These days it’s not enough to have a local boozer, you also need a go-to restaurant within easy reach; somewhere you can grab a hearty supper that won’t cost the earth. South of the river, Clapham locals are finding just that in the shape of laid-back bar-cum-restaurant The Rookery.
The look and feel is masculine and understated, seasoned with cool design touches here and there, such as industrial light bulbs hanging from chains and a dramatic steel spiral staircase, which work to create a cool, Lower East Side New York vibe. It’s moderately busy -more so as the evening gets on - and the perfectly paced service reflects this; the staff attentive but, crucially, not too over-bearing.
The menu at The Rookery is constantly changing; dependent upon on what’s in season and what’s readily available, but what really sets it apart is its commitment to moderate pricing: starters are around the £5 mark, while main meals are prudently pitched between £12 and £15. Key to the operation is head chef, Stephen Gadd who, having honed his craft at the likes of Hibiscus and Pied à Terre, fuses a back-to-basics style with lively culinary touches, pairing frugal but delicious cuts of meat with exciting, unexpected ingredients.
Dinner got off to a great start thanks to a wonderfully sophisticated marmalade prosecco, but as the starters began to arrive, the mood shifted to something a little bit more rustic. First up, was a deliciously comforting pot of mussels, bathed in a French broth of white wine, cream and garlic. Next, a palette-pleasing morcilla (Spanish-style black pudding that’s milder and more crumbly in texture than its British counterpart) with baby gem lettuce and winter apple salad. On to the mains, and ELLEuk was quite taken with the deliciously tender and moist roast Jacob lamb served with aromatic borlotti bean stew with fresh salsa verde. This was swiftly followed by an elegantly presented Cornish bream, served with smooth creamed leek and perfectly crisp and fluffy triple-cooked chips. There are plenty of other options, though – the diners on the neighbouring table were so delighted with their pheasant, smoked bacon and sausage pie, that they insisted we try some. And utterly delicious it was, too.
The ELLEuk Score
Style of food: British/French fusion
Good for: Quick bite after work; first date; group dinner
Prices & Other Details at The Rookery
Address: 69 Clapham Common South Side, London, SW4 9DA
Opening hours: Monday: Closed all day; Tues-Weds: 6pm-10pm; Thurs & Fri: 12 midday-2.30pm & 6pm-10pm; Sat: 12 Midday-3pm & 6pm-10pm; Sun: 12 Midday-4pm; bar snacks Sun evening.
Average price per person for a two-course meal without wine: £5
Price of bottle of house wine: £15.50, Madregale Bianco, Cantina di Tollo (white); £15.45, Tempranillo, Albizu (red)
Price of glass of house wine: As above, £3.80 or £3.75 respectively
Price of a glass of house champagne: N/A
Price of a bottle of house champagne: £68, Tattinger, NV Brut Réserve
Private dining? Up the spiral staircase, you’ll find a hidden timber-clad space, providing space for a party of 30. No hire fee, but an achievable minimum spend is set.
Outdoor dining? Yes. Overlooking Clapham Common
Best table: For privacy, choose one of the tables at the far end of the bar, near the kitchen. For cosiness, choose a table by the open fire.
Who goes? Casually dressed twenty and thirty-something Clapham locals
Nearest tube: Clapham Common and Clapham South Underground stations are both a 10-minute walk away.