We visit new café and bar The Address to ask customers about life post-pandemic.
The Address on Battersea Rise marks Darwin & Wallace’s first opening since the pandemic. Our reporter Ana Santi popped in for breakfast to speak to customers about their attitudes to going out in 2022…
It’s Friday morning, just after 9am, and The Address on Battersea Rise in south west London is waking up. In the sunlit lounge, a woman sips coffee while typing on a laptop, headphones on, oblivious to her surroundings. Two men, smartly dressed, appear to be having a meeting. Further in, towards the back in a large booth, two mums with buggies wait for their orders. And next to me, sits a couple, tucking into eggs Benedict and a full English.
“I live just around the corner,” says Tamsin, 26. “I’ve always preferred to stay local when I go out, but since the pandemic, I’ve wanted to do that even more. I’ve been to The Address quite a few times already since it opened.”
This has been Mel Marriott’s ambition from the start: to create a home from home for her guests (note: not “customers”). Without have been working with Mel ever since the launch of No.11 Pimlico Road nine years ago to design unique, all-day spaces that feel like private addresses – more home than high street. The Address on Battersea Rise is the 9th opening in the Darwin & Wallace group.
“Each space is of its area, designed for the people in the area. Making them all different is really lovely, with the reassurance of the same menu running through the business” Mel explains. “Our branding is subtle because we’re trying to create generous spaces which feel independent and relatable to our customers. However, the feel of a group is incredibly gratifying as, ultimately, I’m trying to create a group with common principles.”
The vibe this morning is relaxed-meets-quietly-industrious. Plaster-pink walls, re-used wood flooring enhanced with Bert & May terracotta tiles, a painting by Fei Alexeli called Somewhere to Disappear – it feels more like summer in the Mediterranean than spring in London. Music plays softly in the background. Guests sink into wicker armchairs or work away at tables, plugged into laptops and lattes. Another Darwin & Wallace trait: all-day spaces that flex to the needs of their guests, with food and drink to match.
“Many people’s days start at 8 or 9 in the morning, whether it’s meetings or mums with babies,” says Mel. “This meant that a superb breakfast and brunch were a starting point for us.” From the beginning, Mel has set out to create neighbourhood spaces that re-assess the role of hospitality in relation to the ways Londoners’ lives are changing – and they have changed considerably since the pandemic.
“We like it here because it feels spacious and the food is delicious,” says Lucinda, 44, over brunch with her friend Sarah, 41, and mother Denise, 72. “We had lunch the other day at a different restaurant and felt very packed-in – and the food was awful. I go out less now so I’m more picky about my choice of venue. But it’s more out of habit – we got so used to ordering takeaway and eating well at home during lockdowns.”
Sarah says she is going out as much as she used to pre-pandemic and wishes The Address opened even earlier to cater for parents – particularly mums – who are out early with their children. “But I think attitudes in London are more relaxed than in the suburbs, where Denise lives,” Sarah adds. “When you squeeze yourself into the Tube and stand so close to a complete stranger, you’re less worried about going to a café or bar.”
Denise lives in Farnham and, unlike Sarah and Lucinda, is concerned about going out, so opts for places that prioritise well-configured spaces and cleanliness. “I wish there was somewhere like The Address in Farnham,” she says. “My other daughter is vegan, so we often go to the same café – I’m trying to find alternatives that offer vegan food.” We look at the menu and find some tempting options: a vegan burger, smoky aubergine with vegan feta cheese, vegan Sunday roast (centred around butternut squash).
All three women agree that, when they go out to bars, cafés or restaurants, service can be slower now and that prices have risen – all the more reason to be discerning, they say.
An hour later, as I leave – tummy filled with Caravan coffee and Wildfarmed sourdough toast – I glimpse the cocktail menu. In the name of investigative journalism, I make myself a promise: to return after 6pm and try the Chase Pink Grapefruit & Pomelo.
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