Tooting was my first home in London. It was my starting block, my welcome to the UK if you will. When I used to tell people where I lived when I first arrived, I was met with nose upturns and scoffs, ‘um why?’ was the common response. ‘You’re halfway to Brighton down there!’ But I am a fierce supporter of my first little patch of London. It was the perfect spot to start off, was a mere half hour commute from central London and was cheap on the old wallet, a necessity as a job hunting new arrival. Over the last year and a half, Tooting has transformed and is (I believe) on the cusp, of hipster invasion. If you’re looking to buy in London, or looking for cheap rent – get in before the hordes! Tooting is the next foodie and cultural hot spot of London, I am sure of it. Here is just a taste test of my favourite spots, in my old hood.
MUD – Makes a brunch to rival the best in London-town. Amazing coffee, cute interior and a too die for menu.
Corn fritter stacks with avocado and chilli jam and buckwheat pancakes with caramelised pear puree. Are you drooling yet?
VEGAN EXPRESS – I am not vegan, but as a health enthusiast and vegan appreciator – this little off the beaten track find is well worth hunting down. As well as amazing pizzas and mains, the raw desserts are out of this world good.
Menu winners: Stuffed aubergine with summer vegetables topped with cauliflower mozzarella herb crust served on a bed of pesto orzo, washed down with a raw chocolate torte. Delish!
DOSA AND CHUTNEY – Controversial opinion, but I think Tooting could be the best spot for curry in London. (Sorry Brick Lane!) And Dosa n Chutney is my absolute favourite. It’s not the prettiest of restaurants, it’s quite gaudy and reminds me a bit of a side of the highway tuck shop. But the somewhat questionable interior is forgotten upon the first mouthful. The food is rustic and rich and flavorsome and amazing, as well as cheap as chips.
Menu winners: Szechwan Cauliflower, Masala Dosa and Saag Aloo
VIJAYA KRISHNA – Is another incredible Indian spot in Tooting. This place, if you’re after ambiance is a little bit more on the money and the food is equally as good. While i’d go to Dosa for something a bit different, this is the hands down place for a curry.
Menu winner: King prawn masala, vegetable malabar
BOOZE AND FOOD COMBOS
BRICK AND LIQUOR – If there was an award for friendliest bar-staff, these guys would win. As soon as you walk into this hole in the wall bar just up the road from Tooting Broadway station, you are in safe hands. Their cocktails are carefully crafted and their style and vibe; romantic, sexy and just the right amount of hipster.
Menu winners: Salted caramel espresso martini alongside a sharing plate (carnivore platter or vegetarian platter). Perfect for date night.
THE CASTLE – Best pub in Tooting, hands down. Best pub in the South – I’d go as far as to say! This pub has it all, it’s modern, youthful, has a killer menu and one of the best pub gardens I’ve come across. Little alcoves complete with wood fires and cute themes are the perfect place to cuddle up in during winter, and relax in through summer. The sit down menu is decadent and delicious, but the out-door burger pop up also hits the spot!
Menu winners: Whole baked fish infused with lemon and thyme. But you’ll need to share – or it’ll defeat you!
They also house amazing pop ups out the back at The Castle, where they’ve got a lot of free space. At the moment, The Big London Bake is flexing its muscles on the cooking scene. It looks out of this world fun, and I can’t wait to gather my old housemates for our very own British bake off next time I’m visiting.
TOOTING MARKET – This little hive of a place has recently had a makeover and seems to be growing and changing and developing every time I visit. I love this place, because from the outside it’s so unassuming – hidden behind fruit markets and fabric stores, are some of the coolest spots in Tooting. UNWINED – I love a place with a constantly changing menu, and this place is all kinds of fun. With a wine list to rival any, they get different accompanying food every few weeks – with a guest chef serving up everything from Moroccan to Lithuianian. BRICKWOOD – For coffee and delicious brunch, look no further. This Aussie café is one of the best of its kind I’ve found on my hunt for food that tastes like home. The market is also full of juice bars, ramen noodle pop ups, gin nooks and a secret bar – it’s a lovely little slice of south London to stumble across.
BROADWAY MARKET – I only recently discovered this market’s transformation. Again, hidden down another alleyway – this little undercover market is another secret Tooting gem. Amongst vaping shops and nik nak stores, are some of the coolest new eat spots in London. TAPAS ROOM do a cheese platter you won’t forget fast, PLOT are new and swanky and have a menu full of all of your favourite British favourites. There are plenty more delights packed into this little alleyway market, places for sushi, Ethiopian and even Jamaican cuisine.
Tooting is a place of multiculturalism – rich in flavour and friendliness. I’ve moved neighbourhoods to pastures new – the north! But I won’t be forgetting my time in the south anytime soon. Tooting will always have a fond place in my London memories, particularly on my taste-buds.