Freelance writer and wanderer always on the lookout for quirky activities that take you off the beaten track.
Published November 30th 2011
Clapham Common Clapham Common is one of the most underrated green spaces in London; it is lush, wild and utterly vast and beautiful, especially on one of those perfect sunny but cold London days. One of the best things to do is people watch; you'll see social sports teams, loved up couples, old men sailing their model yachts or lazy fishermen napping with their fishing rods plopped into one of the ponds. However despite all the goings-on in the common, it's a nice change from the hustle and bustle of some of London's other, larger parks. You can also ride a bike, lie on the grass with friends, kick around a football or just stroll through the park. All those lovely park activities are made all the more special by the pleasant surroundings. And of course, there are loads of lovely cafés and pubs surrounding the park, so you can treat yourself to a coffee or pint while you're there too. See more below.
Bodean's This rockin' hangout claims to be one of the best American diners in London, and you'll be hard pressed to challenge them. Located right where the scenery of the common meets the cosmopolitan main drag of Clapham, sometimes you may have trouble finding a table thanks to the popularity of the joint. With pulled pork sandwiches, prime beef, wings, shrimp, chilli and some seriously substantial vegetarian options on offer (all topped with their legendary barbeque sauce), you certainly won't come away hungry. In fact, I recommend you arrive with a rumbling belly so you can make the most of their hearty menu.
The Venn Street Market is open weekly on a Saturday from 10am to 4pm. London isn't short of fresh food markets, but this one is a real winner and a bit of a well-kept secret. Head down for a browse and grab a chorizo sandwich or some hot, sugary churros to nibble at on a cold Saturday afternoon.
Picture House & Thai It's got to be one of the best deals in London, and it's on every week from Monday through Thursday. First head to The Pepper Tree on Clapham Common Southside for a curry with rice at one of their chic communal tables. You really can't go past the classic Thai Green Curry with its zesty flavours and delicious warming qualities. Then walk across the road to the Clapham Picture House for a film. You get all this for only £12; quite a bargain for a good night out that includes amazing food and top notch entertainment.
Venn Street Records A neighbourhood bar in the heart of Clapham Common, Venn Street Records has regular happy hours, live music and a team of very friendly staff. It ticks all the boxes when it comes to a decent bar in London with a bit of a twist and a great crowd. And yes, the vinyl records are real.
The Falcon The Falcon in Clapham Junction is just one of London's typical pubs, yet it is also one of the cosiest. It is the kind of place that you will find elderly punters watching a match, groups of young professionals drinking real ales and families having a good ol' pub meal; it's incredibly eclectic. It is one of a kind with its distinctive building and intriguing history, and the vibrant atmosphere is perfect for meeting friends or settling down with a pint and a good book. The bar even made it into the Guinness World Records - head down to have a chat with the bartender and find out why.
Jamie Oliver's Recipease Clapham Junction is home to one of only two Recipease stores; Jamie Oliver's community hub where people can really get involved with food. Browse the collection of kitchen products and cookbooks, have a coffee and pastry in the café or even pick up one of the many pre-prepared meals (the fish pie is to die for). Most excitingly, you and your friends can book into an adventurous cooking class. From between £35 to £80 a lesson (with most on the lower end of the price range), you can have a laugh and a glass of wine while you learn the tricks of the trade and prepare your own feast. The range of different classes is incredibly vast and there are seasonal options if you're feeling festive, and even versions for the kids. Just get in quick because they tend to book up fast.
Quite possibly my favourite street in London, this culturally and gastronomically rich little enclave of cafés, pubs and delis is a great way to spend a weekend. Make your own food safari by visiting the MacFarlane's Deli & Fromagerie, The Abbeville Pub, Le Petit Boulanger, Le Chardon and The Abbeville Kitchen. Then visit Cook to stock up on delicious readymade meals with a difference and wobble home with a full belly and a smile on your stuffed face.
Abbeville Farmers Markets
These wee little markets should not be overlooked despite their size, as they offer a great selection of local produce and homemade wares. Open every Sunday from 10am to 2pm at the Bonneville Primary School, it is quaint and much-loved by locals. You'll find cheeses, granola, jams, potted plants and fruit and vegetables and sometimes there is even a stall with a handyman who fixes people's bikes. It is too charming to miss.
Independent bookstores are often hard to track down thanks to the larger megastores and availability of literature online, but that's not the only thing that makes Clapham Books special. With their hand picked selection of titles you'll be sure to find something to tickle your fancy and if not, peruse their online shop and have your selections delivered to their store on the Clapham High Street.