Tooting has a secret. Not the kind that would warrant a psychic or a Louis Theroux documentary, but a secret nonetheless. Tooting is secretly home to some of the best places to eat in London. Of course, if you happen to live in the area you already know that Tooting has a broad range of cuisines, winning options from morning to night, and plenty of activities that will keep you entertained for the day. If you don’t, it’s time to get to know the area. Whether you’re a South West London local or consider Zone 3 to be Mars, here’s how to spend a day in SW17. Brunch, bao, house-plant hunting, and market browsing included.
Brunch At Juliet’s Quality Foods
Every day in Tooting should begin with Juliet’s. This is brunch as poetry. We know that makes us sound like someone who wanks over Hemingway novels and uses the phrase ‘synergy’ in every third sentence, but seriously. The brunch here is fantastic. Certified flavour nerds, the people behind this neighbourhood café serve things like a smoked heritage potato omelette with whipped goat’s cheese, pork belly bánh mì, and smoked eel with a fermented chilli hollandaise. If you’re thinking, wow, this all sounds very pretentious - don’t. The food is affordable, the setting cosy, and the staff here are lovely. Oh, and yes, you do need to buy a slice of the pistachio cake for later. It’s excellent.
Neal's Nurseries For All Of The Plants
Brunch then a trip to a garden centre, how wholesome are you? We’re not sure at which age garden centres became our idea of a good time, but we don’t care, because our peace lily makes us happier than a trip to Tiger Tiger ever did. On that note, Neal’s Nurseries is the largest plant centre within London and their huge house plant section should come with a serious-joy warning. We could spend a solid hour in the cacti section alone. Technically, Neal’s Nurseries is in Wandsworth but it’s a casual 20 minute bus ride from Juliet’s on the number 219 or 77, so we’re including it. Because, plants.
A Swim At Tooting Lido
Now that you’ve had a chance for your brunch to digest, it’s time for a swim. You should know that Tooting lido is open from 7am until 2pm daily, and the pool is 100 yards long. Downside: those 50 lengths are going to take you a whole lot longer than normal. Upside: There’s plenty of room to enjoy your swim without feeling like you’re in a fish bowl with several Michael-Phelps wannabes and couples that insist on getting all Dirty Dancing. Obviously if the weather is terrible you can go ahead and give the lido a pass, but on a decent, sunny day it’s definitely one of our favourite swimming spots in London.
Browsing Tooting Market
Markets are our kryptonite. Put us in close proximity to vintage furniture, street food, fresh pints, and a haberdashery and we’re absolutely buzzing. You’ll find all of the above at Tooting Market as well as plenty of little arty boutiques, and our personal favourite - the old school record shop, Dr. Vinyl. Get a caffeine kick from Brickwood Coffee to accompany your browsing, or finish your shop with something strong from Graveney Gin’s stall. Just be aware that if you go too heavy you will inevitably end up leaving with some kind of ottoman and a leather jacket that looks like it’s permanently haunted by Russell Brand. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Dinner At Daddy Bao
Dinner time, but first a plea. Daddy Bao, adopt us. Please. We’ll be good children. Probably. Anyway, this little Taiwanese spot is part of a mini-chain of family-run restaurants that specialise in bao. More specifically, the best bao in London. Cool, casual, and cute, this place is just as perfect for a solo round of fried chicken and shiitake mushroom bao, as it is for a hey-I-know-this-great-little-place third date. It’s our favourite restaurant for dinner in the area but thanks to those winning buns and excellent plum wine negronis, they’re almost constantly full. Trust us, it’s worth the wait for a table, but just in case you’re ravenous, read on...
Your Back-Up: Camile
Okay, so Daddy Bao didn’t happen. Dry your tears because your back-up option comes in the form of great Thai spot, Camile. Your must-order here is the spice bag which involves fried potatoes, chicken, peppers, and onion in, err, a bag of spices. You’ll also find dishes like tom yam goong soup, green prawn curry, sticky chicken salad, and a rainbow pad thai special on their menu. Heads up, there are options for kids, vegans, and those avoiding gluten too.
Goldfinch is a great, little bar on the corner of Mitcham Road and Church Lane, that every Londoner would want on their corner. This place makes everything from classics to mocktails to in-house creations like the ‘Ribena’, which consists of cassis, absinthe, soda, and lime. Hello hangover. Inside is all exposed brick and tea lights, outside is very friend’s cute back garden. We’ve never had a cocktail here that we haven’t loved so feel free to explore the whole menu, but if you want to play it safe, try the froze - vermouth, strawberry, frozen rosé, brainfreeze - or one of their jazzed up takes on a negroni.