Artwork on West Norwood shop fronts

artwork on shop fronts in West Norwood

Walk along West Norwood high street on a Sunday and you’ll notice that the some shop shutters are more creative than your average.

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It’s part of a long-term investment from the Outer London Fund to smarten up city boroughs, which has been reflected in the likes of FEAST (check out our post on the monthly event here) and basically sprucing up the image of the high street.

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The simple illustrations feature prominent buildings (recognise St Luke’s Church?) and the bright colours are a refreshing alternative to a drab, grey landscape.

Review: Tapas at The Lounge Bar, Balham

In a town where so much has changed over the past few years, there are some establishments that stand the test of time. The Lounge in Balham will be celebrating 13 years this year – no mean feat.

Tapas selection at the lounge bar balham

Pictured: chorizo in red wine sauce, scallops, cod croquets, patatas bravas, the remainder of a dish of olives…

It’s consistently popular with the locals though, and if you haven’t been before, make an effort to go – you won’t be disappointed. Don’t let the simplistic decor fool you; behind these doors is a vast menu of delicious tapas dishes masterminded by an incredibly hardworking husband and wife team.

Spicy garlic prawns - mind the eye-watering chillis...

Spicy garlic prawns – mind the eye-watering chillis…

Most items on the menu are what you’d get in every tapas restaurant but what makes The Lounge so unique is that they take a simple dish and, well, pimp it up. The classic Patatas Bravas dish isn’t just chips and ketchup, it’s crispy chunks of potato in a spicy tomato sauce that we’ve never been able to replicate at home. It’s the same with their meat dishes – when you order the meatballs and chorizo, be sure to order a side of ciabatta to dunk into the rich sauce. #yum.

A side of bread to dunk is a must with these meatballs

A side of bread to dunk is a must with these meatballs

The restaurant fills up fast at the weekends so we’ve been taking to getting our fix during the weekday (except Mondays, when it’s closed) when we’re more likely to get a table immediately.

5-6 dishes between two of you is more than enough. Throw in a couple of drinks and the bill is typically around £40.

If you fancy finding out more about their menu we reviewed the Lounge Bar three years ago, here.

Review: The Bolingbroke, Northcote Road, Clapham

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Nestled down the far side of Northcote Road, it’s easy to forget about the Bolingbroke as there are so many places to eat and drink before you even land there.

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The whole road tends to be a haven for young families and this pub is no different – if you’re after a typical boozer, or a kids-free zone, don’t bother. However it’s far from masquerading as a creche; the atmosphere is laid back, friendly and more often than not the kids are well behaved.

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Anyway, onto the important stuff. We had difficulty choosing our food (we went for lunch on a Saturday, they have a different menu for weekdays and Sundays), the list being so extensive, not forgetting a large specials board too.

Lobster and crayfish potato cakes with bloody mary mayo, and shredded ham hock, rocket, pear, pomegranate and walnut salad

Lobster and crayfish potato cakes with bloody mary mayo, and shredded ham hock, rocket, pear, pomegranate and walnut salad

You’ve got the typical hearty gastro dishes but everything has a twist to it. Our duck was served not a l’orange, but with a sweet fig sauce, and the fish cakes were a cut above – lobster and crayfish, anyone?

Sea bream with new potatoes, black olives and green beans

Sea bream with new potatoes, black olives and green beans

Duck breast, potato mille-feuille, steamed romanesco and fig gravy

Duck breast, potato mille-feuille, steamed romanesco and fig gravy

The portions are just right – the servings don’t look obscene, Man vs Food style, but they’re generous. Our salad had more than enough ham hock (there’s nothing worse than a tiny bit of meat hiding under a heap of lettuce, right?).

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The hearty portions meant we were too full for dessert but we’ll be back soon, if only to try the Nutella Gnocchi…

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The Bolingbroke, 174 Northcote Road, SW11 6RE

Spring shopping in south London

Spring shopping in South London

It’s taken a while but the weather is definitely losing some of its edge and with the days getting brighter it’s time for a bit of a spring spruce up (pfft like we needed an excuse to shop).

There are some great gems sold by south London dwellers that will make easy additions to your home.

1) Clapham Bandstand Print, from £35 (unframed), Postcode Prints – we mentioned this local print company on our post about FEAST. Their limited edition prints are a cute and quirky way to illustrate the area and we’re particularly taken with this picture of Clapham.

2) West Norwood Tea Towel, £8, Ray Stanbrook Prints – we found this on Etsy, and there are tea towels for several other towns including Crystal Palace, Wimbledon and Brixton. Almost a bit too nice to use to dry your dishes, though…

3) Rob Ryan Bells Cushion, £30, Fred & Pickles – when splashing out on a new sofa isn’t an option. Fred & Pickles is a gorgeous boutique site run by a team in the Balham area.

4) Fridge magnet, £4.95, The Indigo Tree – spring clean your mind? Naff as it sounds, but we find that a good old mantra can help motivate you on a dreary day.

5) Candle, from £15, Charlotte Harley Candles – Hither Green based Charlotte sells beautiful soy wax scented candles through Etsy. The scent has a good throw and a great way to get a fresh fragrance into your home. Plus they’re way cheaper than your average posh candle.

The King & Co Clapham kitchen residency – Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen

The King & Co, Clapham

While pub food has certainly become more extravagant than before (pulled pork served with everything, most likely on a wooden slab instead of a humble plate), the King & Co have turned the age old tradition of ‘pub grub’ on its head by offering a changing menu every two months. We love this idea – there will always be something new to try and a platform for up and coming chefs who might not otherwise get such an opportunity. The only downside, we guess, would be that if you find yourself fond of a particular dish you’d need to savour it while it lasts!

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Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen is the latest to set up home, cooking up African dishes from now until 31st May. The menu is short but sweet, comprising small tapas sized portions where the recommendation is about 2-3 plates per person.

The menu at the King & Co, Clapham

The menu at the King & Co, Clapham

There’s enough for veggies to get involved but the signature dishes really lie with the meat lovers. Our favourite was the mutton with satay sauce, and pork belly – generous cuts cooked for so long it just falls apart.

Pork belly with sweet plantain jus (closest to camera) and Zoe's signature peanut butter stew with mutton

Pork belly with sweet plantain jus (closest to camera) and Zoe’s signature peanut butter stew with mutton

Cassava croquettes and Red Red were among the vegetarian options Zoe's Ghana Kitchen Clapham

Cassava croquettes and Red Red were among the vegetarian options

Other hits were the mackerel (look past the minor food admin of small bones and you’ve got tender spicy fish) and ‘red red’, delicious black beans in a rich tomato sauce topped with parmesan.

Jollof chicken skewers

Jollof chicken skewers

The only disappointment was the lack of ‘Puff Puff Handmade Doughnuts’, because the kitchen weren’t able to make them properly the night we visited.

Mackerel fillets in chilli, lemon and garlic

Mackerel fillets in chilli, lemon and garlic

Still feeling hungry? Their Instagram page will get your stomach rumbling even more…

If you’ve not been to the King & Co before, there’s no sectioned-off restaurant area. Eating takes place in the heart of the pub and, with the tapas attitude of “you eat when it arrives at the table”, the whole vibe is very relaxed.

If south west London is a stretch, Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen frequents Peckham Springs on a Friday night too. Result.

The King & Co, 100 Clapham Park Road, SW4 7BZ