The best restaurants in 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.
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.
Holed up in Clapham Park (en route to Brixton), Boqueria offers a fresh, modern take on the tapas theme that merits repeat visits. The vibe is laid-back and the L-shaped space has been thoroughly optimised, with aluminium stools along the spot-lit bar that leads to the main restaurant. References to the mother country are plentiful.
An oh-so-brilliant spin-off to Robin Gill’s Dairy next door, Counter Culture serves ‘how do you make that’ small plates in a seriously unpretentious setting dominated by counter seating (obvs). Staff are all tattoos and charisma, the music’s old school, booze is strictly BYO and the loos are next door. And you can book!
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. Seasonal British ingredients are treated with a level of finesse that would be the envy of many high-end Japanese restaurants.
An artisan yet fast-food joint in a stools-only space that was formerly a public loo (hipster ticks all round), Joe is all about by-the-slice US-style pizzas cut from 20-inch whoppers. Toppings are strictly stateside and there’s Joe Public own-brand lager to drink. Prices (from £4 a slice) are an absolute steal for a high-speed sit-down meal.
A perfect fit for increasingly gentrified Abbeville Village, this branch of the Kerbisher & Malt chain gives fish and chips a bit of a shake-up for trend-conscious Londoners. Wood-panelled booths and industrial lighting create a knowingly retro look, while the menu includes sustainable coley in matzo meal alongside more traditional chippie stalwarts.
In a prime spot at the fashionable end of Clapham Common, Madeleine is one of several cafés with outside tables geared to the passing trade between the Old Town and the tube. It’s also the best of the bunch, is charmingly French and is dedicated to serving breads, cakes and pastries from its (partly visible) in-house bakery.
An offshoot of the original on Brixton Market, this no-bookings, cash-only Chinese café is typical of a new wave of entrepreneurs who have moved from running supper clubs to setting up their own premises (helped by social media). With its smooth service and consistently good food, we reckon that Mamalan has got it bang on.
Custom-built for sizzling hot days on Clapham Common, this low-key Italian-run ice-cream parlour serves up mamma and papa’s gelati just as they should be done – smooth, creamy and downright delizioso. They also do proper coffee, affogato, milkshakes, crêpes, waffles and even luscious gelato cakes. It’s a little lick of heaven in SW4.
Visit in high summer and you can expect an invasion of boozed-up Clapham sun-lovers, but turn up when it’s quieter and you’ll appreciate No 32’s French windows opening on to the street, its first-floor terrace overlooking the common and the chic modern interior of this attractively refurbished boozer. Alternatively, come early for breakfast.
Slightly tucked away from Clapham’s hullabaloo, this up-tempo bar and dining room mixes pared-back interiors (bare lightbulbs, ceramic tiles, exposed cabling) with artisan beers, gluggable wines and a menu of backpacking global food – Tanzanian-style sea bass anyone? It’s just the place to get merry with your well-behaved pals.
Homesick Trinidadians come to Roti Joupa for curried goat, stew chicken and other culinary pick-me-ups. They’re also here for the cold macaroni pie, the ‘doubles’ (roti filled with chickpea curry) and the pholourie (dough balls with tamarind sauce). Prices are low and there are stools for perching, but this is food for the street.
On the main drag between 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 and sprightly salads with assorted drinks. Afternoon means coffee and cake, so expect a constant stream of commuters, yummy mummies and self-employed flâneurs.
Trinity remains Clapham’s best restaurant, a destination for special occasions and celebratory splurges. It also gets just the right balance between smart (neat napery, cutting-edge cooking) and casual (smiling staff, conversational hubbub). Prices might cause some eyebrow-raising (lunch £40, diner £55 for three courses), but the cooking is as good as ever.
Still a big wave washing through Clapham, Tsunami serves up beautifully presented sushi, teriyaki, tempura and other Japanese crowd-pleasers in a gussied-up setting of wooden screens and luxurious leather seating. The cocktails flow, and welcoming international staff ensure that the experience is never intimidating.
What do you do next if you’ve built two successful furniture businesses from scratch, and want a new challenge? Open an Indian restaurant. Or at least, that’s what Aamir Ahmad and his colleagues have done. Their background in fashionable interior design explains Zumbura’s good looks, while the cooking takes inspiration from ‘mum’s kitchen’.
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