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A historic power station transforms into a bar

It used to supply power to key places in London, including Buckingham Palace and Wimbledon, and now it serves activated coal Negroni

Battersea Power Station, Battersea, London, Britain. (Photo: Ian Lidell/Handout via REUTERS)
Battersea Power Station, Battersea, London, Britain. (Photo: Ian Lidell/Handout via REUTERS)

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Battersea Power Station has been sitting vacant on the south side of the Thames River for nearly 40 years, its brick building and smokestacks a pivotal part of the London skyline. The brutalist structure designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott—also responsible for London’s red phone boxes—once supplied a fifth of London’s power, including for Buckingham Palace, Carnaby Street, and Wimbledon. It’s been a backdrop to Pink Floyd’s Animals album and seen in such films as The King’s Speech, The Dark Knight, and Children of Men. 

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Since Battersea stopped pumping thick smoke into the central London air in 1983, there have been plenty of plans for regeneration, including ideas of theme parks and football stadiums. But a Malaysian consortium of investors bought the site for £400 million ($442 million) in 2012 and engineered a £9 billion transformation. It will open to the public on Friday for the first time.The project will have plenty of options for architecture fans and tech workers—Apple Inc.’s London headquarters will be here—to eat and drink, including a 24,000-square-foot food hall from hospitality power players JKS, the group behind the Michelin-starred hotspot Gymkhana. 

“It’s a big moment for London,” says Charlie Gilkes, co-founder of the hospitality business Inception Group, which has turned one of the former electricity control rooms into a bar called Control Room B. “I’ve lived in Battersea my whole life, and I was born in 1984, so the station has always been empty for me. It’s great that life is being breathed back into it.”The original Control Room B was built after World War II. In tandem with Control Room A, it managed the distribution of the power generated by the plant’s turbines. “We have all the original styles and controls, and there’s so much history in the room,” Gilkes says, describing how the architects and design team have strived to maintain the building’s old look, complete with fittings, desk, and switchgear complex.Gilkes says the archive team told him a legend about an old employee at the Battersea power station who had the daily job of going through a tunnel under the Thames to check on a switch and make sure everything was fine. This would take him three hours. It turned out he had spent most of that time across the river, in a pub at the other side of the tunnel.

You won’t have to disappear into a tunnel under the river to get a drink now. Staff at Control Room B—dressed as engineers from the 1950s, complete with boiler suits—will serve up drinks from a menu that includes cocktails with such names as Battery Licker (rum, Disaronno, syrup, and coffee), for £12, and a Coal-Powered Negroni (with activated charcoal) at £13.From offerings by Gordon Ramsay to microbreweries, here are some further top options for eating and drinking at Battersea Power Station.

Where the Pancakes ArePancakes aren’t just for breakfast anymore. Sure, you could order the American, fluffy buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup and streaky bacon for £13.50, but more savory, bolder options include the Pulled Beef Pastrami, which includes two pancakes alongside slow-cooked brisket, cheddar, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing for £15.50. Patricia Trijbits, chief executive officer and founder of the restaurant, says, “It will really be a joy to see diners tucking into our daytime and evening dishes in such an awe-inspiring space.”  She says the eatery has many fun things planned for Battersea Power Station, from book clubs gathering over crepes to outdoor yoga, followed by nourishing pancakes. Battersea BreweryThe craft beer in this on-site taproom is as fresh as it comes, with a rotating selection of lager, bitter, Scotch ale, IPA, and more on tap. Wine and such comforting pub grub as cheese-and-onion toasties are also available. Bread Street Kitchen & BarThis Gordon Ramsay chain says it’ll bring a “New York loft feel” to the turbine hall. Signature dishes include beef Wellington with creamy mashed potatoes with a red wine jus and a Himalayan salt dry-aged steak cooked on a wood-fired grill. There’s also an outpost of Gordon’s Street Pizza, which serves bottomless pizzas for £16 a person.      

Fiume, the restaurant’s location, right on the Thames’s south bank in the Battersea Power Station’s Circus West Village, informs its name; fiume is the Italian word for river. Head Chef Francesco Mazzei brings his love for the food of the Amalfi Coast to Battersea, focusing on the region’s traditional seafoods, such as lemon taglioni (£28.50). When London’s weather behaves, diners can sit out on the piazza and take in views of the river over a spritz.Wright BrothersIt’s all about seafood with the Wright Brothers, who have supplied top such top London chefs as  Jason Atherton and Angela Hartnett with it for nearly two decades. The menu changes daily, according to which fresh fish are available; oysters are a particular highlight, with the house selection of six on the half-shell coming in at £21. Weekend brunch with a £22.75 lobster Benedict is another highlight. Arcade Food HallComing in 2023, the new food hall will be at the “heart” of Battersea Power Station with a huge selection of cuisines for every taste. It’ll be similar to the Arcade Food Hall on Oxford Street, but with twice the square footage. The original has an in-house deli, Nepalese street food, a sushi shop, and a fried chicken joint, among other options. Already announced are Bao, a Taiwanese restaurant, and a cocktail bar. 

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