The thing I love most about London is that its cultural and gastronomic gems are not just limited to the city centre. Around every corner, something exciting awaits: festivals, quirky cafes, magnificent green spaces or authentic global cuisine.
In Tooting, you can search for bargains, kick back at one of the pop-up eateries in the indoor market, relax in one of the many gourmet gastropubs or retreat to tranquil Tooting Common. Read on for six great reasons to visit Tooting.
1. Eating and drinking
Tooting’s growing number of gastropubs, including The Wheatsheaf, The Selkirk and The Antelope, offer the best in modern dining. For a taste of Spain, visit The Little Taperia or gorge on Neapolitan food at La Cantinella on Mitcham Road, pick up a pizza at The Naked Loaf on Moyser Road, or delight in Lebanese at one of two Meza restaurants.
If it’s refreshment you're after, grab a coffee at Mud. If you’re not in the cooking mood, you can indulge yourself with a takeaway from the Britannia Fish Bar, or try one of the best breakfasts in south London at the Kitchen Table, both on Franciscan Road.
2. Hip hangouts
Tooting’s hippest and most happening hangout has to be Tooting Market, now bursting with delicious eateries, as well as being a treasure trove for bargain hunters searching for vintage clothes, furniture or African art. It's like a summer holiday all year-round with the bright colours. You can breakfast at the Brickwood Café, quench your thirst at Get Juiced, lunch on a Meza shawarma or a goat curry from Grubs.
Finish the day with a relaxing beverage at The Secret Bar, Graveney Gin (they distil the gin in the market) or at wine specialists Unwined, where every weekend you can enjoy a wine-matched menu of fine foods from their monthly resident pop-up chefs. Later on, catch a live gig or dance your socks off at the Tooting Tram and Social.
3. The best in south Asian restaurants
So the food in Tooting is so good, there needs to be two sections. It’s hard to pick a favourite as there are so many wonderful family places in Tooting, but for me, I like to be reminded of my roots, so south Asian restaurants are close to my heart. Vijaya Krishna on Mitcham Road is a firm favourite with a relaxing ambience and exotic south Indian flavours – the coconut rice is a must eat.
Lahore Karahi is where you'll find me in my spare time, and is a restaurant my family, friends and I have always visited. The service is lovely, the naan is fresh and the tarkah dhal is nearly as delicious as my mother’s! Other authentic Pakistani restaurants which remind me of my background include Spice Village and Dawat. For Indian treats, Pooja and Ambala will satisfy your sweet tooth and they both make delicious chane chaat and vegetable samosas.
4. Retreat to some green space
Tooting Bec Common is less than 10 minutes from the station, but transports you to a tranquil oasis of greenery and wildlife. It’s great for a cycle, picnic or sitting with friends, as well as being the perfect spot to watch the world go by.
Keep your eye out for bats and birds, and listen for the joyful drumming of woodpeckers in the spring. The trees are home to beautiful green parakeets and at the centre of the common is a cafe where my daughters and I buy homemade ice cream - especially when we cycled down together when they were younger.
5. Hidden gems
Check out Tooting Arts Club, which puts on theatrical shows in unusual places. Its Sweeney Todd production, staged at Harrington’s Pie and Mash a few years ago, was an internationally acclaimed sell-out and James Franco came to see it!
Or pop into the lavishly ornate art deco Gala Bingo on Mitcham Road. It was the first Grade I-listed cinema and boasts a star-studded history of performances, including Frank Sinatra, the Rolling Stones, and The Beatles.
6. Splash out at Tooting Bec Lido
A Grade II-listed art deco classic and England’s largest freshwater swimming pool, Tooting Bec Lido is a fantastic spot to have a dip, and has even had Hollywood actor Brad Pitt swimming in its refreshing waters.