The Lodge, Balham
Jimmy Garcia’s pop-up restaurant in Balham (soon to up sticks and move to Clapham) is vibin’ Après ski. After a long day on the slopes (substitute hard day on the job in the City followed by trek home in the cold and dark), this is the winter date haven you’re after. Just off Balham High Road, you can ensconce yourself in the cosy environs of this restaurant with its timber clad walls and alpine paraphernalia – think skis, ice boots and faux taxidermy – hanging on the walls and from the ceiling. So you didn’t get that week off work to go to Val d’Isere? Big deal. Set up camp here and treat yourselves.
Indulgent hot cocktails and toddies are a must to warm you up and help you get over any date nerves. A very good wine list is on offer if you’re really not tempted by any of the cocktails. Try the boozy, buttery Baked Alaska Buttered Rum with a sweet little meringue beret float, the Deep South Eggnog or a Jamaican rum hot toddy. Neal’s Yard cheese fondues spiked with white wine and kirsch are made to share and come served with buttered potatoes, a huge green salad and cubes of bread. Sharing fondue is perfect for the new or barely acquainted couple; play at fishing out the last morsel to offer to your date. There is also a carefully selected menu featuring the best of winter meats, fish and veggies and comforting sides designed to stick to your ribs. If you love cheese and meat, you’ll be spoilt for choice at The Lodge. Vegetarians may struggle so do beware.
If you have a disappointed skier or snowboarder on your hands, this is just the place to bring them (they couldn’t get away this year, there wasn’t enough snow etc.) to forget all their troubles and enjoy the après ski anyway. Meet at Balham station, pop into Hagen & Hyde for a pre-dinner drink in chintzy vintage and shabby chic surroundings. This will provide pre-dinner conversation and take the edge off. Walk the short distance to The Lodge and once inside and coats are off, drape a warm blanket over your knees, cup your hot cocktails and simply allow the chalet atmosphere to transport you to the mountains. Keep in mind that this is heavy food and you don’t want to overdo it too much if you’re planning on more than an Eskimo kiss. If you do go a little hell for leather on the cheese, make your way home together anyway. Snuggle then spoon and wait for the morning to come before you pounce.
Balham’s a bit south but hey, this is worth it.
3. Baby it’s cold outside.