For this piece we've defined Clapham as roughly within the circle of Clapham North station, Landor Road and King's Avenue on one side and Clapham South and Wandsworth Road stations to the north and west.
Breakfasts and coffee
Clapham's not short of a good coffee shop, but miles above most is the small Doctor Espresso Mama V's, under one of the Overground station railway arches. There's a small amount of indoor seating, some covered tables outside and a selection of baked snacks — croissants, great brownies, little pistachio pastries — along with a hot brunch menu at weekends.
Brickwood, the other side of Clapham, also does a good coffee and food menu. It's Australian and New Zealand-influenced, therefore heavy on smashed avocado.
For a weekend brunch, try the enormous breakfasts at the Cuban Buena Vista bar — expect a dish big enough for two piled with egg, chorizo and tomatoes. And flatbreads. And black beans. And chilli sauce. For a more British fry up try the Pavement Cafe - a traditional caff open from 7am.
It's worth going a bit off the beaten track of Clapham High Street for lunch. Just on the edge of the Old Town, you can pick up deli snacks and cured meat sandwiches from M Moen & Sons, which make for a great desk lunch and an even better picnic lunch on the common across the road.
La Petite Bretagne on Clapham Park Road does sweet pancakes stuffed with combinations of fresh fruit, niche jam and a lot of chocolate. If you feel like your limit's one crepe a day, make it one from the savoury section — all of them gluten free — with bacon, gherkins, cheese and potato. Basically a more portable fondue.
Pubs, gastropubs and bars
For Sunday lunch and pub dinners The Abbeville and The Stonhouse do the best gastropub food in Clapham, though others have them beaten on outside space. Reliable chain Craft Beer Co has a Clapham Manor Street pub, with a big beer garden — covered and heated in the winter months — and a burger menu. Also popular for its outside space, the Landor is large enough to have something for all pubgoers, with a good Sunday roast, live sports, a beer garden, pool tables, sofas and a small theatre upstairs.
Cellar SW4 is a wine shop and bar from the same people that run D Vine Cellars on Landor Road. Like its older brother venue, Cellar has a big range of beers, as well as their carefully-chosen organic wines and a better menu of bar snacks. On Venn Street, closer to the common, Barsito's wine and tapas bar is small, relaxed and always busy — expect to jostle for a perch at the counter, or to have your plates of bread and chorizo standing around one of the upturned barrels. We like toilet-turned wine bar and charcuterie WC too.
Clapham mixes the seriously mainstream with the quiet and secluded, the loud and brash side by side with the relaxed and intimate.
In keeping with a real American diner, the portions at Honky Tonk are huge — try the flatiron steak and fried eggs at brunch for the full cowboy feel, or the deals on ribs and mac and cheese in the evenings. Cover whatever you have with the homemade hot pepper salsa — be heavy-handed and it'll be fiery but worth it. Just over the road, Joe Public does excellent pizza by the slice, for a more rapid pre-night out dinner.
There are three key offerings on the Chinese food front in Clapham: Mamalan is famous for its dim sum and noodle soups, or if you like your bao with a side of loud beats, try railway arch bar Fu Manchu, doing dim sum and live DJ sets until the early hours on Fridays and Saturdays. On Clapham Park Road On Cafe has carved out the very specific niche of Chinese dim sum bar meets French patisserie, doing frilly, pretty desserts and BYO drinks.
Robin Gill's been brandishing his Midas touch in other parts of London now as well, but his string of restaurants started in Clapham and are still going strong. The loveliest of the three is The Dairy (we'll get to that later) but The Manor and Counter Culture are both well worth a visit. The Manor does modern British tasting menus and seasonal specialities in a surprisingly relaxed setting, and Counter Culture is a small, sharing plates and counter-seating only space attached to The Dairy.
You can eat well from the curry menu at Caribbean caff Roti Joupa for £5 or less, but for the best of its food, hit the side dish section. That's where you'll find the macaroni pie and the pholourie — spiced, fried doughballs and chutney — all £1.50 a portion. It's also where you'll find the king of the menu, the Hot Double: two flatbreads forming a pocket, filled with chickpea curry and fiercely hot sauce, close to being a meal in themselves and £1.50 each.
Bringing aprés ski to SW9, The Lodge isn't open all year, but the Alpine-themed restaurant packs a lot of fur cushions, long wooden tables and fondue into the winter months. Pop-up restauranteur Jimmy Garcia is in charge of the menu, so the food's inventive and strong on venison — all game, actually — and incredible burgers.
There are two ways to go at Trinity. Choose between the downstairs restaurant with its white tablecloths, fine dining and Michelin-starred food, or the upstairs restaurant with a sharing plates menu and, in theory, a more informal feel. To be honest, informality's not their strength in either venue. But it's a nice, calm spot in Clapham's loud, busy dining scene.
The Dairy's the final piece of Gill's SW4 trio, and, for our money, the best — offering sharing plates in a simple, wooden and raw-brick, slightly shabby and very friendly bistro. Great for anything from anniversary dates to big, rowdy group lunches to your mother's birthday dinner.