Tooting, South London, has recently been named one of the “world’s coolest neighbourhoods” by Lonely Planet. It’s about time too. The area greets visitors with a vibrant hustle and bustle befitting of any hip London area, without the sometimes-overwhelming frenzy that accompanies the likes of Camden and Brixton. Ethnic diversity has helped nurture a tolerantly trendy vibe that has been vital in attracting an influx of young, stylish urbanites who complement the traditional Tooting folk to create a marvelous mishmash that epitomises the capital’s culture. Oh, and it’s the home and birthplace of Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. No biggie.
The famous markets
Tooting is home to two vibrant indoor markets. Both Broadway Market and Tooting Market are full of food stalls, coffee shops and boozy bars, as well as a range of shops that sell everything from vinyl records and manicures to comic books and chocolate. Strikingly, somewhat dilapidated stalls – a reminder of Tooting’s former, less glorious self – sit side-by-side with trendy new hot spots that hit the millennial nail well and truly on the head.
Scrumptious street food
Aside from a selection of fairly standard chains, like Honest Burger and Franco Manca, the markets and streets of Tooting boast an assortment of impressive independent food vendors. Long known as a curry capital of London; the area now ventures down a diverse range of culinary avenues.
Indulge in kaleidoscopic cuisine at Tota, munch on meatballs at Belpassi Bros or enjoy a taste of Lebanon at Meza. Not excited by any of that? Don’t worry, there is plenty more to choose from – perhaps Japanese at Hinata or Chinese at Panda? No? How about some wholesome American fare from Boom Bap Burger? Still not keen? Maybe Caribbean cuisine from The Lone Fisherman or Bamboo Leaf will hit the spot. That’s not even everything; there’s almost too much to choose from.
Hip watering holes
Both markets harbour a selection of fantastic spots to stop for a drink, including cocktail bars, craft beer corners and gin joints, as well as some great venues du vin for any winos out there. But that’s not all. Step out into the street and there is lots more on offer. For rustic wooden interiors and spacious, sunny beer gardens, head to The Castle or Graveney and Meadow – also a great place to stop by for brunch. If a more clubby night is in the cards, Tooting Tram and Social is heaving with a young crowd on the weekend, despite having a more traditional pub vibe during the week. On top of all that, there is Craft Tooting as well as some pretty cool chains like Brick and Liquor, which offers cocktail classes.
Amongst all the consumable food and drink of the marketplace, there are plenty of other stalls to keep the urban consumer satisfied. Glamorize with some therapeutic beauty treatment at one of the market’s nail salons before sprucing up with some accessories from a craft jewellery stall. Then complete the look with some worldly wearables from one of the cultural apparel stalls. Anyone left waiting for a significant other who’s taking their time enjoying the market can head to Dr Vinyl to check out some retro records, which impressively covers everything from the 1950s to the present day.
As if the numerous local bars don’t offer ample opportunity to chill out, Tooting has more up its sleeve. Slightly less than a 20-minute walk from Tooting Broadway station, or roughly a 10-minute walk from Tooting Bec station, is a vast expanse of greenery that encompasses Tooting Bec Common and Tooting Graveney Common. This is a great place to chill out during the summer, and the sheer size of the parkland guarantees a spot for sunbathing. Too hot for lying out on the grass? Well slap on some sun cream and dig out the lilo because Tooting is also home to the UK’s largest lido, located in the southeastern quarter of Tooting Bec Common.