Ah, beautiful Balham! How you (and my opinion) have changed over the past few years. As young families and thirtysomething professionals, finding themselves priced out of Clapham, head further down the Northern Line to seek slightly cheaper property so Balham has come of age.
I remember feeling underwhelmed when we first visited back in early 2013, walking down the high street on a Bank Holiday Monday Balham seemed lacklustre. Where was everyone? We quickly dismissed the area and concentrated our searches elsewhere. I returned when a friend relocated later that year, this time I was more than pleasantly surprised and I headed home confused, how could my first impressions have been so negative just a few months ago?
Another three years on as new developments pop up amongst the Victorian terraces the area has taken on a new vibrancy. Hildreth Street, having recently undergone a major regeneration courtesy of the council, is now home to some fantastic coffee shops and there is a craft beer shop come tap room. New and old sit side by side with the daily market as popular as ever. This tree lined street really is acting as a further catalyst for change.
Compared to Clapham the vibe is more chilled in Balham and we often find ourselves here at the weekend with friends. A firm favourite with us all is the The Grove pub. Tucked away on a side street this Young’s pub with its country style décor is local gem. Families mix with groups of friends and with its simple yet well executed menu it’s a good place to bring visiting parents. It’s also a lively place to watch rugby with many an evening ending dancing and drinking cocktails in Be At One a couple of streets away.
Next to Be At One is Antic London’s Balham Bowls Club. This community hub where you can eat and drink whilst listening to live music, shop in the monthly craft market or enter into a game of BarDeBlah has character in abundance. The sunny beer garden is always busy in summer and it’s another place that is popular with both families and groups of friends.
The Exhibit, which boasts London’s smallest independent cinema alongside a varied arts events calendar; and regular comedy nights at the Bedford ensure you’ll not be bored in Balham. The fantastic café scene makes recovering from the night before slightly less painful, although you best time it right! My top recommendations are Milk and Brickwood. The smoothies and sweetcorn fritters are a must in Milk and the toasted banana bread with espresso butter in Brickwood is exceptional. Both generate large queues on the weekend and there is little to choose between them in terms of quality.
There are many independent restaurants offering a range of cuisines – Nepalese in the form of the Ghurkha Diner, modern British from Lamberts and Italian from Caminata – to name but a few. These sit alongside chains such as Foxlow, Franco Manca, Pho, Chicken shop and Dirty Burger meaning there is something for everyone. A favourite with us is Gazette where you can either nibble charcuterie and cheese whilst drinking wine in the bar area or opt for a more substantial dinner in the restaurant.
At the bottom end of Balham you’ll find Ritherdon Road with its wonderful little bakery, vintage furniture shop, wine shop and the utterly gorgeous French Café. This street is what I dream of living close to.
With Tooting, Wandsworth and Clapham commons all within a short walk you’re never far away from open space and with both the Northern Line and National Rail running through the commute into central London couldn’t be easier.
If the budget allowed Balham would definitely make the shortlist but unfortunately I fear we are a little late for this party!
Mrs B xx