A few weeks ago we reported that the gradually-deteriorating former Recovery Kitchen next door to the basketball courts had gone under offer for around £25,000 a year. And now we know that it’s being taken over by local restaurateur Megan’s, who already run a loosely Mediterranean themed cafe on the Pavement in Clapham Old Town and another by Battersea Power Station – and who have some frankly pretty ambitious plans for the site.
Previous tenant at the site Recovery Kitchen struggled, as have many of its predecessors – because this is fundamentally a tough spot to trade. Running a park cafe at those rent levels really isn’t a walk in the park, with limited evening trade, rather basic kitchen facilities, and a trade that’s rather sensitive to the weather. But above all it’s a question of space: by the time you try to fit a kitchen and toilets in the rather small building, there’s no room left for seating.
Which is why Megan’s are proposing to use the building itself only as a kitchen – with all of the seating, as well as the bathroom facilities, outside. Here’s the floorplan – the grey is the existing building, the orange is a ‘temporary’ 25-foot shipping container structure that will house toilets, and everything else is lots and lots of seating – with standard seating more or less covering the current boarded area, a more informal gazebo area where the current gravel car park is, what may be an especially popular area of seating up on the roof of the shipping container overlooking the skate park and the Common, and even a narrow strip of seating behind the current building.
It’ll be called The Terrace by Megan’s, and architect’s drawings suggest it’ll be advertising Coffee, Brunch, Prosecco and Pide Pizza. As you’d expect from Megan’s (whose other venues are always well presented), the whole building will have a major makeover, becoming their signature blue (albeit retaining some of the current wood boarding installed when it became Recovery Kitchen) and having a very substantial decorational upgrade across the board.
Obviously a major challenge of an entirely-outdoor restaurant is the weather, which is why Megan’s propose to build a retractable roof structure over the whole area, similar to the one pictured right. Both this and the toilets are ‘temporary’ structures, because the rules around building new permanent buildings on common land are extremely complex (it’s not impossible, but it’s very hard). In many ways this is a restaurant for modern times – open air in the summer, and well-aired in the winter – and in line with the pavement seating extensions we’ve been seeing of many of the pavement restaurants along Lavender Hill.
This is a bold plan and if it goes ahead, will be the biggest investment this building has seen for several decades. It may also be a controversial one: any commercial development on the Common attracts opposition, and this is probably pushing the bounds of what can reasonably be fitted on to this relatively small site. But it does appear to have the general scale and ‘critical mass’ to actually be viable – and experience at Megan’s other restaurants suggests it will be popular, and finally stop the series of business failures at this location. The overall setup is vaguely reminiscent of Stein’s riverside sausage restaurant in Richmond. At the moment the site is a messy eyesore between a road junction, a skate park and a basketball court, so there aren’t many neighbours to disrupt, and the plans will certainly see the general public making more and better use of this particular bit of the Common than they do currently – our instinct is that this is a positive development for the site. The planning application is still open – if you want to comment in support or against these plans, or just make a general observation., search for application 21/00024/FUL at the Lambeth planning site.
We’ll also be reporting in the near future on rival cafe La Baita – which has recently closed following the retirement of the owner. We have heard it is set to reopen as a second branch of the pear Tree Cafe in Battersea Park.