Curry Houses in Tooting
As anyone who lives there already knows, Tooting is blessed with an extraordinary number of incredibly good places to eat. This is mainly thanks to a large Asian (Sri Lankan, Pakistani and Indian) population whose cafes and restaurants line the high street all the way from Bec to Broadway and beyond. I can’t pretend to have been to them all, but in my happy years as a regular visitor I’ve certainly compiled a shortlist of reliable favourites. And here they are.
We’re starting here with a Pakistani grill house; Mirch Masal is a Tooting institution, and in fact many people’s favourite restaurant in the whole of London never mind SW17. Grilled lamb chops, chicken tikka and seekh kebabs are the perennial favourites, always fresh and packed with addictive spices, but you can’t really go far wrong with the rest of the menu either. No reservations, and the queues can be astonishing, but it’s worth it. BYO.
With a very similar menu and with at least equally skilled chefs, and yet somehow even busier than Mirch, Lahore Karahi is another top quality option for dinner. You probably won’t want to linger in the functional, strip-lit canteen dining room, but then that only means the queue moves quicker for those waiting to eat. For what it’s worth, their naan bread is some of the best I’ve tried in London, and don’t forget to try the unusual chicken seekh kebab. Also BYO.
The strange little afterthought of a dining room down a side road off Tooting High Street seems like Jaffna House would rather be considered a takeaway first and a restaurant second. But don’t fall for it – this is some of the best Sri Lankan food around, and is far better enjoyed in even the poky back room served by slightly apathetic staff than anywhere else. Fresh egg hoppers, dangerously spicy devilled curries, and fluffy oothappam all await, for something close to a pittance.
Dosa n Chutny
As you might expect given the name, here it’s all about the South Indian/Sri Lankan specialty dosa, great big soft savoury pancakes served with coconut chutney and sambar (a kind of vegetable stew). They have a claim to be the very best in town, and most come under £4 for one so big it barely fits on the table. There are a couple of token meat dishes, but it’s the vegetarian dishes that really shine. dosanchutny.com
Apollo Banana Leaf
A jewel in the crown of Tooting’s Sri Lankan restaurants, ABL stays ahead of its pretty serious competition by serving food just that fresher, just that more inventive, and just that little bit extra value for money than anywhere else. There are too many dishes I can recommend to safely list here, but don’t leave without trying the luminous, crunchy chicken 65, a bowl of devilled mutton, the fantastic green banana bhaji, and the surprising aubergine masala. Then sit back and wonder how the bill came to less than the price of a cinema ticket. www.apollobananaleaf.com
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Over the seven years Chris Pople has been writing the Cheese and Biscuits blog, he has written about nearly 500 different restaurants, which is far too many by anyone’s standards. During that time he has been lucky enough to be picked as one of the top food blogs in the Times, New Statesman and Esquire magazine, and for the last three years running has been named as one of London’s 1000 Most Influential people. He’s probably in a restaurant right now, scouring the menu for spelling mistakes and waiting for a martini.