I vividly recall a conversation I had with a work colleague in early 2013 about buying a property in Tooting. He at the time was trying to convince me that it was a good idea because in his opinion Tooting would be the next place on the Northern Line to see a big rise in prices, but after a few brief visits I just couldn’t imagine myself living there. I don’t very much like telling him that he’s right, but on this occasion I have to admit he was! Oh how I wish I could turn back time!
As a big fan of Antic London and it’s no surprise to learn that they were amongst the first businesses to spot the potential of Tooting, they were quickly followed by Tota and Chicken Shop and all acted as a major catalyst for further change. Tooting covers a fairly large area to explore it in its entirety you need more than just a day, I’m a fairly regular visitor to the area and yet there are so many places that I haven’t had chance to try such is the pace of change.
On Mitcham Road you’ll find all three of Antic London’s premises – The Antelope (http://theantelopepub.com/), Graveney and Meadow (http://graveneyandmeadow.com/) and Tooting Tram and Social (http://tootingtramandsocial.co.uk/). Although all sit virtually next door to each other you’d barely notice that they were part of a large London chain. The Antelope is a shabby chic pub with a beautiful horseshoe bar whilst Graveney & Meadow is an all-day venue, offering coffee & cake, brunch and late night cocktails and the Tooting Tram and Social is a great space to watch live music or comedy. We first started frequenting The Antelope during 2015 as the band we had selected for our wedding played there once a month. Lots of beers were drunk and lots of food was consumed over the year, all of it at a consistently high standard. Graveney and Meadow is a real community hub that plays host to many local groups and hosts regular craft markets. Outside there is a large sunny beer garden and inside the decor is of up-cycled shabby chic style much loved by Antic. There are old theatre style seats, sofas and tall tables perfectly suited to late night cocktails. Slightly further along there is an antipodean-style café, Mud (http://mudtooting.co.uk/) and a few more restaurants but the jewel in the crown of Mitcham Road is Little Bar (@LittleBarSW17). The cocktails here are superb and there is also long list of craft beers to choose from. Being small plays to this bar’s advantage; we visited on a Saturday afternoon when there only a handful of other customers yet the atmosphere was still vibrant.
Tooting High Street is where you’ll find a vast array of new restaurants including Chicken Shop & Dirty Burger, Honest Burgers, Dip & Flip, Little Taperia and Tota and several good pubs including The Manor, The Trafalgar Arms, The Castle and The Selkirk, however cafes are less well represented. Chicken shop has long been a favourite with us, the chicken is moist and juicy every time but if it’s a burger you’re after my advice would be to head to Honest Burgers across the road. Tota (http://http://www.tota-restaurant.co.uk/) is a lovely all day restaurant serving brunch, lunch and dinner, during our visit we enjoyed the buy one get one free cocktail offer whilst sitting at the bar salivating over the evening specials that were being chalked onto the board and I’ll be heading back soon to sample the menu. I’m also yet to try Little Taperia (http://www.thelittletaperia.co.uk/) but now that they are taking reservations it’s been pushed to the top of my ‘to try’ list. The Manor (http://www.themanortooting.com/) is a very relaxed pub serving good quality reasonably priced food. On our last visit we sat in the sunny beer garden enjoying a delicious lunch of battered halloumi with chips and mushy peas. The Trafalgar Arms (http://www.thetrafalgararms.co.uk/) has undergone a major refurbishment and is now a lovely gastro pub and The Castle is always very popular but for me nothing beats The Selkirk (http://www.theselkirksw17.com/). This cosy pub just off the High Street serves exemplary roasts on a Sunday, possibly the best I’ve had in London! There is regularly changing craft beer, a decent wine list and open fires for chilly winter evenings. Summer sees the arrival of a BBQ in the large walled sunny beer garden and it’s lovely to see a pub in London with an enclosed grassy space.
There has been a major push over the last year or so to upgrade the once shabby markets. Broadway Market is now home to a craft beer shop, a craft cider shop, a lovely little cafe (@pedalbackcafe) with rumours of more to come this place is on the up. Craft Tooting ((http://www.crafttooting.co.uk/index.html) is a tiny shop with an excellent range of beers and the friendly owner is always on hand to give you advice. There are also two taps, one dedicated to local brewery By The Horns Brewing Co (http://www.bythehorns.co.uk/) and a small selection of spirits and wines for those who aren’t too keen on beer. During the day there a few seats to sit and enjoy a drink but on weekend evenings the shop front opens out to allow for more seating and music. This place is worth checking out. However, it’s Tooting Market (https://tootingmarket.com/) where the biggest changes have been made so far. This is often touted as the new Brixton Market and it’s easy to see why with businesses such as We brought beer, Graveney Gin, Brickwood, Unwined , Boom Bap Burger, Get juiced and Franco Manca opening up. The late opening hours mean that this market has a good busy vibe most evenings.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Tooting was all about the new, but the demographic is still very diverse with curry houses, halal butchers, fishmongers, fruit and veg shops and traditional Asian clothes shops sitting side by side. It would be great to see this mix continue to thrive on this busy high street as more new businesses establish themselves in empty units.
Fear of the unknown definitely played a big part in my decision not to make the jump to Tooting back then but now with hindsight and four years of London experience I wish I hadn’t been so hasty. In 2013 we would have been able to purchase a Victorian conversion flat but now we’d find ourselves up against it to find the type of property we want. Families are moving further south, couples who bought flats a few years ago are upgrading to houses and the race is on to find ”doer uppers”. Zoopla searches show that there are properties out there but taking into account the rapid changes on the high street the area is only going to become more and more desirable so it’s now or never for us. However, the main consideration for us in our next move is proximity to a park and ideally we’d like to be no further a 15 min walk from a transport; and that may well be Tooting’s downfall. Yes the Common would certainly provide the open space we require but houses here are over budget so we’d find ourselves looking at properties closer to Furzedown where access to transport and the great amenities is more difficult. Whilst we are fully prepared to make compromises, I’m left pondering our choices.