Tooting's mid-gentrification landscape is looking fantastic, with all those old-school curry houses continuing to give London a good name for diversity, neighbourhood pubs competing to deal the finest Sunday lunch, ambitious newcomers doing their seasonal/locavore thing — even an independent café, trading pluckily alongside the inevitable rash of chains. No longer Clapham's even milder cousin, SW17 is trendy now, so expect hurly burly and queues on Friday nights.Read More
15 Brilliant Tooting Restaurants
Wallet-friendly dosas and BYO Japanese rub shoulders with traditional pubs and innovative pop-ups
1. Apollo Banana Leaf
If the question is posed, go for spicy at this pleasingly priced Sri Lankan stalwart. Start with the Traditional Sri Lankan and Apollo Banana Leaf Special menus, and don’t order rice, rather share a stringhopper fry (fried chopped noodles) or kothu (fried chopped paratha). But do investigate the other menus for gems such as chicken or prawn 65, devilled mutton, and mutton fry. The aubergine curry is superb, as are most of their veg dishes. Book ahead for evenings, and BYO beer or wine. PS: zero shame in asking for a doggie bag.
2. The Antelope
A wholesome, handsome boozer with a great atmosphere, thanks to a mixed clientele of old-school locals, hipsters and families, and a wide range of cask and keg beers. Have a pint and a few small plates (scallops and black pudding, duck liver parfait on sourdough toast), or sit down for modern pub classics, such as sea bream with crushed potatoes, or Hereford ribeye with handcut chips. The taxidermy-heavy interior has plenty of room for big groups, parties and London-y activities such as banjo lessons or burlesque life drawing.
3. The Selkirk SW17
Appealing to a slightly older, ex-Clapham demographic, this beautifully kept Victorian pub does cracking Sunday lunches: whole roast chicken, slow-roast belly pork or lamb shoulder for three, four or more. The wine list is decent, too, and the courtyard garden a boon in summer. Booking essential for a weekend sit-down.
4. Dosa n Chutny
If you like Formica tables and metal cups and jugs, you might enjoy this excellent value South Indian dosa café, which covers the same sort of ground as Apollo Banana Leaf — so stringhoppers, kothu, chicken 65, aubergine curry, etc — if a shade less brilliantly. Their dosas are ace, though, especially stuffed masala dosa, and the podi and rava dosas. The Chettinadu curries are recommended if you crave plenty of gravy.
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5. Mirch Masala - Tooting
A top tip for North Indian/Pakistani food, lovable in spite of its no-frills café style, iffy lavs and occasionally erratic service. Of the veg "warmers" (Mirch's name for starters), the massive, crispy nest-like onion bhajis are essential; deep-fried chilli bhajis are super spicy. Seekh kebabs and jeera chicken wings are good choices from the meat warmers. Particular karahi highlights are ginger chicken or karahi methi gosht. Home-style deigi dishes involve meat cooked on the bone, and there are weekend specials, too, including stewed lamb trotters. Bring your own booze.
6. Vijaya Krishna
Beloved of locals for aeons, this refined South Indian just gets better. Start with dosas or uppatham, or share vadai, bondas and/or cashew nut pakoda. Then focus on South Indian specialities, such as the Cochin prawn curry or the Alleppey lamb roast, ie: spiced dry-fried chunks of lamb. Green lamb masala is great, too. If sharing, always order a chicken 65 for the table – it's the best for miles. Tops for veggies are the Keralan tomato curry, and okra/aubergine theeyal; sides of note include the brinjal, bhindi, dhal and spinach. Parathas are a speciality: the plain is flaky and buttery but not greasy; green chilli is a must-order if you like heat.
A well-priced francophile's delight in semi-gentrified Broadway Market, with terrace tables and an enticing short menu divided into cold (green beans, Comté and shallot, cured Espelette sausage, home-made duck rillettes) and hot, culminating in a 200g or 400g flatiron steak (buy one, get one free on Tuesdays).
A sibling to the original Meza at Tooting Bec, this tiny, busy Lebanese is efficient and friendly. Call for tabbouleh, moutabal, ful medames, falafel (really good), kibbeh (ditto), and terrific spatchcocked grilled whole baby chicken, and don't miss affordable Musar Jeune on the wine list.
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London SW17 0RL, UK
One of the more ambitious of the new order occupying Broadway Market, with a super concise menu of avowedly seasonal dishes, such as rare-breed lamb rump with courgette and basil purée and roast garlic yoghurt, or a tart of porcini mushrooms with Spenwood cheese. Small, with room for 15 diners, and sleeker than most, with gleaming tiles and counter seating.
10. Spice Village Tooting
A huge place, beloved of locals (including native of and former MP for Tooting Sadiq Khan), and popular with families, with a North Indian/Pakistani menu very similar to those of Mirch Masala and Lahore Karahi. No alcohol at all.
11. The Little Taperia
Amazing pan con tomate bodes well at this buzzy bar and kitchen, where a series of small rooms lead back from a cosy front room with a marble bar. From the shortish, largely traditional tapas menu, morcilla scotch eggs, salt cod fritters, and stuffed baby squid are particularly commendable. Sherry lovers will be pleased to see manzanilla en rama on the wine list.
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12. Unwined In Tooting
London SW17 0SN, UK
Intriguing wine bar and shop on Tooting Market with an interesting, left-field selection of wines, and a kitchen serving a full menu by a changing roster of food pop-ups. Current dishes might include a beef bourguignon slider or smoked garlic roast cauliflower with chard and caramelised walnuts.
13. Jaffna House Restaurant
The front section of this Sri Lankan pitstop is a café; the restaurant is in the back. It's an ace idea to pop into the café for a feast of Sri Lankan snacks: mutton rolls, mutton rotis, vadas, bondas, fish cutlets, etc. You can easily do so for a fiver.
New in Broadway Market, a diminutive, cash only, BYO Japanese joint serving half a dozen blackboard "tapas" of gyoza, karaage and tempura, with yakitori featuring on Fridays. Fast gaining a cult following among the market’s denizens.
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15. Milk Teeth
London SW17 9NG, UK
The younger sibling of Balham’s well-established, widely-praised Milk, which prides itself on high-end speciality coffee and genuinely inventive, Antipodean-inflected cookery. Besting its nearest Tooting rival MUD on innovation and quality, Milk Teeth follows in its elder’s footsteps with top quality beans from The Barn in Berlin, and witty plates like the ‘Fillet o Eel’: smoked Lincolnshire eel hash brown, house made "processed" cheese, shredded bib, bacon fat ranch, fermented turnip.