For those of you who are familiar with the Tooting area, you will know that it’s not the most happening of places when it comes to eating and drinking. And for those of you who have never heard of Tooting, I don’t blame you. Tooting gets over looked by its richer neighbours – Balham, Clapham and Wimbledon. It’s just that bit further down on the Northern Line, a few stops too far.
BUT, there is a gradual change happening in SW17, and as a resident of this slightly less favoured area of south-west London I am crossing my fingers and toes that this change starts to gather some speed.
The high street at Tooting Broadway has everything you might expect: Primark, a bingo hall, a 99p store, shops that offer to unlock phones, two McDonalds, and butchers catering to every religion and ethnicity you might think of. So far, not so many places you might want to go on a Saturday night or for Sunday lunch. But look a bit closer, and there are the hidden spots that have appeared in the last few months that show Tooting is beginning to shoulder its way towards something better.
If it’s a Saturday night drinking hole you’re after, look no further than the Tram & Social – tootingtram.com. Reasonably priced drinks, good music (i.e. not the Top 40 mega-mix you might get at Infernos), and a very different setting from what you might expect. At the end of a short alley, tucked between Maccy D’s and a pawn shop, you’d be forgiven for being slightly surprised to find yourself in a spacious venue (complete with bunting in the summer months) where there’s a complete absence of people who might shoot you for looking at them in the wrong way. The Tram is my local, and what a local to have!
Then, just down the road is Graveney and Meadow: a ‘bar, bakery and tapas restaurant’ that is owned by the same group as the Tram & Social – graveneyandmeadow.com. Home-baked goods, wooden chairs, chalk boards and a general boutique-meets-country-kitchen feel, where better to spend a chilly afternoon at the weekend?
Walk towards Tooting Broadway tube and round the corner, and you’ll find Tartine – www.tartineartisanal.com. This French-Moroccan café offers more than croissants and bread. Mezze, burgers, salads and desserts can all be found in this busy and friendly place. The décor is simple, the menu comprehensive – a great place to go with friends that have quite varied tastes. Just don’t expect to go there for dinner as they close at 7pm.
And finally, about two doors down from Tartine, we have Tota – www.tota-restaurant.co.uk. This restaurant has popped out of nowhere and has quickly established itself as the go-to place for Sunday brunch. I was there two weeks ago and had some of the best pancakes I’ve ever had. My friend’s full English was perfection – crispy bacon, sausages that looked like they actually had pork in them, and properly poached eggs (i.e. not microwaved). The dinner menu is simple but effective – all the favourites like steak and fish, along with something different like pork belly in a curry sauce. The service is faultless as well.
So it seems that Tooting is gradually upping its quota of decent places to eat and drink. Yes, the general locality needs a bit of a scrub, and there are still quite a few things that make one want to get a taxi home rather than walk from the bus stop. But perhaps Tooting is going through what Angel went through a few years ago. And with places like the Tram & Social and Tota sprouting up every few months, this little corner of south-west London could be destined for greater things.
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