Where to eat and drink in Tooting is sponsored by Spice Village.
While Brixton is rightly considered a promised land of south London cuisine, nearby Tooting holds its epicurean own. Here, traditional Pakistani, Indian and Sri Lankan restaurants that've been delivering the goods for decades rub shoulders with hip cafes, cute cocktail bars — and Tooting's two covered markets, crammed with street food and craft beer outlets. Throw in pubs, a superb tapas place — not to mention a famously large chicken shop — and you've got one heady mix of eats and drinks.
Brunch, breakfast and coffee in Tooting
Breakfast is done with panache at Juliet's Quality Food, where single origin coffee accompanies exceptionally creamy scrambled eggs on sourdough; and sweetcorn fritters with crispy bacon and smashed avo. Green Monkey in Tooting Bec puts equal thought into its breakfast offerings, with fry-ups made with quality sausages, and mouth-watering pancake stacks finished off with petals and a dusting of sugar. Cafe Olé bills itself a 'breakfast and brunch cafe'; indeed it'll set you up for the day with anything from shakshouka to gut-busting veggie breakfasts. If you're after a healthy morning pick-me-up on the go, grab a 'Tartine Zinger' juice (orange, carrot and apple juice with a hit of ginger) from Tartine Artisanal. Or do the complete opposite at Brickwood Coffee and Bread which tempts with 'The Butcher' full English; toasted brioche heaped with maple bacon; and Caravan Roasters coffee to boot. It's based in Tooting Market, more of which now...
Lunch in Tooting
Tooting is home to two covered markets, Tooting Market and Broadway Market Tooting. It doesn't really matter if you get them mixed up because they're right next to each other. They're also both a shoo-in for breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in between. But let's talk lunch. In the former, you can fill you boots with Lebanese wraps from Meza; hearty bowls of ramen from Koi, and saltfish and roti from Pepi's Guyanese Cuisine. Next door at Broadway Market Tooting, sink your teeth into jerk chicken and oxtail stew at Kimmies Jerk Joint, or sushi rolls (perhaps washed down with a cheeky lunchtime sake) at Hi-Ki Robata Grill & Sushi Bar.
Over at South Indian canteen Dosa n Chutney, get stuck into the massive crisp dosa with chilli paneer, served on metals trays in understated surroundings. Another top budget option is Vijaya Krishna, where they'll ply you with delicious curries like chicken calicut and lamb green masala.
The Selkirk pub opens its kitchen from 12pm-3pm daily (all day weekends), and is one of your best bets for gastropub nosh (think pan fried cod with brown shrimp and seaweed butter; and a mouth-watering Sunday roast).
Sensational Pakistani street food by Spice Village
Mouthwatering masala fish, zingy papri chaat, fragrant and warming chicken biryani — just some of the delectable dishes on the menu at Spice Village, an award-winning Pakistani restaurant on Tooting Road.
Spice Village is all about authentic south Asian flavours and traditional cooking methods — think comforting street food, prepared over hot stones, coal grills and conventional tandoori ovens. It's available for both home delivery and pick-up but — if you're after an extra spectacular culinary experience — you've got to try dining in.
Not only is the service always super slick, but this is a jewellery box of a restaurant, with beautiful marble-effect surfaces, a lush wall of greenery, and a gleaming turquoise bar. The "Valentine" dining room, with its dramatic red-and-gold interior and wall of fame featuring Pakistani icons, is perfect for date night, and complimentary live entertainment is available for special occasions. Book your table today by calling 02086720710, or click here to see the full menu (warning: may cause drooling).
Can't make it to Tooting? Try Spice Village Southall instead!
Pubs and bars in Tooting
Got a thirst on? Tooting will slake it admirably. The Antelope remains one of our favourite pubs in the area; a sprawling wood-panelled Antic thing, which does a good pint of Siren Soundwave (and a decent Sunday roast). The Castle's outdoor space with miniature winter 'chalets' is rather brilliant, but it's a Young's pub, so don't expect the beer to blow you away. The Wheatsheaf is similarly a nice pub, where you're better off indulging in a G&T. For brews that get our lips smacking, it's time to return to those markets. We Brought Beer is a pint-sized beer shop/bar with very well-stocked fridges and one or two brews on tap, from the likes of Gipsy Hill and Howling Hops. It's seconds away from Unwined - one of the least pretentious places we've ever sunk a pinot noir — and Graveney Gin, which we haven't got around to sampling yet but tbh, how wrong can you go with gin? Over in Broadway Market, there's another wonderful little craft beer shop/bar, aptly named Craft Tooting, its shelves packed with the ilk of DEYA, Kernel et al. There's minimal seating, which makes you feel all the more special when you score a stool.
For something stronger, The Goldfinch is a cute little cocktail bar, where you can sip a trademark Finch Negroni (mixed with cassis) in their lovely little brick courtyard. Tequila Mockingbird wins the award for best Harper Lee booze-based pun; it's one of many outlets across London, and believe it or not, they mix a decent margarita (visit during happy hour for two-for-one drinks). Good Neighbour (see Dinner in Tooting) are a dab hand with the liquor, too.
Dinner in Tooting
Entire libraries could be written about Tooting's South Asian food scene, and our advice is to gradually chomp your way through the lot. So far we've enjoyed excellent mutton rolls and fish masala at Sri Lankan eatery Apollo Banana Leaf (it's BYOB); and seafood fried string hoppers, washed down with a faluda (made with milk, ice cream and rose syrup) at Jaffna House. One of Tooting's top-rated restaurants is Pakistani curry house Lahore Kahari which is a tad flashier than many of its neighbours, and absolutely banging most nights. The rushed-off-their-feet staff can be blunt (we were welcomed with a "how long will you be?") but the signature karahi dishes are rightly lauded by the likes of Tootingite Sadiq Khan. (It's also BYOB.)
Elsewhere, The Little Taperia is an adorable tapas joint serving up croquetas de jamón and chorizo cooked in red wine (their cocktails are worth a look-in too). Good Neighbour has multiplied since starting in Camberwell; if the original's anything to go by, you can expect the Tooting outpost to offer well-chosen wines paired with delectable small plates divvied up into 'Veg', 'Meat' and 'The Sea'.
Daddy Bao comes from the same team as the ludicrously popular Mr Bao in Peckham, and does a similar menu of show-stopping buns (prawn, brisket, tofu and more), with smashing sides (how is it possible to make cucumber taste so good?!).
And yet again, Tooting's markets come into their own for evening cuisine; there are French bistro delights aplenty at Bordelaise; crab buns and cream mussels at Sea Garden & Grill; or transport yourself to the Deep South courtesy of the blackened shrimp po' boys and buffalo fried cauliflower at Louisianan style hangout, Bayou Bar. (They also serve signature New Orleans cocktails like the Hurricane and sazerac.)
This is our cue to remind you that Tooting is home to the largest Chicken Cottage in Europe — ideal for poultry post-drinks scran. And if you want to get yourself a nice bit of tilapia to take home, call in at Fish World/Fish Universe, the memetastic near-identical neighbouring fishmongers with a juicily warring backstory.