We like to get our insider London knowledge from locals in the know. And no one knows Tooting like Patrick Dalton (aka Shit London). Over to you Patrick…
Tooting: edgier than Balham and mercifully less Clapham than Clapham. The Romans built a road through it and it has a crater on Mars named after it – take that Brixton. Tooting may not be on everybody’s list of places to visit before they die but there are more than enough reasons to jump on the Northern line and revise that opinion. Here are just a few of them…
The Gala Bingo Hall in Tooting is like a mecca for local bingo enthusiasts (that’s mecca as in the place of religious pilgrimage and not the similarly named chain of bingo halls ). From the outside it looks like any other number of converted art deco cinemas across London, however step through the doors and into the impressive foyer and you are transported into a fantasy gothic palace – albeit one peppered with ladies of a certain age who may or may not have gambling problems. A bingo hall has no business being this architecturally stunning. Visit for yourself and follow in the footsteps of Frank Sinatra, who once played there when it was a concert hall. The building is listed and is often used as a filming location. This once led to the unusual sight of Charlize Theron and Geoffrey Rush having a fag at the back of the building, which also serves as Sainsbury’s car park. 50 Mitcham Rd, SW17 9NA.
Tip: If you do decide to play bingo, don’t – repeat, don’t – call out ‘bingo!’ unless you are absolutely certain you’ve won. Those old ladies can be merciless.
A cavernous pub located opposite Tooting Bec that offers a good selection of drinks and food. Before it was sensitively and minimally renovated by new management, this place used to play host to what I honestly believe was south London’s most mind-bending weekly karaoke night. Sadly those days are gone but The Wheatsheaf remains a firm favourite with locals due to its friendly and laid back atmosphere. It’s the perfect pub to let a Sunday afternoon pint turn into lunch, turn into more pints, turn into ‘oh god why did I drink this much when I have to go back to work tomorrow?’
At the moment the pub is under threat from Tesco, who want to turn it into yet another one of their ‘local’ stores. This is mystifying, as one thing Tooting certainly isn’t lacking in is convenience stores. Seriously, there are convenience stores within convenience stores in some places here, like well stocked Russian dolls that sell lottery tickets and fags. 2 Upper Tooting Rd, SW17 7PG. You can sign a petition against Tesco’s plans here .
A short stumble from The Wheatsheaf is Chicken Cottage, quite possibly the biggest and snazziest fried chicken shop in London. This place puts other chicken shops to shame, like a vision from a crispy golden future where the Colonel’s dictatorial, deep-fried grip on the industry is but a distant memory. The southern (London) fried chicken here is excellent, the place spotless and the staff more than willing to pose for photos. A friend of mine recently had his birthday meal here, such is his devotion to the place. He’s 34. 38-42 Upper Tooting Rd, SW17 7PD.
On Tooting High Road there’s Tooting Market and Broadway Market, both covered, both featuring similar shops and both located a mere stone’s throw from each other. Local rumours of a transdimensional wormhole that subtly transports you from one market to the other have persisted for years but so far any evidence of this remains purely anecdotal. In the meantime you can shop for fabrics, fruit and veg, herbs and spices, a dizzying array of noisy plastic toys and any number of products bearing the likenesses of famous faces from Haile Selassie to Scarface. Tooting Market houses an unexpected food court offering Portuguese, Mauritanian, Chinese, Caribbean and Sri Lankan food as well as a cool little wine bar. 21-23 Tooting High St, SW17 0SN.
The oldest and arguably the finest South Indian restaurant in Tooting, Sree Krishna celebrated its 40th year in business this year. This is no mean feat in an area chock full of competition. The window proclaims ‘Kerala, she is simply beautiful’ and while images of southern India can be hard to conjure on a grey afternoon in SW17, the food here more than meets the task. Manager Pravin Pillai puts the restaurant’s longevity down to a strict policy of always sourcing the right ingredients from the right suppliers, many of which they’ve worked with for years. The loyal customer base also keeps coming back not only for the quality of the food but also by new additions such as the cocktail menu, which features amongst its choices a mango martini. Forget Brick Lane, if you want some excellent, authentic Indian food, you’re better off heading to Tooting. 92-194 Tooting High Street, SW17 0SF.