Review: The Candlemaker, Battersea

kiri | 30th June 2015


By Tom Gatehouse

What’s the difference between a chef and a cook? To the layman, a chef could be one found fiddling with foie gras and water baths in an almost surgically white kitchen. A cook on the other hand is metaphorically branded with the hair net and plonked in the canteen. But this is a presumed hierarchy, and really, in the modern day, it is all a matter of perspective.

A famous executive chef told me recently that he is a cook first and a chef second due to his love of getting in thick of it every service – something that should resonate through every kitchen far and wide. Michele Cremona, head chef of The Candlemaker pub in Battersea, certainly thinks so, with her quintessentially British menu and endlessly curious nature really giving her the best of both worlds amid a backdrop of vibrant popart and rustic chic.

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One of the growing armada of Laine’s Pubs spreading across London from their original Brighton empire, The Candlemaker is yet another wonderfully eclectic watering hole with outstanding duel outside access. I had previously visited both The Aeronaut and The Four Thieves from the Laine’s armoury, and The Candlemaker, whose name comes from the former candle factory that existed down the neighbouring York Road, joins the ranks seamlessly, largely thanks to Michelle’s delightfully homely menu.

Fresh from her popup fame with The Full English in Soho, Michelle’s food is unpretentious and peppered with British charm. Handmade pork sausages and mash, six hour slow cooked shepherd’s pie, Wiltshire cured ham & eggs and potato cake make up some of the lineup – and of course, a full English breakfast to die for.

My companion and I met up with Michelle last week, and immediately started to talk about her recent experiences as a stagiaire at some of the best kitchens in the country. She had experienced Raymond Blanc’s Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, and Tom Kerridge’s The Hand & Flowers and The Coach. Her love for cooking erupted out in the back garden while we ordered our food. She also insisted that she was a cook, but this time through a natural modesty that has followed her through life. I suggested that perhaps she was both a chef and a cook, an idea that certainly agreed with her.

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The meatloaf burger (£8.5), made with a mix of short rib of beef and smoked gammon, really took my companion by surprise. He had, by his own admission, never tried meatloaf before, let alone as a burger. He had found his new love. With Michelle’s addition of homemade barbecue sauce and a small spread of Dijon mustard, the burger really came alive in the mouth, washed down with the highly recommended Caledonian Three Hop lager.

I went for one of the British options, the beef brisket hash with roasted new potatoes ((£8.5). A warming, pan-fried medley with pickles and caramelised onion, akin to bubble and squeak, it really was pub comfort food at its best. The George Stafford black pudding balanced on top completed things nicely, with a side of boiled British cabbage (£2) and the aforementioned potato cake (£2).

A DJ struck up a timely tune inside while we whiled away the evening sipping Three Hop and discussing our ever increasing love for the new age pub, the oddly brilliant weather, and old school nosh. Michelle told us that she had been charged with making the staff lunch at the 2* Hand and Flowers when on her stage, and had to go around the kitchen asking politely for ingredients, with many chefs giving her the cold shoulder as she nervously went around. She decided to make homemade burgers to her mum’s old recipe, and it was a real struggle. A cook, then? A trainee annoying the chefs in the kitchen?

But was she not in charge of feeding her dining room? A hard to please clientèle, with outlandish standards? That’s a tough ask for any chef, if you ask me. The Hand and Flowers enjoyed her burgers, as did my companion sat outside her Candlemaker. She may not use caviar and seagulls eggs, but she’s the one I’d go to for some proper pub grub.

Bravo, Chef.

 The Candlemaker Battersea
Address: 136 Battersea High St, London SW11 3JR
Phone: 020 7223 6532