Hello!

Hello! Thanks for stopping by the Tooting Eaters blog and reading this first post (insert smiley face here!). We’re a couple who’ve lived in Tooting for over 10 years, and in that time we’ve eaten at many a good restaurant (and cafe and pub and bar…) in Tooting and the wider London area.

In the last few years Tooting has started to change, with more small independent food and drink business opening up, and we’ve enjoyed seeing this change. We’ve also enjoyed visiting a good number of them so we thought it would be a good idea to share our food and drink adventures on this blog with everyone one else.

This blog won’t just be about that small but wonderful cosmopolitan area between Balham  and Colliers Wood, but will also include our adventures in London and elsewhere around the world.

We don’t profess to be experts, just enthusiastic eaters, from Tooting. We hope you enjoy reading our posts!

Hi-Ki Robata Grill & Sushi Bar

We were sushi virgins until we paid a visit to Hi-Ki Robata Grill and Sushi Bar. They opened a month ago in the up and coming and eclectic  Broadway Market, and what originally drew us there today was the thought of gyoza, which we like… a lot. They have a corner unit near the entrance to the market, next to Craft and opposite Hill Station. The grill is open and they have seating at the bar along both edges of the unit, and they also have 4  tables inside in a more traditional restaurant setting. We sat at the bar which allowed us to see our food being prepared.

The service was very friendly and after explaining we had never had sushi before, they explained all of the different options and recommended a Hi-Ki Set Platter to start us off. This was priced at £12.50 and included 6 pieces of sashimi, 1 uramaki and 4 nigiri.  We also ordered a portion of chicken gyoza, some pork gyoza and some prawn and chive dim sum. These were priced really cheaply with a portion of 4 gyoza costing only £2.50! The dim sum were £3.60. Drink wise we went for a bottle of Asahi Beer and a bottle of Sake. There were bottles of fruit infused water on the counter which were frequently topped up.

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The food didn’t take long to arrive and was presented in a very appealing way. Both types of gyoza were delicious. They were deep fried which gave them a crispy outer shell and the fillings were tender and flavoursome. We had been given some sweet chilli sauce and soy sauce to dip our food in and the sweet chilli went really well with the gyoza. The dim sum were like little soft pillows of tasty goodness.

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Once the sushi platter arrived we tucked right in. Having never braved sushi before we quickly realised that we have been missing out. The platter had 4 pieces of nigiri: one salmon, one sea bass, one prawn and one tuna. Nigiri is basically a slice of the raw fish on top of a portion of rice. It was lovely, especially with the soy sauce. Urumaki is what I think of when I think of sushi. It is basically a roll with rice on the outside, seaweed, and then fish and in this case avocado, all rolled up and  cut into mouthsize pieces. Again, these were lovely. The flavours worked really well and the distinctive flavour of the seaweed came through each mouthful. The slices of sashimi were also lovely.

Having finished off that lovely lot, and in the spirit of writing a full review, we decided to try something from the grill and chose the honey-glazed pork. We were happy to wait but they gave us a portion of edamame beans to tide us over while it was being cooked. We love edamame beans so these were a welcome offering.

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The pork smelt delicious as it was being cooked and tasted as good as it smelt once it was served.  It was sticky and sweet, and full of flavour with that lovely juicy meat and fat you get with good pork belly. It came with a portion of perfectly cooked rice as as simple accompaniment.

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Feeling satisfied we paid the bill and walked away discussing why we had never tried sushi before and thinking about who we could take to Hi-Ki next time we go. We are sushi novices but are sure that even if you are a sushi fan, you will enjoy what Hi-ki have on offer.

@HiKiTooting

 

 

Unwined & Matt Osborne

Unwined will always have a fond place in our hearts. It is the first place we visited which started us spending our time in Tooting, and we like to visit every four weeks or so, sometimes for food and wine and sometimes just for wine. We have loved seeing it evolve and develop into a popular night spot over the last 2 years and always feel welcome here. In fact it is the closest thing we have to a ‘local’.

In the kitchen for the next six weeks is Matt Osborne. His food is modern European in style with some Asian twists, and we had to Google a few of the dishes prior to heading down there.  One of the things that has appealed to us about Unwined over the last 2 years is the range of pop ups they have had on offer and the fact this has encouraged us to sample an eclectic mix of cuisines. Matt’s food was a good example of this.

The premise is simple: Unwined have a theme for their wines (this month it is rainbows) and they match the wines within that theme, to the food on offer from the pop-up. The menu will include a couple of small plates/ nibbles, 3 starters, 3 mains sometimes with side dishes, and 1 or 2 desserts and a cheese board. The prices are always reasonable with a main dish costing between £7 and £11. Being food and wine fans we nearly always have the wine paired with the dishes we choose and this can lead to discovering some unusual but fantastic wines. What adds to the experience is the fact that the staff are always able to explain the story behind the wine.

We booked our table for 2 online through their website and arrived at 7pm. We were greeted and seated quickly and perused the menu.

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To start, we chose the mackerel with cucumber, radish and thai spice and chawunmushi, asparagus, peas and nasturtium. Chawunmushi is a Japanese egg custard which we’d never tried before it was served warm with thin slices of asparagus and peas on top. It was delicious. Like nothing we’ve ever tasted before but really nice.

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The mackerel was lovely. Lightly cooked, served with thin slices of crunchy radish under slices of fresh cucumber, and a nice hint of Thai spices.

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The wines to accompany the dishes were a Clip De Monte Da Vaia from Portugal and a Verus Vineyards Pinot Gris. With both starters having quite strong and complex flavours, finding wines to compliment them can’t have been easy, but they succeeded.

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For our mains we chose the leek and taro tart with pear and pickled mushrooms and the beef short rib with coriander and XO sauce. We also ordered a portion of fried new potatoes with chilli salt. These dishes were delicious. The leek and taro tart was served on a thin, crispy and flaky pastry and the flavours worked in harmony with each other. The pickled mushrooms supplied a nice bit of acidity which was supported by the fruity pears on top of the tart.

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The short rib was, as you’d expect, meaty. A good strong beef flavour, with meat that came away from the bone with ease. The accompanying XO had a bit of a kick.

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The accompanying wines were A Mano: Negroamaro from Italy. Red wine is not usually my thing but with the tart, it went really well. The short rib was matched with a Viteloper ‘TN/15’ Touriga Nacional from Australia. A grape normally found in Portugal, it was great with the beef. Plenty of fruit to start with, and then a nice smokey and spiciness to the finish.

We always have a lovely time when we visit Unwined and this time was no exception. Matt Osborne is in the kitchen until May 14th and is certainly worth a visit.

@agrapenightin

http://agrapenightin.co.uk

Vagabond Wines

We only popped into Vagabond Wines on Northcote Road, Battersea, to see what it was all about and to peruse the wines on offer. Two hours later we emerged, full and ever so slightly bleary eyed, but having had a jolly nice time.

Vagabond is situated near the junction of Northcote Road and Battersea Rise. There is a small seating area at the front, along the pavement area, which is covered by an awning and is made nice and cosy with cushions, blankets and patio heaters. Inside, the decor is an inviting mix of high wooden benches, built using wine boxes, comfy seats near the front and high metal  bar stools. What really seals the deal though are the Enomatic style wine dispensers which house 80 bottles of wine, just waiting to be tasted. There is no mistaking the fact that this place does wine.

Please excuse the slightly wonky iPhone landscape photos of the wine dispensers.

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The way the wine works is simple. You can buy a bottle and enjoy that, or you can pay a £5 deposit for a dispensing card, top it up with credit and then sample a range of wines from the 80 on offer. You can select either a tasting shot, a 125ml glass or a 175ml glass of your chosen tipple. Each wine is displayed in the machine and is accompanied with helpful tasting notes, which you can take a copy of, to help you make your choice.

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Over the course of the afternoon, we sampled 6 different wines.

Each dispensing unit has 10 different wines in, splitting them up into different categories. The 40 red wines are split into; Bold, Elegant, Spicy and Vibrant. The 30 white wines are Crisp, Aromatic and Rich. The last unit had 5 rose wines, and 5 sweet and fortified wines. Above each wine is a small paper sheet which provides you with a good description of the wine, and along with the dispenser categories, helps you chose one that you should hopefully enjoy, or perhaps a wine you don’t know much about but want to try. This is the description for the Vibrant Rall Cinsault, a fantastic South African red wine from a very good wine maker:

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The notes above are about spot on. Lovely fruit up front, a hint of violet, supple tannins, and an almost savoury finish to it. Fantastic. I also enjoyed an Elegant Rioja (Tempranillo with a small % of Garnacha and Graciano) which started with cherry and bramble fruits and finished with a lovely spiciness to it, and an Elegant Nebbiolo from Langhe (Northern Italy) which again was very nice. A pleasant hint of strawberry, red fruits and rose, but, as the description said, a tarriness to it which, along with the tannins, gave it a bigger mouthfeel and structure to what was a paler red wine. It was young (2015) so the tannins were quite firm, and I’m sure it would be even better in 5-10 years time although I’m not sure Vagabond will have any left by then!

Due to a slight oversight of enjoying the wine too much, notes for the white wines were forgotten, but we do recall that amongst those enjoyed, was a Crisp easy drinking wine of unknown grape variety (forgotten tasting sheet!), a Rich white Rioja with tropical fruits, some minerality and fresh acidity, and a Rich Viognier from Hawkes Bay in New Zealand, which had lovely peach and mango, was full bodied and buttery smooth. Some very enjoyable wines.

 

Now we’ve been over the wine, we can move onto the fantastic food. The menu here includes a range of dishes. There are some nibbles which include sourdough bread, croquettes, white bait and chorizo. They also offer small plates and then a range of sharing platters, all of which sounded delicious. It was lunchtime and we had planned to get something to eat on the move but having a quick glance at the menu and having a mutual weakness for cheese and charcuterie, we decided to order a platter to enjoy alongside the wine we were going to sample.

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The tasting board didn’t take long to arrive and it looked impressive. It included 3 cheeses and 3 meats, cornichons, olives and a basket of sourdough bread with salted butter.  We were hungry and we enjoyed it, washing it all down with our carefully selected tipple.

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When it became apparent we would be staying for more than 1 glass of wine each, we decided to try a few of the nibbles on the pretext of them helping soak up the alcohol, but basically because they sounded so good. We went for  the pork crunch and a bowl of the parmesan and proscuitto croquettes.

The pork crunch are puffed up pork scratchings, aptly named, they were light and crunchy, dipped in the mustard on the side they were great. The croquettes were lovely, with a creamy and gooey inside, and a piquillo pepper sauce which was a well matched accompaniment.

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Finally, being big fans of them, we had a portion of padron peppers. These were served in a crispy batter and with an aioli dip. They were delicious, we loved the batter and the dip went perfectly.

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The team serving were friendly and polite, and more than happy to talk about the wines on offer and answer the questions we had. Based on the number of people that arrived after us, it is probably advisable to book a table in advance. The secret courtyard out the back looked lovely.

So, that was a very enjoyable and unexpected couple of hours and I know we’ve said it at the end of most of our other reviews, but there is no doubt we will be going back to Vagabond Northcote Road, or one of their other branches, in the very near future and “dragging” a few of our friends along with us.

@VagabondWines

http://www.vagabondwines.co.uk

 

MUD

We try to avoid queuing if we can which is one of the reasons we haven’t been to Mud for brunch until now. The last time we ventured to that end of Tooting High Street there was a queue in the street and we decided not to wait (we were in desperate need of coffee and food!). After today though, we can see why people do wait in line here.

As the sun was out they had opened their garden at the back and, despite being a Friday, when we arrived this was the only place where there were tables free. The menu is varied and includes a range of goodies including smashed avocado, eggs benny and granola. Seeing plates of food being delivered to the tables around us made it hard to choose as it all looked so good but in the end we chose a Mud Muffin and the wild mushroom special. We also chose a long black, cappuccino and a Karma cola to drink.

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Sitting in the sun, it almost felt like summer, and the food and drink didn’t take long to arrive.  The food looked amazing. The wild mushroom special included 2 slices of toasted sourdough bread, 2 poached eggs, a grilled sausage, some red onion jam and a huge mound of mushrooms with pesto. It was delicious. The eggs were poached to perfection and the rich and creamy yolks provided a lovely rich sauce for the mushrooms. The mushrooms were earthy and well-cooked and the pesto provided a nice bit of flavour.

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The Mud Muffin, not dissimilar to a full English in a stack, was great. A tasty sausage patty with a slice of chedder, bacon and a lovely soft fried egg (although the edges of it were quite crispy), sandwiched perfectly between a muffin. Of course, I mustn’t forget the fantastic potato waffles with parmesan on top. I haven’t had them for years, and they were great!

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Mud pride themselves on making proper coffee and the coffee here is very good. The flavour of the espresso came through the Long Black well, with no bitter or burnt edge to it. The cappuccino had well stretched milk that added the perfect sweetness to it without having to add sugar.

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As we said, after having brunch here today we can see why people queue here at the weekends. It’s well worth it!

TOTA

We have never been to Tota. We aren’t sure why, but after last Saturday night we were both left very aware that we had been missing out on this little gem in Tooting and were very clear on the fact we would be back. We booked a table online for 7pm and arrived a little early. This proved to be a good thing as we were in time to take advantage of the 2 for 1 cocktails as part of happy hour. We had to order 2 of the same so selected a Pornstar Martini (vodka and passion fruit, with a shot of Prosecco), slightly unmanly but tasty all the same.

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The menu at Tota is wider ranging than most restaurants in the vicinity. What really came across was the passion for food and desire to create great dishes from good ingredients. This did present us with a dilemma though as all of the specials sounded delicious and we wanted to try them all.

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In the end we settled on some crispy pigs head bites as a nibble, then the lobster mac and cheese, and the foie gras and duck terrine for our starters. The pigs head nibbles were moist, meaty and had great flavour, and came with a nice aioli dip. They prepared us nicely for the food that was to follow.

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We can sum up our starters in 2 simple words; totally delicious. To add a few more though, the lobster mac and cheese was creamy, rich and full of flavour. Topped with some streaky bacon and asparagus on top, it was absolutely delicious could have passed for a main meal.

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The foie gras and duck terrine was equally lovely: it was rich and creamy but had a nice meaty substance to it, and it came served with a red onion chutney, adding some sweetness and sharpness, and some toasted bread.

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The meal had got off to a great start already and the mains had a lot to live up to, but thankfully they did. We chose the ribs, as we were told they were smoked in house and a bit of a specialty, and also the lamb rump. These were both from the main menu, but again, there was so much choice and the specials all sounded lovely. When they arrived we were not disappointed. The ribs were amazing: sweet, smoky and they just fell apart. The portion was also massive. They were served with a good slaw, and choice of baked potato, fries or sweet potato fries and I opted for the sweet potato fries. I couldn’t finish all of the ribs but luckily I was with someone who could help.

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The generous portion of lamb was lovely. Cooked perfectly pink and covered in a lovely gravy, it was served with some creamy mash, parsnips , lovely earthy mushrooms, and soft confit garlic. It was very tasty, and very filling.

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We had accompanied our meal with a glass of wine each (Sauvignon Blanc and a very nice Rioja) and by the time we finished our mains we were stuffed. The deserts all sounded amazing but we just couldn’t eat another thing.

I don’t know why we had never been to Tota before now, we’d walked past it numerous times, but we have been seriously missing out. The food was fantastic, the service was warm and welcoming and it was good value for money. As we said, it is a bit different to some of the other places in Tooting who offer much narrower and specific menus but Tota is the sort of place you could go to with friends, family or even on a date. The bonus is, there is something on the menu for everyone. On Tuesday nights they do half price ribs and, if what we had on Saturday is anything to go by, that would be an absolute bargain.

@TotaRestaurant

http://www.tota-restaurant.co.uk

Chicken Shop

Friday night and a visit from the parents meant we could either cook or go out, and being honest with you, who wants to cook on a Friday? Obviously the location was going to be Tooting, but what about the food? Well, sometimes you just need Chicken and chips, and for me Friday was one of those day, so the decision was easy; Chicken Shop.

Chicken Shop has been in Tooting for several years now, and they are now in 10 other locations around London (and a couple abroad). Like most places in Tooting, it is small inside but well designed and has a rustic feel to the décor. We arrived early, meaning they seated the 4 of us quickly at a table in the restaurant area at the back. The menu is simple. Chicken or burgers from the Dirty Burger menu.

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After some deliberation we opted for a whole chicken and a selection of sides to share including sweet potato fries, a lettuce and avocado salad, corn on the cob, onion fries and coleslaw.

It didn’t take long for the food to arrive and it looked great. The chicken here is finished on a rotisserie, and is succulent and tasty in a way you just can’t get it at home (unless you put some effort into it!). They chop it up into perfect portions, pop in some lemon slices to squeeze over if you so desire, and leave it to you to tuck in.

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The sweet potato fries were delicious, really well cooked and crispy. We weren’t sure what to expect with the onion fries, but they were like ½ onion rings with a light and crispy batter.

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The corn was drizzled with a garlic butter and the coleslaw was also fresh, crunchy and really tasty.  The salad was a good sized portion and came with a well flavoured dressing.

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On the tables, they supply bottles of their own smoky sauce and their own hot sauce. These add a nice hint of heat and flavour.

We were all too full to eat desert and left with that feeling you get when you’ve had a really good meal.

For us, Chicken Shop beats Nando’s hands down. It’s not just the chicken that tastes nicer, or the great sides that they offer, but the atmosphere inside is more relaxed and the service is always friendly. Of course if you just want to stay in,  you can get Chicken Shop delivered straight to your door with Deliveroo, and we can vouch for the fact the food tastes just as good at home as it does if you eat in!

http://www.chickenshop.com/

@ChickenShop

The Little Taperia

We like tapas and have been to The Little Taperia in Tooting a couple of times since it opened. So, finding ourselves at a loose end on a Saturday night and with nothing inspiring in the fridge we booked ourselves a table for an early dinner.

The restaurant is small and cosy, and when it first opened it was walk-ins only and whilst the food is worth queueing for, being impatient, quite often we didn’t. The fact that you can now book a table means that we get to eat there more often, which is great. Even though we had an early booking at 18.30, it was reasonably busy when we arrived. The décor creates a warm and inviting atmosphere. For the first time, we were seated in the area at the back, which is where the kitchen is. This suited us perfectly as it was a bit quieter and a little cooler. We were immediately offered water for the table and then left to peruse the menus.

The bar menu comprises of a range of cocktails, wines and beer. From the decent choice of wine on the menu, we chose 1 glass of Lopez de Haro Crianza Rioja. It was also pleasing to see a G&T on the menu that featured our favourite gin, locally distilled Graveney Gin. So that was me sorted.

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Now, the trouble with tapas is, it can be tricky to order just the right amount of food. This is made even trickier when everything on the menu sounds so appetising.

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We opted for a few staple favourites: potatas bravas, padron peppers, gambas al ajilo and grilled chorizo, and then added scotch eggs, albondigas (meatballs) and the special which was lamb cutlets.  We have found that no 2 tapas restaurants are the same and they each have their own twist on these dishes. Here, potatas bravas is served with an aioli dip as well as (we think) a paprika dip, with more paprika sprinkled over the top (it’s not too much, honest!). The potatoes were crispy and well-cooked and I loved the 2 dips. The padron peppers are fried and served simply with rock salt, they are incredibly moreish.

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The grilled chorizo sausage is served on a slice of toasted sourdough with a pesto spread and piquilo pepper. It makes for a lovely combination of flavours.

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The scotch eggs are a bit of a speciality here and they are always perfectly cooked, runny in the middle with a rich surrounding meaty layer and crisp coating.

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The gambas were served still sizzling in their dish and were plump and well-seasoned with slices of garlic and chilli.

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We haven’t tried the albondigas before but with a juicy chunky tomato base, they were really good.

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Finally, the lamb cutlets, which were almost a course in themselves. Cooked perfectly pink, along with some crisp potato wedges and a lovely minty salsa verde. Fantastic.

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Finally we decided, perhaps unwisely, to share a portion of churros with some milk chocolate sauce to dip. They were a lovely end to the meal but, by the time we left, I couldn’t even mention the word food, because I was so full.

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Everything went well together and also worked as a dish by itself, and there was still plenty on the menu that we didn’t get to try, but we’ll save them for next time. Service was friendly and quick but we didn’t feel rushed at all.

As we said, we have been here a couple of times but, every time we come it seems to get better and better. The meal, including drinks came to just under £70. It was worth every penny.

 

http://www.thelittletaperia.co.uk

@littletaperia