London House is in Battersea, which some people call South Chelsea, but is more East Wandsworth to my mind; or maybe North Clapham, or, even better, West Brixton. This is the self-hatred that the housing bubble has brought to London: we have whole sorrowful postcodes that long to be something else because original posh London, which is SW1 and W1 and SW3, does not really exist any more, or rather it does, but it does not belong to us, so we might as well forget about it.
So we have London House. It was obviously a marketing essential to tag this restaurant to London, and also to mention houses, which now are unicorns of brick. The whole venture reeks of anxiety and it should — posh people now live in Battersea, swarming about in yellow corduroy trousers and matching hair, looking bewildered because Tooting is now a place with a name to them. The noble districts of south London deserve better than people who simply wish they lived in Chelsea, and have nothing else to say. Affluent monotheism, I call it.
Anyway, London House is the new restaurant from Gordon Ramsay, the frightening TV cook with holes in his face and monster teeth. It is his 12th in the city and his next born after his disastrous edgy pasta restaurant, the Union Street Café, which was like Prezzo but evil, and more salty and pretentious. He does not cook here — I think he has ascended that level of celebrity where he cannot do anything without a television camera, even breathe — so his head chef is an Irishwoman called Anna Haugh--Kelly. It is in Battersea Square, which, just as Battersea is not South Chelsea or North Clapham or West Brixton, is not actually a square but a triangle a taxi ride from Clapham Junction station. (This is principally a restaurant for cars. It should be in Dallas.) Battersea Square has three sides and not even an estate agent snorting faux cocaine off his particulars can give it more. Is ‘triangle’ less smart than ‘square’? More edgy?
This is a very serious and self-conscious restaurant. It serves ‘modern European cuisine’ for the SW slumberers, who cannot be bothered to trek up to real London, which doesn’t really exist any more anyway, and taxis are expensive, and the Overground a mile away, so why bother? It is above all a restaurant for ageing parents, who can pretend they have been to London without the bother. It is very glossy and groomed outside, with golden walls and excellent lighting (plus topiary); I have the strange sensation of having arrived by horse and carriage. Inside it is sort of crabby Georgian fatso meets Adam Ant. There is a sitting room with navy panelled walls and electric-blue armchairs; a fake fire that makes no attempt to look real, as if bored to tears by the very idea of it; and reasonable art.
The dining room is hushed; there are few tables, but they are rather large. You have to shout at your companion across an abyss of napery — or be silent. It has a set menu only, which I love; it keeps the price down to £35 a head and you do not feel cheap for not ordering à la carte; for ageing parents and the tax cautious, then. There are six entrees; seven main courses; four puddings (and cheese). The bread comes in a fascinating sack, like magic beans — was the beanstalk myth about an earlier housing crisis?
Chicken wings are delicious, sticky and wild; pumpkin and pecan nut soup is a charming swamp of flavour. Then a beef fillet that is fat and soft and perfectly cooked. I nod off on the wings of good food.
London House is, above all, soothing; soothing enough to make you forget you live in Wandsworth. It is soothing like medical grade heroin is soothing. It is oblivion. It is death.