12 HOURS IN AND AROUND TOOTING
South London gets a bit of a bad rep when compared to the northern half of the capital. Some of this distain is justified (South London’s transportation system leaves a lot to be desired), but it is largely down to ignorance: it is impossible for a person to visit a place like Tooting and come away complaining about the paucity of things on offer in South London. In Tooting, at least, there are a ton of things to do.
Presumably it’s coffee you’re after at this hour, in which case you could do worse than head on down to Brickwood Coffee & Bread, situated inside Tooting Market near Tooting Broadway tube station. It isn’t just coffee that’s on offer at Brickwood; a tasty brunch and salad menu caters to those feeling peckish. Brickwood offers a pleasant setting to imbibe some much-needed fuel before taking on the day ahead. On Friday and Saturday nights, Brickwood transforms into a venue that sells cocktails, beer, and other alcoholic drinks, so if you like it that much you can always head back again later when night falls.
For those who just want straight up coffee or tea (though you can usually get a toastie at these places too) try Walker Wyatt Coffee, Mud, or JOE’s.
Brickwood Coffee & Bread, Tooting Market, 21-23 Tooting High St, London SW17 0SN. Phone: 020 8672 2668
Walker Wyatt Coffee, 3 Upper Tooting Rd, London SW17 7TS. Phone: 020 8767 8687.
JOE’s, 217A Tooting High Street, London SW17 0SZ. Phone: 020 3581 9642.
Now you’ve refuelled, so to speak, it’s time to explore Tooting a little. Despite playing host to Europe’s largest Chicken Cottage, there’s more to this part of South London than just food. For one thing, there’s shopping. Whether it’s searching for bargains in the charity shops along the high street or exploring the eclectic offerings on display in Tooting Market, there is something to suit a variety of tastes. And hey, if you get bored you can always stop and eat again, because why the hell not? The market stays open until 10:30 p.m., so by all means take your time.
Tooting Market, 21-23 Tooting High St, London SW17 0SN. Phone: 020 8672 4760.
With a bag stuffed full of bargains and a stomach full of carbohydrates, head over to Tooting Bec Common. For the more active, the common is an ideal place to burn off some of what you’ve consumed. If that’s not your thing, it’s still an extremely pleasant setting and the closest you’re going to get to countryside in this part of the world. There’s even a lake with ducks, swans, and other sentient creatures. Another underappreciated way to pass the time on Tooting Bec Common is to simply walk around, gazing up at the many magnificent oak trees scattered around the place. It’s much more interesting than I make it sound.
Tooting Bec Common, Doctor Johnson Avenue, Tooting, London SW17 8JU.
After you’re done exploring the green you may want to cool off. What better way to do that than to take a swim? If you’re up for that, pay a visit to Tooting Bec Lido, an open-air fresh water swimming pool situated just off Tooting Bec road next to the common. An adult swim costs £7.50.
Tooting Bec Lido, Tooting Bec Rd, London SW16 1RU. Phone: 020 8871 7198.
Four o’clock is pub time. It doesn’t have to be, but it’s a good time to relax a little and reflect on the day that’s just gone as well as prepare yourself for the forthcoming evening. You don’t have to drink alcohol by any means, but this is the time to administer an aperitif for those that like such things. Directly opposite Tooting Bec Station stands The Wheatsheaf, an independent boozer that also serves food. The Wheatsheaf feels modern without shedding all the charm of an old-fashioned boozer. It tends to get busy in the evening, but 4 o’clock is the ideal time to drop in for a quiet pint.
The Castle offers something slightly different. A Young’s pub that dates back to 1832, the Castle has a contemporary “gastro pub” feel to it. This may not be to everybody’s taste, but if you like that sort of thing then pop in for a drink in this huge and airy pub.
The Wheatsheaf, 2 Upper Tooting Rd, London SW17 7PG. Phone: 020 8672 2805.
The Castle, 38 Tooting High Street, London, SW17 0RG. Phone: 020 8672 7018.
Early evening marks the highlight of a day spent in Tooting – for me at any rate. It’s at this hour that you perhaps want to think about getting something to eat, and in Tooting you are genuinely spoilt for choice, especially if you like spicy food. Even if you don’t, there is so much on offer that you are bound to find something to suite your own palate.
Some of the best South Asian cuisine can be found at Dawat. The restaurant operates a no alcohol policy, but it does offer takeaway if you’d rather drink with your meal. The food is highly rated, so it’s worth eschewing the booze and simply appreciating what’s on offer. On a Friday or Saturday evening, it’s wise to book a table as it can get very busy. That in itself reveals a lot about the place.
Lahore Karahi Express is another top-quality South Asian restaurant in Tooting, as is Mirch Masala. For those who want to cast their net more widely, it’s worth heading back to Tooting Market, where a wide variety of food outlets dish up cuisine from around the world. There is literally something here for everybody.
Dawat, 256-258 Upper Tooting Rd, London SW17 0DN. Phone: 020 8682 9777.
Lahore Karahi Express, 1 Tooting High St, London SW17 0SN. Phone: 020 8767 2477.
Mirch Masala, 213 Upper Tooting Rd, London SW17 7TG. Phone: 020 8767 8638.
Tooting Tram and Social hosts a wide selection of bands and DJs, meaning you can dance the night away or prop up the bar looking cool. Either way, who can seriously say that South London has little to offer after all of this? Tuesday is open mic night at the social, and on Fridays and Saturdays it stays open until 2:00 a.m. And what you going to do at the end of the night? Head to the massive Chicken Cottage, obviously; though you better leave the Tram and Social before closing time as Chicken Cottage also stops serving at 2:00 a.m.
Tooting Tram and Social, 46-48 Mitcham Road, London, SW17 9NA. Phone: 020 8767 0278.
Chicken Cottage, 38-42, Upper Tooting Road, London SW17 7PD. Phone: 020 8767 9229.