Ah, Tooting. Once the shabby sibling of Wandsworth and Balham, SW17 is enjoying a bit of a renaissance. So much so that no less than Lonely Planet recently voted the town one of the coolest neighbourhoods on earth… And not forgetting that it’s where our London mayor calls home too.
And with its buzzing bars, intriguing market and plentiful foodie offerings (regularly frequenting the pages of Time Out these days too) – it’s not hard to see why people are drawn to this part of SW London. There are usually 300+ ads for rooms in the area on SpareRoom.
So why exactly should YOU make the sweaty pilgrimage down the Northern line? Read on…
How do I get there?
The Northern line, duh. It gets a bad rep for being one of the capital’s sweatiest, dirtiest tube lines – but it’ll only take you 25 mins to zip from Bank to Tooting Broadway, making it surprisingly commuter-friendly. Feeling even braver? Hop on the Thameslink. The east side of Tooting (towards Mitcham) boasts its very own rail station – serving as a calling point for trains to and from Luton. These services pass through commuter hotspots including Kings Cross and Farringdon before heading south from Tooting to Wimbledon and beyond. So now your mates in north London have no excuse not to visit…
What is there to do?
Tooting has a rich history, and through time has been dubbed “Little South India” due to its large Asian population. This makes for great curry (more on that later) and a treasure trove of intriguing shops on Upper Tooting Road (locally known as Curry Mile). Whether it’s a saree or traditional Asian sweets you’re shopping for, you’ll find it all here.
One of the most obvious things to do in Tooting is check out the market. This 80-year-old site has recently faced demolishment threat to make way for Crossrail, so it deserves a little love. Inside you’ll find a bit of everything – like locally made Graveney gin, gourmet chocolate at Harry’s Chocolate Emporium, vinyl for sale at Dr. Vinyl, and art to purchase from Africa, Tibet, Bali and more at Ma’at. And that’s before we’ve mentioned any of the restaurants…
If the weather’s cooperating, a trip to Tooting Bec lido is essential. For just £7.50 you can spend the day splashing about in one of London’s most iconic outdoor pools, with plenty of sunbathing space and a café on site too.
Always start with brunch, and in SW17 the best can be found at Mud. What this tiny venue lacks (like no official website), it more than makes up for with the food – spanning everything from avo and egg classic combos, to the must-try dish: wild mushrooms, sausages, walnut pesto, red onion jam and poached eggs on sourdough. There’s always a queue, so it’s well worth setting an alarm.
If you can’t get in, never fear – a few doors down is Milk Teeth, the sister shop of Balham’s ‘Milk’. The inventive brunch menu is constantly changing, but you can guarantee inventive twists on breakfast treats using in-season ingredients. Poached and dried apricots, peanut milk parfait and spiced honey on sourdough waffles, anyone?
Enjoy lunch at Meza, a great Lebanese joint with a £7 lunch box deal to get your fill of mezze and flatbreads. Bun fans will love Daddy Bao, famed for “London’s lightest, fluffiest bao buns” filled with everything from beer marinated prawns to slow braised tofu.
But the curry houses are what make Tooting so special – Sadiq Khan himself is a frequent visitor to many of them. Apollo Banana Leaf is one of the area’s best, offering authentic Sri Lankan cooking for bargain prices and a BYOB policy. Or try two of the mayor’s favourites: the grand looking Spice Village, and the shabbier yet delicious Lahore Karahi.
And if all else fails? The area is home to one of London’s biggest Chicken Cottages. Seeing is believing…
And the drinks?
Tooting has enough pubs to make a night of it with one serious crawl, if you fancy. The Antelope, The Selkirk and The Castle are all local favourites for beer, pub grub and huge outdoor areas.
But for something more sophisticated, try Brick & Liquor or Eckovision – both of which boast delicious fresh cocktails and shabby chic decor. Unwined in the market is a good shout for grape fans – with regular tastings and a rotating menu of wines.
And then end the night where all nights in the Broadway end: Tooting Tram & Social – a GIANT former tramshed that becomes a club space by night, with two floors and a packed (and kind of sticky) dance floor.
Proud to call yourself a resident of Tootopia? Let us know your best bits.