Published on October 14th, 2014 | by Rebecca Anne Milford3
The Four Thieves Pub, Battersea
Summary: The Four Thieves has stolen my heart - and I defy you not to be equally enamoured
Best of Battersea
If I could describe the decor in The Four Thieves in one word it would be eccentric. If I could describe the staff, I’d say passionate. And if I had three words for the whole place then I would have to say ‘totally frickin’ awesome’.
Yep, The Four Thieves is my new favourite hangout. Located just off the main drag of Lavender Hill, in the building that used to be the Battersea Mess and Music Hall, then this is a pub that caters for just about anybody who has a sense of fun and an open, curious mind. It’s eclectic (jazz nights, comedy club, and outlandish ideas for a future roller disco…), bonkers (there’s a huge wooden totem to the plague doctors of old guarding the door) and absolutely, stonkingly dedicated to serving customers a truly superior experience. This means that you don’t just get a lager – you get lager that arrives in your glass straight from brewery tanks. Ask for a gin and tonic and the General Manager Dan will happily take you on a whimsical gin-flight that encompasses American, French and Spanish varieties, and in a few weeks you’ll be able to drink The Four Thieves Gin, thanks to their own distillery. Like ale? There’s an onsite brewery that provides everything from pale ales to porters. And as for the coffee, there’s a special drip brew that makes for a punchy, intense cup of Joe that is a million miles away from your average espresso. See, told you it catered for everyone.
So what’s their USP you might ask? True, in some cases the phrase ‘tradesman of many, master of few’ comes to mind, and yet there is genuinely never that feeling when it comes to The Four Thieves. It seems they’ve mapped out what they want to achieve, so by gum they’re going to deliver… and deliver they do.
We arrive on a Thursday lunchtime, barely two weeks after opening. There’s an immediate relaxed feeling to the place, thanks in large part to their quirky decor. A mash-up of antiques and taxidermy (antelope heads on the wall; chandeliers hanging around) and nods to 60’s kitsch with huge orange light fittings, an old TV set, swirly wallpaper and a glitter ball… yet it works. Everything about this place works – the nicely sized garden with its retro armchairs and veranda; the array of couches, booths and tables in the main bar; the Boat Room with the stage for open mic and, yep – a bar that is a boat (bought off e-bay and sawn in half to great effect). The music alternates between jazz, funk, soul and acoustic covers. You want to come here with friends and just spend an afternoon reclining and relaxing, every so often looking around and saying ‘oh, I hadn’t noticed that before.’ It is comfort and quirk and just what you want from a pub.
So, does the food stand up to all this? Of course it does. Daily specials are announced on the blackboard, although the menu is exciting enough. Again, it is a list that caters for everybody, and yet doesn’t skimp on quality. Starters range from luxury sausage rolls to carpaccio of beef or pork belly and squid. We decide to try their famous sausage rolls, and add an Asian twist with the salt and pepper squid.
The sausage rolls arrive in a large coffee cup, piping hot and smelling superb. One look and you can see why they’re already gunning for legendary status. The pastry is flaky and slightly caramelised in places – the meat is juicy, robust and superbly seasoned. No dry excuses for snackage here, just the perfect balance of golden pastry and filling. There’s BBQ sauce and mayo too but, to be honest, they’re so moist and tasty you hardly need it.
The squid is equally superb – tender, lightly battered and not greasy. It comes with a bright and zesty Asian salad incorporating spring onion, radish, carrot, mint… just the right accompaniment to cut through the batter.
The mains are even harder to pick from. I bounce from jerk chicken served with rice and peas, over to pie of the day (chicken, pancetta and mushroom this afternoon), and then consider the pulled pork and kimchi gap (FYI this does look IMMENSE – another visit will be needed…) But I can’t stop myself from ordering the special of kangaroo rump served with sweet potato mash with a berry jus.Dan informs me that it’s superb and he hasn’t steered me wrong yet. I ask for it blue (i.e. still bouncing) and it’s as tender, flavoursome and juicy as I could hope for. There’s not a tough mouthful to be tasted; the sweet potato mash is the ideal consistency, and marries well with the luscious, fruity richness of the berry jus. It’s autumnal and comforting and yet there’s a freshness to the cooking that speaks of a very competent chef.
My partner is a lover of the classic chicken burger, and so decides to try their spicy variety, served with potato wedges and home-made slaw. It’s coated in Panko breadcrumbs and is crisp on the outside, succulent and juicy within. And if you’re a vegetarian then never fear – there are great options that include vegetable gnocchi, Puy lentil and beetroot salad, and halloumi burgers.
After all this you’d think we’d be too stuffed to move, but are still able to engage our ‘dessert stomach’ to test the chocolate brownie (a slab of sweet-heaven) and the sticky date and toffee pudding (a pillow of spongy, treacle delight which almost beats me, but not quite).
By this time we really are stuffed. We use this opportunity to ask about the history of the pub – there are a lot of references to lavender (in the ale and future gin among other things) and also weird and wonderful nods to the plague doctors of old. We learnt that the four thieves in question were grave robbers that were spared their lives by the King in the 14th century, in return for their ‘magic powers’ that stopped them getting the plague. In actual fact their secret was that they rubbed lavender oil over themselves which, unbeknownst to the people then, repelled the fleas that caused the Black Death. There’s a bit of history for you then.
Today, The Four Thieves prides itself on being an establishment that celebrates life, and this it does with gusto. It’s one of those rare places that has managed to tick all the boxes and yet defies pretension or convention. I have no doubt it will be a roaring success – it completely deserves to be.
So there we go. The Four Thieves has stolen my heart – and I defy you not to be equally enamoured. It’s a place that manages to have all the comfort and charm of your local, and yet is obviously not going to rest on its laurels by always looking to make the experience for the customer that extra bit special. Which, at the end of the day, is what a great pub should be all about.
The Four Thieves, 51 Lavender Gardens, SW11 1DJShare This Post