LDNGuide

The Best Restaurants In Tooting

Where to eat and drink in SW17.
The Best Restaurants In Tooting image

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Tooting holds many important accolades. Their outdoor lido is the biggest in the UK, they have the largest Chicken Cottage in Europe, and importantly, it’s home to many cute dogs. But what you really need to know about Tooting is that it’s best-known for being home to countless South Asian restaurants, from Sri Lankan spots serving excellent kothu roti, to old-school Pakistani curry houses. But that’s not all, you’ll also find a bar with a truly winning negroni, a date-ready tapas spot, plus London’s best brunch and best bao on its high street. 

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Pashtun

Tooting

$$$$Perfect For:Big GroupsCasual Weeknight DinnerUnique Dining Experience
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Namak Mandi, a cash-only Pashtun restaurant, is constantly fizzing, bubbling, flaming, moving, and smoking. Discus-shaped crispy chapli kebabs being cooked in crackling fat soundtrack the room, enormous hanging Afghan naans float past like edible comfort blankets, and flame-torched woks full of fresh karahi are constantly stirred and swapped. It’s a riot any day of the week (so make sure you book), but no meal is quite as fun as a feast in the private upstairs rooms. With some careful planning and a wad of cash, you and a group of friends (up to 20) can find yourselves sitting cross-legged eating a sumptuous, slow-cooked whole lamb.

This Pakistani restaurant is a non-stop party in a fake palace. Yes, you could question Royal Mahal’s taste level—there are more chandeliers than we could count on one hand and a neon-lit rock display in the bathroom. Or you could embrace the blue velvet banquettes and conga line of sparklers for birthdays, and take it all perfectly seriously. While some of the food reads a bit gimmicky, like pizza samosas, for the most part it’s good. But this isn’t where you come for a life-changing lamb biryani. This is where you come for unabashed good times.

Walk past this Sri Lankan spot at the quieter end of Tooting High Street any night of the week and you’ll catch a glimpse of tables filled with mutton kothu rotis and ceylon chicken curries being scooped on to plates midway through a story being told. Apollo Banana Leaf feels like an old-school community centre function room, and is as much for a laid-back catch-up with friends as it is a practical solo meal after work. In both cases, the comforting Sri Lankan classics are consistently good and the curries among the best in London.

Dosa N Chutney is the embodiment of comfort. It’s there in the friendly service, the silver water jug already on your table when you sit down, and the change you can get from a tenner. Most of all, it’s from the satisfying South Indian dishes. A stainless steel thali of springy idly and vada with housemade chutneys and soothing sambar is an ideal solo afternoon snack, as is the well-spiced masala dosa. Or come in the evening, like most Tooting locals do, to tackle the long menu en masse. Make sure to book ahead at dinner because the cheery spot—all hanging foliage, and blue and yellow accents—isn’t huge.

Juliet’s on Mitcham Road is an exposed brick blank canvas that’s yours to fill in with a coffee and a spectacular breakfast muffin, while simultaneously eyeing up the homemade cookie a toddler is nibbling on at the table next to you. Or come to one of London’s best brunch spots with a group of friends to try the changing seasonal specials and dissect the sweet details of last night’s date over The Best Cake in London. Seriously, their pistachio slice is basically a one-cake manifesto for every reason you should really be eating more yuzu icing.

Daddy Bao is the paternal presence we all need in our lives. This place will serve you some of the best bao in the whole of London and a plum wine negroni to boot. The little, low-key Taiwanese spot near Tooting Broadway station works for mates, dates, and just to satisfy that general urge we all sometimes get to eat a load of their winning mushroom bao solo. Once you try this smoky-meets-fluffy shiitake situation, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about.

A homely restaurant on a bustling corner of Mitcham Road, Vijaya Krishna has been serving a truly epic masala dosai that laughs in the face of conventional plate sizes, and delightfully fiery lamb madras since 1994. This spot specialises in Keralan cooking and the warm, friendly servers will take you on a personal tour through the long menu featuring assertive pen points that mean ‘you absolutely should order this’. First stop, the chickpea-loaded chilli chana, then on to the life-affirming vegetable and coconut medley avial.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

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One of London’s most reliable Sri Lankan spots, Jaffna House has been around since 1991. The curries are great, in particular the Jaffna special chicken curry—a rich and spicy tomato-based sauce with pieces of boneless chicken. Paired with the egg hopper, it’s a winning combination. This comfortable spot is perfect for a cosy catch-up with a few friends over mutton biriyani and fried string hoppers.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Unsurprisingly, Kothu Sri Lankan Restaurant & Bar serves some really amazing mutton kothu roti. Finely shredded roti, meaty, flavourful chunks of mutton, all generously topped with a layer of spring onion, this hefty portion of kothu arrives with a thick curry sauce on the side. Know you can choose the spice level. Come with a group and take one of the booths at the back, or head in for a quick solo meal—we suggest a string hopper set meal while listening to a podcast. Just make sure you get the cheesy mutton rolls too.

Tooting has no shortage of top-tier South Asian restaurants, but Spice Village is one of our favourites. This spacious Pakistani restaurant is a bit OTT, with samosa chaat arriving atop a cauldron filled with smoke, and mocktails presented in a top hat. But theatrics aside, the food is really great. Our go-to order is the spicy prawn karahi and pillowy, perfectly charred naan. While the space is big enough to accommodate groups, the moody lighting and velvet chairs scream date night. There’s a ‘special occasion’ energy to this place, where you’re just as likely to bring a third date as you are to celebrate a promotion.

Lahore Karahi is an always lively, never disappointing Pakistani spot, which has been open since 1995. You can depend on it for excellent creamy chicken tikka masala karahi, being a place to bring friends when one of them has a new-found obsession with samosa chaat, and for family meals where plates of steaming biryani are passed around and garlic naans are fought over. As for what’s good on the lengthy menu of Pakistani and North Indian classics, the clue is in the name of the restaurant. The karahi dishes, from the rich and spicy king prawn karahi to the zingy paneer number, are excellent.

We’ve heard there’s an ongoing rivalry between Tooting locals who think Lahore Karahi is the best Pakistani restaurant in the area, and ones who back Dawat all the way. We’re undecided which takes the number one spot for us, but once we tried the Dawat special mixed grill, we understood why there were family divides over this place. It’s a casual, buzzing spot with groups tucking into a chicken jalfrezi, and friends fighting over the last tandoori king prawn whether it’s the weekend or a Tuesday night.

The Little Tapería is, plot twist, a little taperia. On a busy stretch of Tooting High Street, this place is a perfect south London date spot. Although some of the bigger dishes can lean on the side of slap-dash homemade fare, it’s a great place for a round of sangria, a little candlelit romance, and a lot of jamon. The jamon y queso tabla mixta selection is especially good, and hand-feeding each other churros for dessert is highly encouraged.

Tooting Market is a proper community spot. The indoor market, with a mix of fabric shops and food vendors, is a place for slow mornings with groups settling in on the market’s central benches and clacking knitting needles, and a mix of three-piece suits and tracksuits mooching about the maze-like place. When lunchtime rolls around, get the jerk chicken from Caribbean spot The Lone Fisherman; a well-spiced saltfish bake from Guyanese stall Pepi’s; and comforting red bream curry from Mauritian spot, Mangé Des Iles. We're also into Green Choy's fun, neon-lit terrace and their tasty Korean fried chicken burger.

Very close by to Tooting Market, Broadway Tooting Market is another huge indoor space that’s a maze of good times, loud music, cold pints, and countless couples tucked in corners. Whether you opt for a big charcuterie board at The Tapas Room or a bowl of burrata and truffle tortelloni from Mamma Mia, the prices here tend to be very agreeable no matter which stool you make your home for the evening. It’s an excellent shout for a date with someone whose full allergy profile you don’t yet know, or as a last-minute option for those of us who genuinely thought that date night was happening next week.

The best thing about being in Britain is hypothesising that one day you might run into Olivia Colman at Tesco. The second best thing is eating a big, fat slap-up roast at the pub. The place to do that in Tooting is The Wheatsheaf, a cool independent pub with a feelgood atmosphere, cold pints, and a gravy-covered roast that makes us want to ghost Bisto granules forever. Throughout the rest of the week, you’ll find chorizo-packed small plates, quality pizzas, and tarted-up versions of pub classics. Plus plenty of gin cocktails you can enjoy in their back garden, complete with fairy lights and a big old disco ball.

The Selkirk is another Tooting pub which serves a truly epic roast. The roast British beef is the go-to move, thanks to its tender chewiness and smokiness. Every Sunday, the two-parts cosy, one-part classy dining room is filled with toddlers merrily tearing up yorkshire puddings, locals catching up over bloody marys, and at least three adorable dogs you’ll try to tempt over with the remnants of your stuffing. It’s got a proper family feel, and if you happen to be in the area during the rest of the week, it’s still worth stopping by for a pint, a nibble on delightfully slapdash hand-cut nachos, and some prime dog-watching.

Sure, we regularly refer to ourselves as HASHTAG BLESSED whenever we survive drinking two pints without suffering a hangover. But when it comes to this great Caribbean bakery on Mitcham Road, you’re 100% blessed if you live nearby. Whether you swing by for a loaf of freshly baked hard dough bread or pick up some jerk chicken patties to eat on Tooting Common, we can guarantee you’ll leave with something you like. Also, the ginger sponge cake is one of the best ways you can spend a couple of quid in London.

Goldfinch is one of those bars that makes everyone look really, really great. Maybe it’s the 10/10 negronis, or maybe it’s the ever-forgiving moody lighting, but everyone here always looks like they’re living in a filter called ‘xxx_BrooklynSexy_xxx’. The smiles are big, the drinks are strong, and the atmosphere is cool without teetering into pretentious. Outside of the atmosphere, this neighbourhood bar also has a charming back garden situation and first-rate cocktails.

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