The Doodle Bar, Battersea
Battersea is the new Shoreditch. That’s right, you heard it here first. The area once referred to by estate agents as “south Chelsea” has, in recent years, developed something of a reputation as the centre of west London’s creative scene, with Victoria Beckham, Vivienne Westwood and architecture giants Foster + Partners all among the growing faction of companies that have chosen to base their operations here in the Battersea hinterlands.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: a handful of fashion designers and architecture practices does not a “new Shoreditch” make. And you’d be right. No engine will run without oil, and any burgeoning creative hub needs a little lubrication – that’s where The Doodle Bar comes in.
Part watering hole, part DIY art gallery, this hip, high-concept hangout aims to inspire a little creativity in the community by inviting its customers to “doodle” on the walls – hence the name. It’s what one of its founders, the illustrator Serge Seidlitz, described as “a walk-in, constantly evolving work of art, created as a collaboration between all those who visit.” What he didn’t mention is that it’s also a great place to take an artistically inclined date: the disused warehouse location, all exposed brickwork and iron girders, just oozes post-industrial cool, and the blackboard-painted walls make for the ultimate ice breaker. Right, let’s get doodling.
Try a gin-based cocktail like a G+T, a Negroni, or The Doodle Bar’s very own “Wrong Island Iced Tea”. The gin’s made on-site at The London Distillery Company, whose beautiful copper alembics can be seen gleaming through the windows.
There’s no kitchen on site, so sustenance is provided by whichever farmers’ market-style food stall happens to be in residence. At the time of writing, that’s La Piadina Pronta, who serve up piadinas (imagine an Italian take on quesadillas) stuffed with Prosciutto, tomato, rocket and oozy stracchino cheese. At weekends, the “beach” – an open space that overlooks Ransomes Dock – occasionally plays host to a wood-fired pizza oven.
Tackle Battersea’s public transport black hole head-on by picking up your date in a taxi (instruct the driver to arrive from the north – it’s far more scenic). With your first “Wrong Island Iced Tea” in your system, grab a couple of chunks of chalk, head over to the blackboard walls and let the creative juices flow. It’s likely that your fellow doodlers will include a couple of architects or students from the Royal College of Art, whose campus is nearby, but don’t be intimidated: artistic talent doesn’t appear to be any sort of barrier to entry, and there are usually at least as many people using the walls to play noughts and crosses or scrawl crude “fertility symbols” as there are serious artists in residence. Try a game of “suggestive Hangman” – if this doesn’t break the ice, nothing will. Suitably lubricated, either take a romantic stroll back over Battersea Bridge or extend the night with some cheesy Eurotrash fun just round the corner at Bunga Bunga.
The wide-open warehouse space can get a little chilly when the sun goes down, so bring an extra layer. Thanks to its residential location, the outdoor beach area is forced to close at 9pm – which can cause the bar to get busy.
3. Not stereotypically romantic, but artsy types could easily fall in love at The Doodle Bar. If any proof were needed, the venue will be playing host to a wedding later in the summer. The couple apparently had their first date here…