A while back we reported on the many changes afoot at Clapham Common’s cafes: all three are changing hands, and a fourth may be on the way. The central cafe, which was formerly La Baita, reopened this weekend after refurbishment works, as the second branch of Pear Tree Cafe.
The Pear Tree Cafe‘s first cafe, opened in 2016 in Battersea Park, was a huge success. Indeed it was quickly overwhelmed with demand, with a degree of chaos until the processes in the cafe were updated to handle enormous demand. The Battersea Park venture took over a previously very unloved cafe, la Gondola – which was quite famous locally for its poor service, doubtful food offerings and generally dubious state of repair – and invested a fair bit in comprehensively updating the building and extending it.
A similar approach is visible in Clapham Common, though in this second project the previous cafe, La Baita, was busy and popular and by no means a disaster! We understand it was closed because the owners sold on the lease and retired. But the building was undoubtedly overdue a bit of an update and that’s what it has received – with a completely new kitchen installed, all the seating and tables replaced, and new lighting and decoration throughout. There’s a lot more queue space inside, but fewer tables.
There’s a strong emphasis on coffee, which is bound to sell well. While La Baita’s food was simple but well executed, it has to be said that its coffee maybe wasn’t the old place’s strong point and received generally mixed reviews; we’re pleased to report that the new cafe has really upgraded things on this front with a high quality offer and pretty much every coffee variation now available!
The menu has moved from classic Italian fare to modern brunch offering, with various all day brunches and a small burger selection available through the day, and it’s a slight notch up in price terms compared to its predecessor.
This was always a popular venue for dogs and children, and it is very well equipped with child seats, and the designers have wisely retained the muddy-shoe-friendly tiled floor. The premises has a full license and has a small selection of beers on tap. The ice cream kiosk was a reliable draw in the old cafe, and there remains an ice cream selection (but sadly only prepacked, rather than served in cones). Babyccinos remain available for 50p.
Sausage rolls are also available, as is a similar selection of pastries to the Battersea Park cafe.
The cafe’s mid-Common location is a major asset, so it’s not surprising that there has been a huge expansion in the amount of exterior seating, with 50 or so new trestle tables now in place – similar to the arrangement in Battersea Park. Coupled with the benches around the bandstand (which always served as an overflow for the old cafe) there’s plenty of dog-friendly space here.
Things will be a little more compact in winter, where we suspect more tables may be added inside. The Battersea Park cafe was quickly extended, enclosing a previously external part of the site to create more inside seating; however in this case Pear Tree Cafe can’t easily extend the building due to severe restrictions about new structures on common land. They are pretty much stuck with the building as it is. But they have made a good effort of working with the slightly dilapidated building they have, making it look brighter and fresher throughout, and with a new layout that should allow a much larger serving capacity. They;re currently open daily from 8 to 6; it’s quiet at the moment but we suspect as word spreads that they have opened, and the weather improves, this will become a very busy spot.