The picket fence goes up by 6pm, partioning off a little patch of ground next to Clapham Common’s tube station. The folding tables then fill up in minutes with glass-clinking sybarites, attracting the stares of zipped-up commuters. A former public toilet, integral to the Tube station but derelict for years, has reopened as a wine bar, and transformed its tiny outside space into a new drinking terrace.
The ‘WC’ sign on the Tube station building now refers to Wine & Charcuterie, the winning bid out of 450 applicants to redevelop this unusual subterranean and above ground space. The bar is the latest instalment of the Clapham Old Town Regeneration Project, £2.8 million’s worth of wider pavements, traffic calming and turning old lavs into venues where you’re encouraged to swirl and sniff (as opposed to being cautioned or charged for doing so).
Down the wide stairs it still looks and feels like a Victorian convenience, albeit a sanitised one. The wall tiles and floor mosaics are still there, the cubicle doors have been laid flat and turned into tables within secluded and low-lit booths. Other fixtures and fittings are also reclaimed Victoriana, much of it from a nearby school. It’s cosy and appealing.
A score of wines are sold, with plenty of choice in the £7 to £10 per glass range: no bargain, but also not taking the piss. The styles are diverse, from a dry German Riesling to a Bulgarian Merlot. Service is enthusiastic and engaging. Cheese platters start at £13, charcuterie plates at £12, and both are better than bog standard. Ed’s cock scratchings might be enough to salve that itch at only £3.25 per bag; savoury and a good match with wine, they’re pennies well-spent. Pay a visit.