There was a time – let’s call it the nineties - when the only place to get decent food, drinks and a fun night out South of the river, was Clapham. Back then Clapham was very much a tale of two areas. Clapham High Street and Old Town were affluent yet edgy locales with hip bars, and fun new eateries. Their frumpy sibling Clapham Junction on the other hand was the original Nappy Valley, with family friendly pizzerias and middle of the road pubs.
Roll on twenty years and Clapham High Street has descended into London’s version of Magaluf; alas without the weather. Meanwhile Clapham Junction has enjoyed a swan like transformation to become a social destination in its own right with a great selection of restaurants, pubs and bars. Nowhere is this more evident than on Battersea Rise, the strip that connects the Junction to the common. The latest and making claims to be the greatest, contender is the Humble Grape.
The Humble Grape is a wine importer by trade, that specialises in handcrafted wines from small, relatively undiscovered vineyards around the world. As an importer, Humble Grape gets the wines directly from the vineyards, so us punters pay for only the actual wine. The benefit of this, if it isn’t obvious, is that customers can buy wines to take home or drink by the glass or bottle at the bar for a fraction of the standard on-trade mark-up.
In keeping with the surroundings the Humble Grape is a good-looking bar. The downstairs wine bar wouldn’t look out of place in Hoxton with its, reclaimed-wood furniture, scaffolding-plank floors, industrial lighting and a bar fashioned from old champagne riddling racks. The upstairs part where we were is lighter and feels more wine shop than bar. Perhaps it’s the fully stocked shelves that flank one side of the room. The service is gentile and knowledgeable, while the ambience is near library quiet, which is good for a bit of romance.
The wine list is comprehensive and as interesting as you’d expect. Whether it be a Sicilian Galfano Frappato or a Stellenbosch Underdog Chenin Blanc there’s something for all tastes. The food is served as sharing plates with two sizes of meat platters, one cheese, and a couple of others that make a nod to Cuban and Turkish cuisine. They were generous in size and tasty enough, but this is not the place to come if you fancy a burger.
After all the Humble Grape is all about wine and it does that very well. There is no mistaking the fact that it is one cool bar – one that makes Clapham Junction’s Nappy Valley past seem a distant memory.
On a rating of * to *****
Wining and dining ****
Schmoozing and canoodling ****
Serving and pouring ****
The Humble Grape
2 Battersea Rise, London SW11 1ED
020 3620 2202