Social Pantry is the kind of café which is a pleasure to have locally. The counter is heaving with freshly baked cakes, cookies and meringues, the staff are super welcoming and friendly, and the space has a pastel bright feel with mistmatched wooden tables and chairs. Despite having resided off Lavender Hill for over a year, I’d yet to try Social Pantry beyond their coffee so when a friend volunteered to make an awkward trek over from Tulse Hill, I suggested this disproportionately convenient spot for me!
I love the ethos of its founder, Alex Spears. Very socially aware, she connects with a team of staff, suppliers and charities highlighting the socially beneficial potential of food. Redemption Roasters’ coffee beans are used and she works with ex-offenders, through projects including Bad Boys Bakery and Switchback, to help channel their talents and assist with their rehabilitation. Her business actively seeks to make a difference to society through this process.
Onto the menu, Social Pantry always seems to be busy at weekend brunch time. The menu is divided between “Something Sweet” and “Something Savoury”. Opting for the latter, my “Ultimate avocado on grilled sweet potato” (£7.50) though presented beautifully, underwhelmed: it was under-seasoned. Despite having a lot going for it – heritage tomatoes, super seeds (pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and fennel), fresh chilli, chimichurri and green harissa oil, the ingredients didn’t quite mesh together. Something was missing. My companion’s Chilli Eggs (£7.50), with ridiculously creamy looking herb labneh, green harissa oil, toasted sourdough, pumpkin seeds and fresh chilli, though, went down very well.
All in all, not everything lives up to expectations at Social Pantry. Not only was my dish disappointing, but, in reaction to rainy June, the roof started leaking; luckily we were just ordering so no after-effects on the food but we did have to move tables. The menu is also lacking in vegan options. Though their home-baked carrot granola, served with yoghurt and a pistachio crumb, sounded delicious (and indeed I tried the granola and can confirm that it was), no coconut yogurt alternative is offered as a pairing.
Perhaps Social Pantry café’s forte is coffee and cake. Alex Spears’ other haunts – Soanes’ Kitchen and Pitzhanger Pantry – and supper clubs look fantastic, certainly with more exciting menus. Her catering also looks like a winner. Social Pantry feels comparatively neglected.
Social Pantry, 170A Lavender Hill, Battersea, London SW11 5TG