed the best new bar-restaurant in Clapham Junction. The Powder Keg Diplomacy is Lost through and through. Some might say it’s so Lost that it’s wandered into dangerous territory; the oft ill-fated St John’s Hill, where the carcasses of former bars and restaurants lie strewn about, their flesh pecked by the vultures of zeitgeist.

Powder Keg’s locale is the mere tip of a very large, incongruent iceberg. Its frozen-in-time appearance keeping the iceberg solid as it drifts over the seas of style, taste and congeniality, amassing more weight as it picks up debris (aka, plaudits).

Victorian Britain - the period from which Powder Keg’s sub-cool iceberg came from - was an exciting time: Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle provided the landscape; The Industrial Revolution and The Great Exhibition provided the fuel; and the inventions of chloroform and nitrous oxide provided, well, inspiration.

As such, the peculiar Victorian absinthe dream manifested as 21st century bar-restaurant in Clapham Junction, ornately bedecked in velvet, gold, and mirror, in which a cove can get ran-tan and right royally corned on medicinal strength cocktails - such as the manly Gimlet - from a list of beverages as long, as British, and as heavily based on gin, as the reign of Queen Victoria herself.

This good brick straightens his waistcoat, cocks his top hat, and attempts to make sense of the bar’s shadeless lampshades, the door-and-knob walls, the perturbed stoat and the angry weasel fiercely ensconced in a glass cabinet, and the lavatory wallpaper adorned with hirsute men and tennis racquets. Then, he walks, nay stumbles, from the busy yet not overcrowded drinking den, toward the verdant greenhouse conservatory at the rear for sustenance, passing a booth full of young ladies sipping from girly punchbowl teacups whilst speculating whether the attractive barman in braces is available.

In the subdued quarters of the restaurant, the circus continues to revolve around his addled mind; yet he is completely enamoured throughout his experience. Questions, questions, he asks himself: why are there too many fireplaces in the room? How and why are the potted plants upside down? Are those picture frames at oblique angles, or am I? Should I opt for double pig from this rather inviting menu?

“Always double down,” instructs the voice; the voice emanating from the face of the beautiful impish fairy sat next to him. Is she imagined or, like this entire bizarre experience, is she very real? “I’m going double fish,” she adds.

“Okey-dokey, double pig it is then.”

Aptly named The Observatory, this restaurant offers our cad many an eyeful of wonders to pass judgement on. There are no t-shirts or jeans present, but nobody has gone so far as to turn their collars up. Whilst he and the imp-fairy mull over the virtues of the strong flavours in the pressed ham hock, caper and gooey poached egg starter, they scope the room for cannon fodder: a birthday celebration for an excitedly Sloaney gal called Philippa; a first date that isn’t going too well, probably because he’s wearing a bright red statement jumper; a jolly gathering of three, looking understandably pleased with themselves, one wearing a bright blue statement jumper (good call).

As distractions go, these are right up there with the huge cheese board and quince that our chap will gleefully tackle anon. But not before the superb pork belly with unusually warped crackling, red jus, cylinder of roast potato, and a nice bit of kale comes comfort-fooding it into the scenario.

“How’s the Hake?”

“Bloody nice. I pity the vegetarians,” comes the simple reply, insinuating perfectly cooked, light but filling fish, and a cream sauce to keep it moist. “It’s quite cheeky with this Chapel Down Bacchus English wine.”

And before he knows it, 4 hours skip merrily by.

In the interests of diplomacy, you’re now at liberty to peer out of your window at the godforsaken war out there. If you see the iceberg, climb aboard. Let’s not have the Worship Street Whistling Shops of this world usurp our patch on Britain. South London is ours, and with a little British vim, a modicum of gin, and a menagerie antiquated oddities, we can all get very Lost together. more

Customer Reviews for Powder Keg

Average (based on 6 votes): 6 Atmosphere: Value: Quality:

The following customer reviews are not endorsed by Fluid London and are simply those of users who wish to publish their independent experiences of Powder Keg.

“We needed somewhere to eat and stumbled across you, wow, decor and warm welcome on entry was second to none, we had drinks in the window before moving to the restaurant for a one courser, which was gorgeous, i had the traditional rib eye and chips, (home cut chunky chips!) and my partner had the pheasant, the warm chestnut and glazed skin was to die for! All washed down by your SA pinotage again with a romantic story. The girl and boy who served us were fantastic, didnt stay for long but will remain with us, cannot wait to bring friends to regroup, snack drink and be merry.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Helen, Windemere (7 years 4 months 6 days ago)

“Excellent, excellent, excellent. There is nothing about this bar/restaurant I don't love. it may even be my favourite bar or restaurant in all of south London. The food is fantastic (all British sourced) and the cocktail list very imaginative. There's a decent number of English wines on the wine list and the decor is quirky. A lovely crowd (the nice end of Clapham). Had one of the best night ever here recently.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
The Restaurant Hunter, London (9 years 2 months 17 days ago)

“We visited the Powder Keg and were really impressed with the meal. The mackerel starter was superb - particularly the lovely lemony pate which contrasted beautifully with the chilled beetroot soup. This was followed by venison which was cooked to perfection and accompanied by an extremely well-flavoured sauce and a deliciously spicy horseradish swede. We all tried each other's desserts and the standard of all was very high. The chocolate/chilli/lime torte was spectacular and I think the sticky toffee pudding was the best I have had. The ginger threeways was explosively good.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
rob, london (9 years 3 months 29 days ago)

Show all user reviews for Powder Keg

“Food was very disappointing, small portions and my starter was cold. Staff were very abrupt and even got a 2 drink order wrong at one stage without even offering an apology. Wouldn't recommend it at all”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Noel, london (9 years 4 months ago)

“I haven't enjoyed a meal like this for a long time! Well Done PKD you are upholding the best bits of English Dinning and are doing it in style! I will be back!”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
The Social Eater, London (9 years 5 months 2 days ago)

“An excellent new bar in Clapham Junction. The Victorian style is all the rage these days and I can see this becoming very popular very quickly. St John's Hill has a new lease of life all of a sudden.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
The Restaurant Hunter, London (9 years 6 months 8 days ago)

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An a la carte menu will be on offer six days a week. Gypsy Pheasant, Victorian Game terrine and a selection of Edwardian desserts are just some of the delights prepared by Powder Keg Diplomacy’s kitchen. Accompaniments such as Whitstable rock oysters, saffron scented potato rosti and Kentish apple tart tatin beautifully accent the notes of the table.

A lunch and bar menu will have a lighter take on British fare featuring homemade delights such as rustic breads, Scotch eggs, mini game pies, as

Updated 11/10/2011


Cocktails using historical gins and whiskeys through to modern English vodkas will be on offer, all complimented by hand-made liqueurs, cordials and bitters. Nettle Gimlet, a Plymouth gin medicinal infusion, used by British naval officers’ features on the menu. Similarly steeped in history is the Chatham Artillery punch, the venues twist on a 1883 recipe from a regiment known better for their parties than battles, the concoction blends mead honeyed wine, cherry wine infused Rye Whiskey, gun powd

Updated 11/10/2011

Powder Keg Opening Hours

Monday: Closed Friday: 12:00pm - 12:00am
Tuesday: 12:00pm - 12:00am Saturday: 10:00am - 12:00am
Wednesday: 12:00pm - 12:00am Sunday: 11:00am - 11:00pm
Thursday: 12:00pm - 12:00am    

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