Sadiq’s old stomping ground runs right through the middle of Tooting: a multicultural slice of the city pulsing with south London energy. Among the artisan brunch spots and new cocktail bars still stand the myriad of stalls on every other side street, selling everything from bejeweled saris to exotic fruit and veg. But what’s really put Tooting on the map of modern London, apart from our mayor’s unwavering loyalty to his manor, is its food.
Thanks to its Asian heritage, Tooting has long enjoyed a solid reputation on London’s culinary scene for its authentic, inexpensive curry houses. New arrivals have expanded SW17’s food culture further, with independent eateries and gourmet chains taking up residence. And Tooting’s got culture too: it was home to both spy/novelist Daniel Defoe and Britain’s first ever purpose-built cinema (the King’s Hall Picture Palace, opened in 1909), it hosted Frank Sinatra in concert and, to top it all off, birthed Matt from Busted.
Despite the inevitable wave of redevelopment, the High Street remains loyal to its roots. Tooting and Broadway Markets have operated for over 80 years and long-serving local businesses continue to thrive. There’s never been a better time to explore. Just two words of advice: arrive hungry.
Confit pork belly and gourmet cauliflower cheese from a kitchen-side counter stool at Plot Kitchen.
Lamb chop masala at Lahore Karahi, a no-frills, authentically delicious Pakistani restaurant renowned among curry lovers.
Beef massaman at homely BYOB Thai joint KaoSarn, who’ve just opened their third location here.
Perfectly seasoned pork meatballs at Belpassi Bros. Their lunch menu lets you go balls deep for a tenner.
Salt cod fritters and juicy prawns at the Little Taperia. Its rustic interior and authentic menu make it feel like a mini-holiday.
A pint in the front beer garden of The Trafalgar Arms: overlooking the High Street, it’s perfect for a bit of people-watching.
A beer from the Meantime brewing tank at the refurbed (read: newly cool) The Castle. Its beer garden comes into its own in summer.
A locally distilled G&T at Graveney Gin, inside Tooting Market. Sample the limited special editions: its sloe gin is especially delicious.
Crafty beer at intimate bottle shop-cum-bar Craft Tooting, which you’ll find inside Broadway Market.
An ‘I ♥ Tooting’ tote bag to show your love for SW17 – plus cycling supplies and bike repairs – all from cycling-cum-local craft shop Pedal Back Café.
Proper brews from local alehead hang-out We Brought Beer. Perfect for those who love a hoppy IPA while they’re supporting independent businesses.
Make a pilgrimage to the mecca of battered meat: the biggest Chicken Cottage in Europe (possibly the world) is just up the street on Upper Tooting Road.
Get snap-happy and Instagram the statue of Edward VII, son of Queen Victoria and royal lad-about-town. And the nearby Victorian lamppost signposting Westminster and Wandsworth looks great with a Skyline filter, FYI.