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12 Hours In And Around Tooting

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12 HOURS IN AND AROUND TOOTING

WORDS BY JAMES BLOODWORTH

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.

9:00 a.m.

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.

11:00 a.m.

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.

12:15 p.m.

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.

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2:00 p.m.

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.

tooting bec lido

4:00 p.m.

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 pub tooting

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.

7:30 p.m.

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.

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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.

9:00 p.m.

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.

 
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Beavertown Brewery Caters To Every Palate

 

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BEAVERTOWN BREWERY CATERS TO EVERY PALATE

Beavertown Brewery is a craft beer company that produces a wide variety of beer with unusual names like Smog Rocket and Black Betty. The taproom in Tottenham Hale is open on Saturdays from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. You can also find Beavertown’s beers at several pubs and shops in London – just look out for the illustrated, brightly coloured cans that stand out from the rest.

The Beavertown Brewery, Units 17 & 18, Lockwood Industrial Park, Mill Mead Road, Tottenham Hale, London N17 9QP. Phone: 020 8525 9884

READ JAMES BLOODWORTH'S STORY

Anyone who has ever frequented a pub or bar in Britain will be familiar with the usual selection of beers on offer, even if they don’t choose to drink them. In contrast, Beavertown Brewery brings a much more eclectic mix to the table, with beers named things like “Gamma Ray” and “Neck Oil”.

Beavertown Brewery is one of many craft beer companies that have sprung up in London – and indeed Britain – in recent years. It is partly responsible for some of the brightly-decorated 330ml cans that drinkers can increasingly be seen carrying around with them at London’s pubs, restaurants, and street markets. Indeed, Beavertown holds its very own open-air and family friendly taproom event every Saturday in Tottenham Hale, where drinkers can sample alcoholic drinks from as many as 10 taps and enjoy delicious food such as pulled pork, burgers, and falafel. The sheer range of drinks on offer ensures that there is something to cater to every palate. 

Once the novelty of the brightly coloured branding and creativity on display has worn off, the beer itself easily holds its own alongside more established brands. Beavertown does not merely offer an eccentric window into the experimentalism and eccentricity that emanates from the world of craft beer making, it also supplies a range of drinks that are very good in their own right. This is an especially welcome intervention amidst a drinking landscape where the dark liquid that sloshes around in your glass – usually the product of a gigantic chain brewery – is so often eminently forgettable.

Feature photograph courtesy Beavertown Brewery

 
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Tour A Local Distillery At East London Liquor Company

 

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TOUR A LOCAL DISTILLERY AT EAST LONDON LIQUOR COMPANY

Located in Tower Hamlets, East London Liquor Company is a distillery that produces vodka, gin, and whisky. There is also a bar and restaurant where you can taste their spirits – neat or in a cocktail – and a shop from where you can purchase your own bottle. If you’re interested in the craft of making spirits, you can book a distillery tour by emailing tours@eastlondonliquorcompany.com

East London Liquor Company, 221 Grove Road, London E3 5SN. Phone: 020 3011 0980

READ JAMES BLOODWORTH'S STORY

London was, at one time awash, with gin distilleries; in the 18th Century there were rumoured to be as many as 1,500. Nowadays, most of them are gone, but East London Liquor Company is bringing vodka, gin, and whisky distilling back to one of its historic homes, with a bar, shop, and distillery situated in an old glue factory in Mile End.

Situated in Bow Wharf carpark, the bar – an enchanting juxtaposition of high ceilings, marble, and straw-coloured brickwork – contains an exciting array of in-house gins, rums, vodkas, and whiskeys as well as imported liquors. These can be imbibed as they are, or they can serve as the foundation for the large array of unusually-named cocktails on offer (“Basiq Beach”, “Something Hoppy This Way Comes”). For those feeling peckish, a selection of cheeses and cured meats are available from the bar as well as more substantial offerings with an Italian theme from the restaurant.

Those wanting to see up close how the distillery’s own London dry or British wheat vodka are made – or to gain a better understanding of the world of distilling and do some tasting – can book a full distillery tour. Visitors can also pick up a bottle of in-house liquor from the gift shop to continue enjoying the craft distilling experience at home. But a word of warning: look ELLC up on a map before setting out, for it is one of those places that deserve the appellation “hidden gem”.

Note: East London Liquor Company launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise £750,000 to drive growth in the UK and abroad. It exceeded its original target in under 24 hours and surpassed the £1 million mark in four days.

Feature photograph courtesy East London Liquor Company

 
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One Mile End At The White Hart Brews A Diverse Array Of Craft Beers

 

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ONE MILE END AT THE WHITE HART BREWS A DIVERSE ARRAY OF CRAFT BEERS

One Mile End is a micro-brewery located beneath The White Hart Brew Pub in Whitechapel. It brews ales in a range of flavours from sour to fruity.

For those who prefer drinks other than beer, The White Hart also serves spirits and wines.

The White Hart Brew Pub, 1 Mile End Rd, London E1 4TP, UK. Phone: 020 7790 2894

READ JAMES BLOODWORTH'S STORY

The White Hart Brew Pub in Whitechapel is a vibrant pub at the heart of the East End. At first glance, it looks very much like any other drinking establishment; yet, nestled amidst the facias of more familiar beer taps are more experimental offerings. These originate from the One Mile End micro-brewery downstairs – another hidden feature of this conventional-looking boozer.

The brewery itself was launched in October 2014. It has grown rapidly since then, so it also brews at larger facilities in Tottenham. As such, The White Hart has a fantastic range of pale ales you are unlikely to find elsewhere, at least not all under one roof. This includes firm local favourites as well as one-off specials.

It is perhaps prudent to ask a few questions before diving straight in to order a drink, however, for One Mile End produces a range of quite some scope. One glass of beer can produce a significantly different effect on one’s palate to another. This is particularly true should the drinker decide to order a glass of a sour beer (sour in a good way) such as Gose Fleur De Sel. Similarly, the Snakes Alive Dipa is infused with a strong flavour of lemon and blueberries, which may not cater to all tastes. That said, more conventional-tasting beers are available from One Mile End, including their ‘Docker’s Delight’ bitter, which easily stands the test of taste alongside more established brands.

In terms of trying some of what’s on offer from One Mile End you needn’t necessarily visit the White Hart. The beers produced by One Mile End appear regularly at a variety of events around the city, and those interested in sampling some of the beers can stay up to date on where to find them via the One Mile End blog.

Feature photograph by Ewan Munro [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr

 
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Marie’s Cafe Serves Reliability On A Plate

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MARIE'S CAFE SERVES RELIABILITY ON A PLATE

Marie’s Cafe is an unpretentious restaurant in Lambeth that serves typical diner fare for breakfast and Thai food later in the day. The unassuming place is often busy – a testament to its reputation and food.

Marie’s Cafe, 90 Lower Marsh, Lambeth, London SE1 7A. Phone: 020 7928 1050

READ JAMES BLOODWORTH'S STORY

London is a different place by night and, its best eateries acknowledge that. A few eccentric individuals may want to imbibe a fry-up late into the evening, but I suspect that most of us will opt for something a little less heavy either before or after a night on the town. A place for each meal and each meal in its place, as it were.

An establishment in Central London that moves seamlessly from run-of-the-mill English fare to something a little more interesting is Marie’s Cafe near Waterloo station. You can pop in to Marie’s first thing in the morning and leave under the impression that you’ve dined at a fairly typical greasy spoon. Return later in the day, however, and you’ll still find something worth ordering – so long as you like Thai food.

I first visited Marie’s as a penurious student. It is a small and easy-to-miss place nestled in-between some fairly nondescript shops on Lower March, just across from the Cubana bar and restaurant. The fact that the restaurant is frequently bustling with people tells its own story: a place as unobtrusive as Marie’s must gain a certain reputation in order to attract such crowds. And word of mouth was how I first found out about it too: a student friend (“I know this great Thai place”) took me to Marie’s eight years ago, though I’ve been back many times since.

If you were to sum up Marie’s in a word, it would be “unpretentious”. This is not said with the intention of being patronising. The food served up in Marie’s doesn’t disappoint, even if the service could sometimes be a little faster. Rather, Marie’s excels because it eschews the ancillary gimmicks that usually accompany a meal in town. Marie’s doesn’t try too hard to be tackily “authentic”, nor do its table staff bombard you with dreary sales patter or address you in a tone of portentous servility. But where it matters – in what ends up on your plate and, following that, in your stomach – Marie’s reliably delivers.

Indeed, I cannot say that I’ve ever come away from Marie’s disappointed, which is certainly not true of most of the eateries I’ve frequented in London. Even some of my favourite places have, on occasion, sent me away disappointed or underfed. And anyway, if I do ever have a mediocre meal at Marie’s (and it is bound to happen at some point) it is hardly likely to be a source of deep regret: the restaurant is, as I’ve mentioned already, incredibly cheap for both its portion size and convenient central location.

If you were to sum up Marie’s in a word, it would be “unpretentious”.

One reason you usually end up leaving Marie’s with some cash to spare is because it is a “bring your own” restaurant. This isn’t to everyone’s taste, but it is beneficial to the hard-up or frugal diner as there are no overpriced drinks to send the bill skyward. If it’s just a soft drink you’re after, you can buy those for a reasonable price at the café. If you do not want to eat in the venue itself then staff will pack you up a take away.

Myself –  I prefer to eat in. I find the unornamented interior of Marie’s welcoming and even cosy. Would you really choose the bland pop music of most chain establishments over the somnolent hum of contented diners, punctuated only by the occasional clatter of crockery?

I wouldn’t, but then I’ve probably made it clear where I stand on such matters by now. And as you are unlikely to stumble on a place as unshowy as Marie’s by accident, if you don’t want to miss out, you will have take my word for it.

 
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Match Day at the Travellers Tavern

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MATCH DAY AT TRAVELLERS TAVERN

Travellers Tavern is a bar in Belgravia where you can watch football on the television while you drink a pint. If football isn’t your game of choice, you can enjoy your drink in the beer garden instead. Avoid getting a full meal.

Travellers Tavern, 4 Elizabeth Street, Belgravia, London SW1W 9RB. Phone: 020 7730 3957

READ JAMES BLOODWORTH'S STORY

Childhood memories are commonly bound up with sounds, smells, or individuals. Yet one particularly potent recollection of mine revolves around a specific hour of the day – 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon, to be precise.

In contrast to most childhood memories when the sun is forever beating down on green fields and golden sandy beaches, this one is invariably set in winter. I am sat cross-legged on a grey carpet at my grandmother’s house, probably with a jam tart in my hand and a cup of tea perched precariously by my side. The old television set has been fired up, and a moth-eaten presenter has started reading football scores from something mysteriously called the “Vidiprinter”.

That was how you watched football back then. Nowadays sport is a more commercial affair, which means that if you don’t have satellite television at home, a trip to the boozer to watch the match is in order. A favourite place of mine in London is the Travellers Tavern in Victoria, which is an excellent football pub if you can forgive it the missing apostrophe in its name.

I’m letting you in on this secret because I know from experience that finding a place to watch the match is something of a lottery. Choose the wrong venue, and you could end up nursing an unwanted drink in a noisy dive bar, scrolling furtively through football forums on your phone for insider information from those prolific posters who you hope are in the know. Where has a big screen? Which venue won’t be too rammed? Will I be greeted by a wall of hostile stares if I pass through the front doors wearing club colours?

The Travellers Tavern fits the bill because it has not one but five screens. Despite being located near Victoria Coach Station – hours spent aboard cheap coaches lends itself favourably to nursing alcoholic beverages in pubs – the place is rarely so packed that you feel like a sardine squeezed tightly inside an oily tin. This doesn’t betray something ominous – the Tavern hasn’t gained some word-of-mouth reputation for filthy lavatories or a rowdy clientele. It’s merely that there is a glut of pubs in the area, which serves to dilute the crowds somewhat even at peak hours of the day. If football shirts are your thing, then they aren’t likely to be a problem either.

it is a sparsely populated drinking den where the ups and downs of the “beautiful game” hum away in the background with the eccentric ambience of that crackly old television set when you were a kid.

I don’t intend for this to be a hagiographical account, so let me briefly touch on the downsides of the place. First off, if you intend to eat during your visit, know that the food is billed at what are commonly known as “London prices”. With so many tourists about – traipsing through the doors with their union jack flags trailed by suitcases on wheels – who can blame the management for doing what every other establishment in London is doing? Unless you just want a bowl of chips, it is worthwhile going elsewhere for your grub.

Drinks can be a little pricey too – £5 for a pint of Estrella is hardly cheap. But I can’t say I begrudge paying that amount when I feel as if I’m being provided with such agreeable free entertainment.

I understand that football isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I am aware, too, that stepping into a pub in which football fans congregate – an unusual tribe to the uninitiated and not a single tribe at all for those on the inside – can be intimidating.

But the Travellers Tavern isn’t like that. Rather, it is a sparsely populated drinking den where the ups and downs of the “beautiful game” hum away in the background with the eccentric ambience of that crackly old television set when you were a kid. Close your eyes and – for a split second at least – you are your former selff again, sat cross-legged on the carpet in your living room while an autumn mist envelopes everything outside.

 
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Grab A Pint At The Earl Of Lonsdale

earl of lonsdale pub portobello road notting hill
 

GRAB A PINT AT THE EARL OF LONSDALE

The Earl of Lonsdale is a Sam Smith’s pub on Portobello Road. It is named after the 5th Earl of Lonsdale, Hugh Cecil Lowther, who was the founder and first president of the Automobile Association. A traditional English pub, it has a fireplace and the largest beer garden in Notting Hill.

The Earl of Lonsdale, 277-281 Westbourne Grove, London W11 2QA. Phone: 020 7727 6335

READ JAMES BLOODWORTH'S STORY

The ideal atmosphere of a pub should be of around a century ago. It should be frozen in time but not so marooned in the past as to attract sightseers who drop in for the “experience” rather than to get well oiled. There should be an underlying hum of chatter (music is a big no-no), but the place should never become so busy that one is unable to procure a seat or is forced to stand at the bar for more than five minutes to secure a drink.

There are plenty of other features that might improve such an establishment – a spacious beer garden where one can draw on a cigarette near the end of the night; a selection of sandwiches or pasties displayed in a glass cabinet atop the bar; a roaring fire and a friendly staff; an array of local “characters” who are as much a feature of the place as the toffee-coloured ceilings and velour armchairs.

A pub that has all of these – the vital elements as well as the ancillaries – is the Earl of Lonsdale, which sits half way up the famous Portobello Road where it meets Westbourne Grove in Notting Hill.

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When I visit the Earl, I like to swill down a pint or two in the public bar – called the “duck under” bar because of the need to duck under the wooden partition walls which separate the small seating areas – before making my way into the large lounge area, which resembles a cross between a great Victorian hall and a bordello. It is a Samuel Smith pub, and thus has a good range of lagers and ales.

Like most men I go to the pub chiefly as a sort of bolt hole away from home. It runs in the family I suppose: my late uncle John was a functioning alcoholic. The long hours he would spend in the square, musty-smelling alcove in his Somerset local would drift by like an endless stretch of highway – each day melting over time into a somnolent drone of time whittled and wasted by bachelors soaking their livers in hops.

“Alright my lovely,” the landlady would holler melodically when my uncle stumbled in through the doors at half-past 11 each morning. His gouty hands would shake while he waited for her to draw the dark beer from the steel tap. He would always take the same drink in the same moth-eaten seat with the Daily Express spread out in front of him on a crooked table. The paper would be chip wrapper tomorrow, but today it relayed to thousands of drink-sodden men like my uncle the sensational stories of stabbings and shootings and all the other strange terrors that went on out there.

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When I drink at the Earl of Lonsdale, a glassy shimmer is cast over everything after about the fifth pint, like the filter dropping down in the shutter of a camera. As the first drink slips down your throat your innards feel frothy and light. Before you know it you are stumbling up the Portobello Road under the amber glare of streetlights, collar up against the wind and a kaleidoscope of fragmentary conversations and salutations jostling around in your head. The situation is improved markedly if you have a cigarette in your hand, the tip lighting the way like a fiery torch while you belch smoke out into the night air, an affirmation of life in its cavalier disregard for mortality.

I chiefly enjoy pubs like the Earl of Lonsdale because they present the drinker with a blank canvas. All the woolly nostalgia surrounding the folkloric drinking dens of “deepest England” can go to hell; the pub is what you choose to make of it. The Earl of Lonsdale succeeds chiefly because the atmosphere is propitious to a good night. You can go there to scribble on a notepad or to drink and eat a sandwich by the fire. You can follow my uncle down the path to destruction by blowing your pension on pewter mugs of dark brown liquid. Or you can drop in on a Saturday afternoon together with the other day-trippers, each a perspective buyer of “keep calm and carry on” tat as well as a pending complaint to Trip Advisor about sullen staff who refuse to break a sweat.

Be warned, however: that hang-dog frown in the corner – that belongs to me, and I might be writing about you.

 
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12 Hours In And Around Brixton

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12 HOURS IN AND AROUND BRIXTON

WORDS BY JAMES BLOODWORTH

Brixton sits at one end of the Victoria line on the London Underground. It is in the south of the city and is represented by a long light blue line on the tube map that appears to stop abruptly in zone two. South London is famously poorly served by the tube system: there are 250 stations on the north side of the river but just 29 stations on the south side. Fortunately for us, Brixton has its own station; and this is where we will start on our journey around this multicultural district of the capital.

9:00 a.m.

Emerging from the London Underground into the frost-bitten air at the height of rush hour can be a reviving experience. Down there, under the ground with its undulating tide of commuters, can be a claustrophobic and suffocating experience. Emerging from Brixton station and taking that first gasp of air can feel a little like tearing off a strip of parcel tape from your mouth. You can breathe again, finally – and once you have calibrated yourself to your new surroundings you can start to think about re-fuelling.

Like many of London’s multi-ethnic areas, you are spoilt for choice in Brixton. There are also the more prosaic and familiar options. Heading right out of the tube station you will come across a couple of chain coffee houses about 100 yards down, one on either side of the road. It’s the usual stuff – bang-average hot drinks with the ancillary option of a sandwich or muffin on the side. Then again, sometimes that’s precisely what you want, especially if you’re in a hurry.

There are Pret A Manger, Costa, and McDonalds, plus a couple of smaller independent shops that all do speedy snacks and breakfasts for the traveller on the go – or the traveller who simply wants the basics done well.

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For something a little fancier, try Federation Coffee inside Brixton Market’s covered arcade. As well as the selection of hot beverages, there’s the chance to try the smashed avocado on sourdough or banana bread if you’re feeling peckish. A selection of grilled sandwiches are also available, as are yogurts with granola.

Federation Coffee, 77-78 Brixton Village and Market Row Markets, Coldharbour Lane, London SW9 8PS.

If you want something a little more daring on the weekend, head down to The Blues Kitchen on Acre Lane. Here you can get everything from a traditional full English breakfast to pancakes to Huevos Rancheros (fried eggs Mexican style).

The Blues Kitchen, 40 Acre Lane, Brixton, London SW2 5SP. Phone: 020 7274 0591

11:00 a.m.

Now that you’ve satisfied your appetite, it’s time to get yourself acquainted with the neighbourhood. If the weather is good, you might want to go for a stroll amidst the greenery at Brockwell Park, a tranquil expanse with an impressive view of the city. Opened to the public in 1891, Brockwell Park is home to the famous Lido, one of the most impressive outdoor public swimming pools in all of London. That’s right, it’s an outdoor swimming pool. Probably best therefore to visit in the summer, although the park is good for a relaxing stroll at any time of the year.

Brockwell Park, Norwood Road, London SE24 9BJ

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12:15 p.m.

For lunch, you could do worse than sample some of the West Indian street food. With this in mind, Brixton Market is an ideal place to start. Over 80 street sellers ply their trade in the famous market, different parts of which can be reached via Electric Avenue, Brixton Station Road, or Pope’s Road. There are several stalls that sell dinner boxes of things like jerk chicken, rice, and plantains to take away. “Authentic” is a word that is bandied around to sell all sorts nowadays, however the Brixton Market is the genuine article for those looking for genuine Caribbean food and a host of other enchanting cultural trinkets.

Brixton Market, 16B Electric Avenue, Brixton, London SW9 8JX (Click here to view a map of the market)

On Saturdays, be sure to check out the Brixton Brewery, an independent brewery that produces craft beer using local ingredients. You can enjoy a pint or two in the tap room or, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can even take a full tour, complete with a beer tasting session.

Brixton Brewery, Arch 547, Brixton Station Road, Brixton, London SW9 8PF. Phone: 020 3609 8880

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2:00 p.m.

How about a quick beverage before we forge ahead into the critical hours of the afternoon?

Whether you want a pint of fizzy lager or a softer drink, The Beehive – a straightforward JD Wetherspoon pub – is located mid-way up the Brixton Road near the train station. A quiet place at this hour of the day, The Beehive resembles its namesake if you pop back at 5 o’clock. However, mid-afternoon is a good time to slow things down, park yourself at one of the wooden tables, unfold your paper, and peruse the day’s events. The Beehive in the daytime is also a good place to meet some of the locals.

The Beehive, 407-409 Brixton Road, Brixton, London, SW9 7DG. Phone: 020 7738 3643

4:00 p.m.

Catch a movie at the centrally located Ritzy Cinema, a building that was recently restored from a picture house first built in 1911. In addition to five screens, the cinema complex contains a couple of bars, and a café. As with most cinemas, it’s wise to eat your snacks – or at least to buy them – before you get into the cinema itself, where the food and drink prices are apt to unsettle the discerning spender.

Ritzy Cinema, Brixton Oval, Coldharbour Lane, London, SW2 1JG

Another option for the afternoon – which will especially suit those with a sweet tooth – is a visit to the Brixton chocolate museum. You can drop in and make your own chocolatey creations in group or individual sessions, or you can visit the chocolate museum’s free exhibition and learn about the process of chocolate making.

The Chocolate Museum, 187 Ferndale Road, Brixton, London SW9 8BA. Phone: 07723 434235 (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays)

7:30 p.m.

There are a ton of options in Brixton for those who like to eat before they head out for an evening’s entertainment. You can get pizza at Made of Dough or plates of tapas in Boqueria. There’s also the option of Mama’s Jerk, Khamsa (Algerian/BYO wine, beer, or champagne), or Nanban, which serves something intriguingly called “Japanese soul food”. On weekends, you can get spicy Pakistani street food at the Elephant in Brixton Village.

Made of Dough, Pop Brixton, 49 Brixton Station Road, London, SW9 8PQ.

Boqueria, 192 Acre Lane, Brixton, London SW2 5UL. Phone: 020 7733 4408

Mama’s Jerk, 49 Brixton Station Road, London, SW9 8PQ.

Khamsa, 140 Acre Lane, Brixton, London, SW2 5UT. Phone: 020 7733 3150

Nanban, 426 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, London, SW9 8LF. Phone: 020 7346 0098.

Elephant, 55 Granville Arcade, Brixton Village Market, Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, London SW9 8PS. Phone: 7715 439857 (open for dinner Thursday to Saturday)

9:00 p.m.

After all that food, you might not feel like doing much other than lying down, but should you still be up for venturing out where better than the Brixton Academy, one of the best live music venues in London. Many world-famous bands have graced the stage at the academy over the years, from Madonna to The Clash to Rita Ora, so it’s worth checking who’s on when you’re in town.

The O2 Academy, Brixton, 211 Stockwell Road, Brixton, London SW9 9SL

Brixton Guide_002

If a gig isn’t for you, then why not check out some of the local bars? The Shrub and Shutter, Three Eight Four, and Salon all offer a range of beers, cocktails, and mocktails to suit every palate.

The Shrub and Shutter, 336 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, London SW9 8QH. Phone: 020 7326 0643 (closed Sunday and Monday)

Three Eight Four, 384 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, London SW9 8LF. Phone: 020 3417 7309

Salon, 18 Market Row, Brixton, London SW9 8LD. Phone: 020 7501 9152 (closed Sunday evenings and all day Monday)

 
Valentine's-Day-band

It’s Not All Roses And Rainbows On Valentine’s Day

 

IT'S NOT ALL ROSES AND RAINBOWS ON VALENTINE'S DAY

WORDS BY JAMES BLOODWORTH

What would make a good Valentine’s Day, if not some obligation-induced orgy of handing over unwanted presents adorned with brain-melting uplift such as “live, love, laugh”?

Each year in the lead up to Valentine’s Day, I start to fall under the weight of two competing forces. On the one hand, there is the obligation to buy something “romantic” for the sake of it, while on the other is all the ennui that comes with another round of pointless consumption so soon after the last one.

I say pointless not out of some attempt to claim the moral high ground – I can consume as avariciously as anybody else when I want to, especially if food and alcohol are involved – but more to impugn the sense of obligation that invariably comes with this particular mark in the calendar. Not least because one always ends up buying things just for the sake of it, which seems to somewhat tarnish the point about giving generously – as we’re forever encouraged to do.

Wholly indifferent to how I feel about it, London will soon be awash with masses of sickly cards decorated in pinks and scarlets and dog-eared bouquets picked up in a dash from filling stations on the way home from work. By February 15th, this torrent of tat will feel morbid and stale, like last night’s takeaway still sitting forlornly on the coffee table after a violent debauch.

What you do with that time is up to you, though in a city as alive and rumbustious as London there is plenty to choose from so long as you do not intend to sit staring into each other’s eyes all evening at some mid-market chain restaurant.

Valentine’s Day falls at a curious time of the year. It sits not quite during mid-winter, but even so, the impending spring still feels about as far away as the long hazy evenings propped up in beer gardens during the previous summer. The winter feels both longer and harder in London where less time is spent in the car and more time is spent pounding the pavement from one underground station to the next.

The second week in February is also the point at which, statistically speaking, a large number of those who enthusiastically got into fitness at the beginning of the year slip back into a more familiar routine. The guilty leverage induced by the Christmas Day orgy of turkey and chocolate and booze has, by this point, degenerated into feelings of smug complacency. You’ve got that side of your life handled, so you proclaim as you dispatch another slab of Terry’s chocolate orange into your mouth. And so, you will give the gym a miss today because you “went three times last week, so it’s fine”.

There is no obvious link between the cult of self-help – the one that pushes “7 steps to get in shape” down your throat at the dawn of the year – and the glut of lovey-dovey tat that begins to encroach on the supermarket shelves like poison ivy as soon as the mince pies and festive gammons have been sloughed off at a discount. Indeed, the gym is perhaps the antithesis of Easter, the spring festival whose signifiers compete with Valentine’s Day clutter for the eye of the thrifty post-Christmas consumer. Not because of the glut of chocolate the latter obliges us with, but because self-help – the desire to tune up your body and, at its extreme cryogenic end, to literally live for ever – is but one consequence of the collapse of the belief in life after death; or with reference to Easter, rebirth or resurrection. The desire to tune up your body is a consequence of only being a body, as it were.

There is the obligation to buy something “romantic” for the sake of it.

So what would make a good Valentine’s Day, if not some obligation-induced orgy of handing over unwanted presents adorned with brain-melting uplift such as “live, love, laugh”?

Time, perhaps – or giving someone some of your uninterrupted time. What you do with that time is up to you, though in a city as alive and rumbustious as London there is plenty to choose from so long as you do not intend to sit staring into each other’s eyes all evening at some mid-market chain restaurant.

There is nothing wrong with those places; it’s just that doing what everyone else does inevitably entails waiting around with everybody else. And loitering in sharp-elbowed queues – collective eyes glued to Twitter feeds for updates – is not quite the same as spending time together. Though as with the commercialism that tries to flog you pink ribbons and heart-shaped chocolates at the supermarket, it can sometimes be hard to separate the imitation from the genuine article, especially when we’ve become so well-versed in blurring this distinction.

 
The-Ravensbury-band

Indian and Chinese Food (With A Side Of Football) At The Ravensbury

 

the ravensbury

INDIAN AND CHINESE FOOD (WITH A SIDE OF FOOTBALL) AT THE RAVENSBURY

The Ravensbury is a restaurant and bar in Mitcham, south London, that serves Indian and Hakka Chinese cuisine. Among the dishes on the menu are Chicken 65, Mongolian Paneer, and Lamb Shank Curry.

The Ravensbury, 260 Croydon Road, Mitcham CR4 4JA. Phone: 020 8648 1561

READ JAMES BLOODWORTH'S STORY

The Ravensbury has existed in Mitcham in some form since the early 1900s, prior to which a wooden building known as the Blue House stood in its place, named after the so-called “blue houses” that stood nearby and housed workers who helped construct the Surrey Iron Railway during the early 1800s.

The pub and restaurant in its current incarnation opened in 2015. It was in fact by accident that I discovered the place, tucked away as it is between great rows of dark green and towering ash trees down Croydon Road. I walked in to The Ravensbury, which stood incongruently amidst the foliage, with a view to having a quick drink; however, I emerged about two hours later bloated and slightly drunk but not unhappy.

It should be obvious, then, that The Ravensbury impresses the most with its food, which comprises a large selection of Indian and Hakka Chinese cuisine. Yet what’s great about the place is that one needn’t go only for a sit-down meal in the restaurant. There is a slick bar adjoining the reception area catering to those who want to eat and drink – or perhaps just drink – in a less formal setting. For sports fans, The Ravensbury is also reliably good at showing the biggest football matches on its the big screen.

This may not be to everyone’s taste, but for those of us devoted to the heavenly trinity of alcohol, Indo-Chinese food, and football, The Ravensbury delivers the goods.

Feature photo by N Chadwick [CC BY SA-2.0], via Geograph