It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. And you’d expect so, considering IT’S NEXT WEEK!
One place where it is looking especially wintery and festive is inside Balham’s latest pop-up restaurant from Jimmy Garcia, which can be found on Hildreth Street, a few minutes walk from Balham underground and rail station.
Jimmy is regularly dubbed “The King of London Pop-Ups”, and has been creating unique dining experiences since February 2011. Previous ventures have included Jimmy’s Underground Pop-Up which sold out each night last year. This summer, Jimmy returned to the basement of Dvine Wines in Clapham and enjoyed four-months of sell-out nights. His mouth-watering Burgers and Bordeaux Thursdays proved hugely popular with hungry Claphamites and his five-course tasting menu on Friday and Saturday nights was an underground taste extravaganza! Jimmy and his team use the best raw materials and create beautiful, creative dishes for any event, private party or function. They’re even catering the X Factor wrap party tomorrow night! Jimmy is always adamant on providing guests with a unique and alternative dining experience, which is certainly what I had when I visited The Lodge last night.
The lodge opened at the end of October and quickly became one of the hardest venues to get a reservation in South London. When I first attempted to make a booking, I experienced an engaged dial tone no less than a dozen times, followed by a further five attempts which just led to the phone ringing out. An email to the reservation address sent me back an automated message stating bookings could now only be made over the phone! A half dozen more attempts calling the restaurant finally got me through to a human being who stated the next table available table for two people would be a month away. I booked it and spent the whole of November dreaming of cheese!
Alas when it came to the night of my reservation I was no longer able to go. Typical! Luckily my lovely flatmates had a table of four booked for the following weekend and they had a spare seat. Talk about luck! Our table was booked for 5.15pm – an early supper that i’m not used to at all, but this was something we were very glad of by the end of our meal, as trying to sleep on such full, cheesy bellies would have been a lot less than comfortable.
We knew already that the fondue was what we were going for, but hard decisions were still yet to be made. The biggest decision: which of the hot cocktails to order!? All but the Eggnog (which sadly wasn’t available that night) contained rum (much to the delight of flatmate, Laura) and were priced around the £7.50 mark. It was a real toss-up between the Jersey Shore and the Baked Alaska Buttered Rum. The former is made with Santa Teresa 1796 Rum, Butterscotch Sauce, Golden Syrup, Giffard Liqueur and Cardamom, while the latter is made with Elements 8 Spiced Rum, Sweetened Butter, Pineapple Juice, Cinnamon Syrup, Cream and a cute little meringue to garnish. You can probably see why it was such a tough decision. I, along with flatmates Joe & Laura, opted for the Baked Alaska, while flatmate Shelly chose the Jersey Shore which came with a garnish of fudge on a stick; perfect for dipping!
We all tried a bit of both, and both were completely dreamy! I preferred the Baked Alaska simply for its thick, rich, buttery flavour; sweet and addictive! I had finished it long before our food arrived. I have since been trying to work out how to best replicate this heavenly drink at home but I can guarantee it will never be as good as the original. I would return again just for this warming cocktail.
Food wise we obviously ordered the Cheese Fondue (£16pp) which came with a more than generous portion of white bread and baby potatoes, as well as side salad (which I didn’t even touch!) We also ordered a charcuterie board which was £12 and recommended for 2 (although it happily served the 4 of us) This was a table full of all the things that I love the most, and coincidentally, all the things that make me fat!
The fondue itself was glorious and while the portion was huge, we finished it, along with the huge portions of bread and potato. Our very friendly waitress was pleasantly surprised by the fact that quite literally nothing was left on our table. We even polished off the meat board; not even a pickle was left.
With the help of set designers Firecracker Works, Jimmy and his team have perfectly recreated the look and feel of an Alpine lodge, with all the fun and enjoyment of an après ski hideaway. Cosy animal skins hang on the walls, vintage skis are propped in the corners and warming blankets and woollen pillows provide comfort at the tables.
This 30-or-so cover pop-up will remain open now until the end of February, from Tuesdays through to Sundays, however we were warned that they are already very close to being fully booked, so if you’d like to experience The Lodge (and I seriously think you should), i’d recommend you give them a call straight away and prepare to be flexible, or you may be left disappointed!
2016 update: The Lodge can now be found at 409 Clapham Road, London SW9 9BT. They’ve opened with a new chef who is offering up even more dishes alongside their ever popular fondue. Check out their menu here. They have a private dining room known as The Snug, and a 70 cover restaurant.