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The best restaurants in Clapham

Need a local favourite near that big ’ol Common? Here’s our pick of the best restaurants in Clapham

By Time Out London Food & Drink
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FEBRUARY 2020: We’ve added Brickwood – part of a mini-chain of feelgood Aussie-themed cafés. 

The area around Clapham High Street and Clapham Common has its share of buzzing bars, thriving nightlife spots and fast-food joints, but its dining-out scene is just as exciting. The neighbourhood is strong on ethnic canteens and tapas bars, but there’s also plenty for those who simply want some light relief and a cup of coffee. There’s even the odd high-stepping special-occasion spot for those out on a spree.  

Here’s our pick of the very best restaurants, cheap drop-ins and coffee shops around Clapham’s main drag.

The best restaurants in Clapham

Photograph: Barsito

Barsito

Restaurants Spanish Clapham

There’s a genuine Spanish feel to this tiny tapas bar: the vibe is informal, hams hang from the ceiling, diners eat at the counter and drinkers mingle in. The food preparation area (we can’t call it a kitchen) makes a caravan’s galley look spacious, but the no-frills menu is spot-on for flavour and authenticity (note the cheese platters served with tiny little breadsticks). Handily placed for Clapham Common tube and the Clapham Picturehouse.

Bistro Union

Restaurants British Clapham

Out in Abbeville Village, this self-styled ‘quintessentially British bistro’ succeeds on so many levels. Staff are chummy and welcoming, the room looks quirkily rustic and cutlery is kept in drawers under the tables. Meanwhile, shelves of homemade preserves and fruit gins set the tone for the kitchen’s slightly homespun approach.

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Boqueria Tapas

Restaurants Spanish Brixton

Named after Barcelona’s famous food market, this Acre Lane blockbuster combines traditional and contemporary tapas to fine effect in stylish surroundings. The vibe is laid-back and the L-shaped space has been thoroughly optimised, with aluminium stools along the spotlit bar that leads to the main restaurant. Expect flamenco on the sound system, knowledgeable staff in full cry, and a roll call of real-deal Iberian ingredients given pin-sharp treatment.

Photograph: Brickwood

Brickwood Clapham

Restaurants Coffeeshops Clapham

Across the road from Clapham Common tube, this café is where it all started for the guys behind Aussie-themed Brickwood. Spread over two floors (with a yard out back), the place has a rough-and-ready shack-like vibe, while the menu is big on brunch. Popular picks include ‘The Butcher’ (a colourful take on the ‘full English’), although most eyes are on the Brickwood burritos and the grilled sourdough toasties. Other prime Aussie assets include tip-top coffee, cheery service and a toe-tapping playlist.

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Counter Culture

Restaurants Contemporary European Clapham

An oh-so-brilliant spin-off to Robin Gill’s The Dairy next door, Counter Culture serves ‘how do you make that’ small plates in a seriously unpretentious setting dominated by counter seating (obvs). Bag one of the 14 stools and dig into wildly inventive assemblages such as ‘green tomato, lavender, garden plum, fresh cobnut’. Staff are all tattoos and charisma, the music’s old school, you can BYOB (with corkage) and the loos are next door. And you can book!

Photograph: The Dairy

The Dairy

Restaurants British Clapham

Recycled furniture, workshop light fittings, a bar serving craft beers: it might look like another booze and burger joint – or maybe an Italian ‘small plates’ place – but The Dairy doesn’t churn out a formula. Instead, this rough-hewn joint from Robin Gill takes its food to another level, treating seasonal British ingredients with a degree of finesse that would be the envy of many high-end restaurants. Modest? Yes. Affordable? Yes? Brilliant? Definitely.

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Joe Public

Restaurants Pizza Clapham

An artisan joint in a stools-only space that was formerly a public loo (hipster ticks all round), Joe Public is all about by-the-slice US-style pizzas cut from 20-inch whoppers. Toppings are strictly Italian-stateside (chilli-flecked slivers of pepperoni or courgette and aubergine slathered with garlic butter, for example), and there’s JP’s own-brand lager to drink. Prices (from £4 a slice) are an absolute steal for a satisfying stop-and-go or a high-speed sit-down meal.

Mamalan

Restaurants Snack bars Clapham

Inspired by the Beijing stall run by owner Ning Ma’s grandparents, this deliciously ramshackle, no-bookings cash-only café serves up hearty northern-Chinese street food for famished Clapham locals. Bao, pot-sticker dumplings, salads, rice pates and noodle soups fly out of the kitchen at an impressive rate, and there are some useful veggie/vegan options too. With its smooth service and consistently good food, we reckon that Mamalan has got it bang on.

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Foti Jupa
Foti Jupa
Britta Jaschinski

Roti Joupa

Restaurants Snack bars Clapham

Homesick Trinidadians come to Roti Joupa for a culinary pick-me-up – be it curried goat, stew chicken or fried fish. They’re also here for the cold macaroni pie, the ‘doubles’ (roti filled with chickpea curry) and the pholourie (dough balls with tamarind sauce) – not to mention sweet stuff including coconut bakes, fudge and tamarind rolls. Prices are low and there are stools for perching, but this is basically takeout food for the street.

Tart

Restaurants Cafés Clapham

Occupying one of the primmest of prime locations on the main drag between Clapham Old Town and the tube, this is probably London’s only tart-based bakery and café, serving up ‘hot and tasty’ high-sided savoury combos such as balsamic fig with parma ham and dolcelatte, plus sprightly salads and assorted drinks. Afternoon means coffee and cake, so expect a constant stream of commuters, yummy mummies and self-employed flâneurs passing through its portals. No bookings; cards only.

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Trinity

Restaurants French Clapham

Balancing smart decor and smiling service with exemplary wines and cutting-edge Anglo-European cooking, Trinity is king of the hill in Clapham – a restaurant that gets the swish/casual balance just right when it comes to creating a neighbourhood vibe. Chef-patron Adam Byatt also knows how to put on a show without showboating his talents or puffing up his food. In short, it’s a shoo-in for special occasions and celebratory splurges when money’s no option.

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We spent the whole year tirelessly restaurant-hopping, to create our ultimate guide to the finest eateries in London. If you’re looking for an exciting meal, this is the right place.

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