Where I eat when I eat out in Tooting

Created: 18 Mar 2013

A couple of months ago some friends moved to Tooting and I sent them an email telling them what I thought were the best places to eat. I’ve just re-read that email and noticed that it needed updating. So many new places have opened in the past few months that it was more of a wholesale revision.

Ever since I moved to Tooting five years ago, I’ve been telling people that it’s a great place to get a curry; as many restaurants as Brick Lane, better food, cheaper and no hard sell from touts on the street. It’s still an excellent place if you like spicy food, with some great Sri Lankan, Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants, some of them a bit scruffy and agressively lit. But these days there’s more to it than that.

Things are changing so fast that today I drank a very good coffee in a place that only opened a week ago. It’s one of three places in Tooting that serve decent coffee. Two have opened in the past six months.

Here are my current picks.

Lunch and Dinner


This is head and shoulders above everything else. Really good Lebanese food and cheap in a tiny restaurant (although they’re apparently expanding). You need to book a week in advance or be very lucky.

The Chicken livers are our favourite. Lucy, my girlfriend, hates liver, but always orders them.

They do takeaway, I’m not sure if they deliver. Cash only. Licensed.

Apollo Banana Leaf

Sri Lankan curry. Bit of a trek for many, perilously close to the border with Collier’s Wood, but a local for me. Nearly always busy with locals. Often closes the kitchen relatively early at 10:30.

Chilli Paneer is a fiery, but amazing starter with loads of veg. BYO.


This opened fully only in January and instantly plugged a large and profitable gap in the market in Tooting; it’s well decorated and lit, carries a decent drink selection, the menu is priced right on the money for middle class wallets and always busy.

The food on the whole has been pretty good, not abolutely outstanding, but perfectly acceptable. The staff very obviously try to make sure that you enjoy your meal. I have high hopes for this one.

Half price steaks on Tuesdays.

Honorable mentions


The French Cafe

Probably technically in Balham but a short step away from Tooting Bec and included for the ironic achievement of serving the best cooked English breakfast for miles, only on weekends. Staff and the food always impeccable, the coffee is OK too.

There’s a gallery, a photographic shop and a bakery in the same parade of shops, which can make for a nice wander after a weekend breakfast.


Six months ago, this would have been in the Evening section, as practically the only place for decent European food in Tooting. In the light of new competition he’s now just clinging on for the Spanish Breakfast. Licensed.

Kitchen Table

My former local cafe, on the corner of Franciscan and Mantilla Roads, handy for the Common. Good for breakfast, lunch and coffee/cake. The Indian breakfast is worth trying, as are the meatballs. Run by Zaf, who puts his heart and soul into the business and has made it a little focal point of the local community. Occasionally open in the evenings. Cash only.


Graveney and Meadow

When this arrived in Tooting, it was as if a tornado had plucked a hipsterish bar/coffee shop from the heart of Hoxton and dropped it into the most unlikley possible place. But now it just seems like a really early pioneer, even if stepping into it from Mitcham Road feels like entering another planet.

We Tooting residents are still trying to work out if it’s a bar or a coffee shop and struggling to comprehend that it could be both. They serve good coffee, amazing cake and decent alcoholic beverages.

Fisher and Co

This one’s only a week old and I’m putting it in on the strength of only one visit, but the coffee really was good and they are now my local coffee shop. Hopefully they can attract some trade from the staff of St. George’s.

Walker Wyatt

One of the unexpected benefits of the slowdown in the housing market was that this estate agents right next to Tooting Bec tube station was partly converted into a coffee shop. For a long time it was the only decent coffee for a mile and part of my daily routine.

Serves sandwiches, snacks and cakes. Cash only.