Vying for attention on the crammed strip of bars and restaurants along Northcote Road is Babel. The Tower of Babel never made it to heavenly status and, sadly, neither does this bar, although it’s a decent enough stop-off for locals.
The most interesting thing about Babel is the haphazard smattering of bold, decorative lettering across one whole wall. Random words are scattered about, like ‘Serendipity’, ‘Tetrahedron’ and ‘Watermelon’; presumably to evoke the chaos and confusion of language experienced in the biblical Tower of Babel story.
Its interior is nice enough: the wide, single room is filled with puce-coloured couches arranged in perfect symmetry and a cute collection of fringed lamps in warm golden and ruby hues. Behind the bar, flanked with imposing grey pillars, is an artistic arrangement of boxy mirrors - but that’s where the originality stops. The floors are a dull concrete and the rest of the decor is neat but ordinary. The front of the venue is made up of floor-to-ceiling windows that can be opened out onto the cafe-style seating on the trendy pavements of Northcote Road – an inviting prospect for warmer weather.
You can generally always rely on a buzzing atmosphere at Babel; its proximity to Battersea Rise and prominent frontage ensure there are always passers-by stopping in for a drink. The glow of the lamps against the dim lighting and the hum of conversation create a welcoming atmosphere that is lively even on weeknights. Come the weekend, the party vibe kicks in as Claphamites descend for drinking and dancing.
Babel has an expansive seasonal menu, admirably including British and sustainable produce, albeit with prices to match. Standout starters include the pheasant and free-range pork belly pate with apricot and ginger chutney for £5.75, which stands alongside a tasty selection of soup, tartlet and terrine. For the main event, there’s a wide choice of hearty British gastro meals ranging from £7.95-£16 for a rib-eye steak with Shropshire blue and rocket butter. There are gourmet burgers served with dill pickle and hand-cut chips, delicious salads and sandwiches from £4.50. Although the dishes are unique and obviously good quality, at these prices it’s disappointing that there are no proper dining tables.
On offer for partygoers is a decent range of shots and cocktails, including Babel originals and classics with a twist from £5.50-£7 (which is a little above average for the area). Shooters like the Fat Elvis (Frangelico, Baileys and Chambord) and Dr Pepper (Pepsi, lager and Amaretto) are £3.50. Beat the credit crunch with the 2-4-1 Mojito Mondays.
Bottled beers available include Hahn, Peroni, Tiger and Sol. A broad wine list complements the fine food on offer and the house starts at a value £3.35 for a small glass and £13 for a bottle of Italian Terre Forte Blanco or Rosso. There’s a nice mix from around the world, ranging up to the Chateau Lamatre Saint Emillon Grand Cru for £30.
The Last Word
Is it a quality place to dine or a crammed party den? Babel seems to hover uncertainly between the two but, if you’re not looking for anything particularly special, it will show you a good time.