Despite a frightfully middle-class upbringing, I have, in fact, never been skiing. Due to the presence of a clumsy mother who would break a leg as soon as look at a slope, it was safer for the whole family that we stay off piste entirely. However, when I found out there was a winter pop up that could give me the aprés ski experience I had been denied all through my upbringing, I was keen to see what I had been missing out on.
Venue & Atmosphere
Far from the lofty heights of Vermont and Aspen, this aprés ski bar sits at around 27m above sea level in the garden of The Devonshire pub, Balham. Guests at Balham Peaks will find themselves in warm wooden cabins, open on one side to The Devonshire’s covered garden. Draped in faux furs and tartan blankets, the little shacks are dotted with trinkets and other knick-knacks making the place delightfully cosy. Should the weather bite so hard that blankets fail you, hot water bottles and heaters are on hand to ward off the cold. Big enough to host a party, but intimate enough for a date or friendly catch-up, it’s a pop up for all seasons.
Food & Drink
If you’re looking for a drink in South London’s premiere ski resort, you’ll have to visit the Thirst Aid Point, and with such a fun and festive mix of cocktails available it’s just as well we’re down where the air is thicker. My plus one for the evening orders the Warm Dup Rum Punch (£6.50) a mix of Duppy Share Rum, apple juice, lime juice, vanilla, cinnamon and ginger which tastes like a tipsy Christmas on the beach. With Grand Marnier subbed in for gin, my Winter Negroni (£9), though sweeter than the average Negroni, packs a seriously boozy wallop too.
The Balham Peaks menu hosts a great range of cold-weather comfort food, from goulash and schnitzels to wurst and curly fries. My companion is doing Veganuary, but luckily Balham Peaks has prepared for the January detoxers. Their Vegan Pot (£10) comprises a bean, lentil and quinoa mix with tenderstem broccoli and Campaillou bread.
My only New Year’s Resolution was to swear less, so I’m free to order the motherfudging Swiss Alps Burger (£12): a big, juicy beef burger with Gruyere cheese, ale grilled onions and pickles in a soft brioche bun. It’s a truly filthy thing. From the moment you take the first bite, prepare to dirty every napkin, hand and shirt sleeve in sight keeping mayonnaise, melted cheese and onion juice at bay. Coming with a hefty side of fries, if you’re looking for something that’s going to hit the spot, this monster meat sandwich will certainly do the trick.
Rounding out the meal is Balham Peaks’ Sweet Fritters (£5), deep-fried segments of cinnamon apples dripping in toffee sauce. They’re sugar and spice and all things that will put you in an early grave, but a decadent and delicious end to our aprés ski experience.
While Balham Peaks could only take on Splash Mountain for altitude, it has a couple of advantages over a trip down The Matterhorn. For one thing, should anyone take a tumble and knock out a tibia or two, there's no need for air-lifting. More importantly though, if you’re looking for some aprés sans ski, this warm and welcoming winter pop up will keep you cosy and well-fed without the effort, expense and bad suntans of actual skiing.