Barnes: a Bounty of Suburban Culture
From the peaks of Barnes Bridge, to the Olympic Cinema, Barnes Pond, and tipple-tastic pubs in Barnes, the suburban locale has everything you could want from a great day out.
The area of Barnes has been a hub of enlightened suburbia for quite some time. Out of all of its cousins-in-purpose, it has one of the closest proximities to central London whilst retaining a comfortable amount of breathing space. However, there is more to this comfortable hiding space than merely winding roads of contented 18th and 19th century family houses. It has cemented its place in music history in quite a few ways: the Olympic Sound Studio has seen almost every famous musician imaginable record sessions there (Nick Cave, Bjork, Bowie, Pink Floyd, Madonna, Iggy Pop, The Rolling Stones…the list goes on and on…though it has now been converted into an independent cinema), Gustav Holst composed ‘The Planets’ there, and there is a bronze bust commemorating the untimely death of Marc Bolan (the lead singer of T-Rex) on Queen’s Ride. Appropriately, Barnes has a lively culture of fringe theatre and live music, as being voted as having the highest proportion of independent shops in Britain in 2014. The charming nature of the area makes it ideal for families and has more than enough goings-on to entertain on a day out. Barnes cinema: go there now, pleb.
Barnes takes particular care and pride in its cultivation of nature and is excellent for long, scenic walks. The WWT London Wetland Centre is an urban oasis for wildlife and is a significant location for bird watchers. The beautifully designed World Wetlands section is home to a delightful family of Asian short-clawed otters (with daily feeding times at 11am and 2pm), and the sustainable gardens are inspiring all year round. The Barnes Trail is an enchanting walk along the river Thames that takes about an hour to complete if you’re not distracted by the medley of riverside pubs and restaurants along the way. Barnes Common offers 100 acres of meadows, woodland and grassland to frolic through and makes for great kite flying and picnicking.
Shopping in Barnes gravitates towards women’s clothing boutiques and up-scale markets. Chatterton’s sources independent and designer labels, who always have an excellent selection of chic scarves. Question Air is a boutique for both men’s and women’s clothing. Although they have a few different locations in London, no store has the same inventory so it’s worth popping in. Barnes Jewellery specialises in antique one-off pieces that last for life times. The Barnes Farmer’s Market is on every Saturday where you can find fresh apple juice, the Kettle Shed Tea Company and everything you would generally expect from a splendid market (bonus points for punning abilities goes to ‘Flour Power City Bakery’). Try to make the market on the first Saturday of the month, when you’ll also be pleased to find the Collector’s Market on the other side of the pond.
Culture Olympic studio is a thing; as is the olympic cinema barnes – don’t forget olympic studio Barnes!
Local culture is a real strength of Barnes. The Old Sorting Office Arts Centre is a multi-disciplinary hub that features fringe theatre, music, workshops and art exhibitions. The Riverside Gallery is an affordable contemporary painting gallery with heavy leanings towards landscapes. Olympic Studios provides asylum for local film enthusiasts since its conversion into an independent cinema from the aforementioned recording studio of mythic proportions. The Red Lion has dubiously been dubbed ‘the Ronnie Scott’s of Suburbia’ from unspecified sources, but does have live music every night of the week and has been graced with the performing presence of Mick Jagger.
Food and Drink
Restaurants tend to be more in the intimate side (no bad thing as this means better service and being able to hear your fellow diners). Riva is a relaxed Italian restaurant frequented by A.A Gill (surely a good sign) and Andrew Lloyd Webber (perhaps less so). Dolce Creama is a delicious little treat of an Italian gelato and cake café who also do hearty breakfasts and lunches. For those looking for something more stripped-back and comforting, look no further than Mara’s, a Greek restaurant who do excellent pies and has a real cooked-at-home feel to it. The place to go for a thorough afternoon tea is Orange Pekoe who excel at loose leaf teas in an informal setting. Sonny’s Kitchen takes a creative angle to their Modern European offerings by hosting workshops alongside their traditionalist dishes. Of course, it wouldn’t be a British suburb without a good local Indian eatery. Indian Zilla fills this role in Barnes, turning traditional Zillan cooking methods to new ideas and flavours (unusually they use their tandoori oven to bake fruit as well as chicken and lamb).