Industrial evolution: Canova Hall

Nick Buglione ‘bon marchés’ his way to Canova Hall

Nick BuglioneYes, the Bugle has popped into Canova Hall before, checking out its daytime incarnation of laptop-tappers, coffee, wifi and bottomless brunches (no brunch has a bottom these days).

Today we are night crawling. In the shell of Britain’s oldest purpose-built department store, a few million miles away from Grace Brothers. Canova Hall could be in the Meatpacking district of NYC.

It’s a big, sprawling, slickly not slick, post-industrial, hipster grown-up cavernous tavern with stylish trimmings. Distressed concrete (like the Hayward gallery’s scruffier cousin) and industrial everything fuse with quirky, chintzy “Edwardian” booths and marble tables wrapped round a grand art deco central bar (with a wine on tap wall).

Canova Hall oozes destination and it’s interesting how an area develops to be a home to this kind of place. No doubt future home to photo shoots, fashion shows and Google’s next Christmas bash.

Ostensibly Mrs B and I are here for cocktails. Like its Hackney sibling Martello Hall, they are about to launch their own “local” Brixton micro-gin, so we assume they have a cocktail A-game alongside the artisan-leaning Italian flavoured menu. Pizzas and pastas from a muscular flaming kitchen.

They do the classics, have a bunch of martinis to play with and some more offbeat creations, without disappearing into indulgent over-inventiveness.

Canova Bramble is a very cherry martini-esque Canova gin, Chambord, cherry bitters, lemon juice and maraschino cherry extract. Not so much bitter but slightly disgruntled with a sweet cherry payoff.

My favourite was Pouring Ribbons, Green Chartreuse, gin, Courvoisier, Cocchi di Torino vermouth, lime juice, egg white and soda. Fairly lethal long glass with twirls of cucumber bringing the freshness to the fusions of spirits. Kept company in our little booth by Padron peppers and sea salt, zucchini fries and aioli.

Mrs B has clearly been secretly watching too much Bake Off. Cue the arrival of her Cherry Bakewell, King of Soho gin, Fever Tree tonic, cherry & vanilla bitters, and maraschino.

I went pimped up G&T, The Canova, their own gin, Fever Tree, lemon & lime rind ice ball, lime, orange and mint. A refreshing zingster compared with Mrs Kipling.

What is clear already is that Canova Hall have their head screwed on – yes it’s a bit of everything, but everything is sorted and hot to trot. It’s not endearingly offbeat, it’s not homespun, it’s not ‘old’ Brixton, its big, brash and professional.

Of course we succumbed to pizza. London Field, chef’s meatballs, coppa, taleggio and gremolata. Proper pizza, crispy rim, forgivingly subsiding interior sourdough, generous livery of topping. Like the cocktails, think classics and on-trend offbeat and original.

We once had a surprisingly luxe department store here, now we have a correspondingly luxe all day bar, restaurant in its place.

250 Ferndale Road, London SW9 8BQ | | 020 7733 8356 | @canovahall