Step into the Wilderness: Social Pantry at Habitat Pop-up
Founded and managed by Alex Head, Social Pantry – no connection to Jason Atherton’s “Social” group – seems to be ever-expanding, with three sites across London, including a cafe in Battersea, whilst also running bespoke events and operating as a contract catering company for everything from office lunches to private dinner parties. Over a two day pop-up at Habitat, comprising a dinner and then brunch the next morning, it is clear that in an industry with fierce competition, Social Pantry has carved out its niche. Whilst the food is not pitched as “healthy-eating” by any means, the array we sampled undoubtedly errs towards that end of the spectrum with a liberal sprinkling of avocado and salads dotted throughout.
The night got off to a slightly slow start, with a celeriac soup shot with truffle oil. However, what should have been a warm, comforting mouthful was carelessly let down by a distinct lack of seasoning. A dish of sweet potato gnocchi with basil and sage pesto with Swiss chard crisps was well conceived and summed up nicely the evening’s food as a whole: light without feeling the need to venture into overtly healthy. A good idea, generally well executed, but again let down by a lack of any apparent seasoning, something that was to be a recurring theme throughout the meal.
This aside, the dish was fine, though, and the pan seared sea bream that followed was good and accompanied by an excellent olive oil mash.
A cinnamon doughnut served with a chocolate mousse was perfect, and the small toffee apple that came with it was perhaps the best I’ve had. Coupled with a rosewater marshmallow petit fours, the desserts were the highlight of the meal.
The Saturday brunch seemed to play to the company’s strengths and was a marked improvement on the previous night’s event. Sweet potato pancakes were light and flavoursome, and a pulled pork on brioche slider with a poached egg was superb.
Much like the dinner, the baked goods were the standout of the brunch. A banana bread with espresso butter was moreish, as were almond pancakes with berry compote. Even a chocolate and quinoa breakfast bar, the kind of fare that instantly sets alarm bells ringing in this reviewer’s head, was excellent, successfully lulling me into believing that it might not actually be healthy.
Overall, the company’s baking and brunch offering is strong; perhaps unsurprisingly if these are the more common options in their permanent café. However, a good deal of the food was very seriously under-seasoned and a number of elements on dishes were quite cold when they got to the table. That being said, the baked goods, salads, brunch and drinks were all well-conceived and executed. So with a relatively small amount of tweaking, everything could be substantially improved, especially given that the company is already doing the hard part – generating business, creating modern, light, interesting menus and sending out well presented food. Coupled with their polite and attentive front of house team, there is plenty working in Social Pantry’s favour moving forwards.
Photos: Matthew Pull
To book a table at Social Pantry, 170A Lavender Hill, Battersea, London SW11 5TG, call 020 8871 1949 or visit here.