Once the shabby neighbour of Wandsworth, Balham and Wimbledon, Tooting is now the poster child of the term ‘up-and-coming’, welcoming young professionals who battle their way onto the Northern Line each morning and head into zone 1. Despite rapid gentirification, Tooting maintains a vibrant community feel now so rare (read: sought-after) in London neighbourhoods. With specialist wine bars and artisanal coffee shops aplenty, it’s no surprise that it now hosts it’s very own annual food festival, ‘Tootopia’ to celebrate the diversity of food, drink and entertainment in the area. It was hard to whittle it down to just 10 but here is our pick of how you can live like a local in SW17.
Smashed avo, poached eggs, pancakes...
MUD serve proper coffee and proper brunch, Aussie-style until 3pm every day and have been awarded Best Cafe in Tooting at the Timeout Awards 2015. If you miss out on the corn fritter stack, buckwheat pancakes and breakfast burgers by having a particularly long lie-in, you can still grab a toastie, sandwich or cake from the counter from 3pm onwards. Grab your morning coffee en route to the tube and dream of the weekend, when you’ll be able to enjoy MUD’s offerings far more leisurely.
Arts, crafts, coffee and cocktails
When Graveney & Meadow say they’re an all-day dining venue they really mean it. Breakfast and brunch is served from 10am until 4pm, morphing seamlessly into dinner and drinks (no kids after 6pm) before finally closing at 11pm most nights and 2am on Friday and Saturday. Everything is very reasonably priced – when you’re paying just £7 for eggs benedict you can justify brunching out both days of the weekend! Pull up a pew in one of the old cinema seats and get tucked into the likes of deep fried PB&J sandwiches – trust us it’s a game changer. Dogs are welcome and arts and crafts classes are held every week.
If the Wi-Fi in your flat is pretty…rubbish, Tooting Coffee Company won’t mind you using theirs. It’s all part of the ‘love-thy-neighbour’ spirit, so long as you get a coffee and slice of cake from their tempting glass cabinet. Grab a seat by the window and people watch or head downstairs to the sofas if you want to work in comfort. The coffee comes with a conscience; the beans are from Old Spike Roastery, a not-for-profit roastery helping the homeless in nearby Peckham.
A taste of Spain
The Little Taperia is the perfect real-life example of an amalgamation of much-loved local businesses. Owners of The Little Bar and Lebanese restaurant, Meza, joined forces after acknowledging the lack of (decent) tapas bars in the area and the result? Simple, tasty and authentic Spanish cuisine in a light and airy space, undoubtedly related to the Little Bar but with a burgundy exterior.
Wine bar and shop in Tooting Market
You can’t get much more authentic than a local market. Beyond the barrow boys shifting their colourful bowls of exotic fruits and past the smoke and smells of curries you will find Unwined. Wine by the glass or by the bottle is available to drink on the premises and to take home for your night in or dinner party. They also hold monthly pop-ups, wine courses and a tiny stove is used to prepare bar snacks and surprisingly civilised light bites.
Wine, charcuterie and cheese
The on-trend dark grey frontage of The Little Bar hints at the goodness inside. A favourite for Tooting residents, the bar was set up by former Food & Drink Editor of The Independent, Madeleine Lim. Rustic wooden floorboards, marble tables and a scrawled blackboard menu set the tone for a bar that would be very much at home in Soho. The wine list is concise, the cocktails are classic and there is no jazzy website or Facebook, just great reviews and word of mouth.
Buzzy, family-owned restaurant
Starting life as a cafe, Rick’s is now a well-established local restaurant serving Modern European dinners, with a Spanish touch. Spanish hams, French cheeses, Irish oysters and Scottish game make up the bulk of the menu, complimented by homemade chutneys and sauces and a predominantly Spanish wine list. Don’t be surprised when the Rick plonks himself down at your table, wine in hand, or invites you back into the kitchen, it’s all part of the neighbourly spirit that is so rare in London these days.
No frills curry house
Everyone needs a great local curry spot and if you live in Tooting, yours is probably Apollo Banana Leaf. Despite the name resembling a space age Hawaiian joint, this Sri Lankan eatery is authentic and the food is top notch – unlike the decor… Those willing to overlook the drab takeaway-esque frontage and questionable wallpaper are rewarded with Mutton Saag, butterfly King prawns and chicken ceylon and a refreshingly small bill. It’s BYOB too.
Metres from Tooting Broadway Underground station sits one of Tooting’s oldest pubs. The Castle has had a recent makeover and the huge space is now an inviting place to head for Wednesday quiz night (winners get a £50 bar tab), a lazy Sunday roast or a civilised mid-week glass of wine. The pub is split into a drinks area at the front, restaurant at the back, orangery and – our favourite – the outdoor huts which have their own fires, drink fridges and board games to while away the hours.
Live music and night life
Tooting Tram and Social is the type of ‘local’ we all dream of having round the corner: inviting worn-in leather sofas, huge bar, easy-going atmosphere and live music. Unless you jump in an Uber and head over to Clapham, the Tram and Social is pretty unrivalled as a late night venue, hence why it gets so packed. Once the wine has run dry at your dinner party or you have a last-minute urge to go out, Tooting Tram and Social is where you should head.