I’ve noticed that many Londoners, both native and new, can be quite picky with their postcodes. North, south, east or west, no one seems shy about sharing why they think their part of this city is the best place to live and why it’s much, much better than yours. Personally, I’m fairly neutral on the whole matter; my flat criteria consists of spare room, decent sized kitchen, short distance to tube station and supermarket, not outrageously expensive, outdoor space optional. We happened to find a flat that ticks all those boxes and it happens to be in Tooting, that’s SW17, in case you didn’t know.
It’s not one of those swanky central postcodes or even one of the sought after SW ones (I’m looking at you Claphams) but it’s certainly got character and more recently has often been reported as quite ‘up and coming’. Or so people kept telling us when we moved here, I think they said it in Time Out which we all know is quite the authority on these matters. Yet I was still unphased by this ‘my suburb is better than yours’ malarky, frankly, our flat fits the bill and I’m not that worried about precisely where it is. But then we started thinking about moving and I thought, it’s more than not bad here, it’s actually pretty good, and getting better all the time.
Tooting has always been praised for its impressive selection of curry houses but now there are even more choices to whet your appetite; first to bump Tooting up the trend-o-meter was the arrival of the Chicken Shop, then the pubs got a spruce up (The Selkirk is our pick of the bunch), independent cafes and coffee shops sprung up, and even the lacklustre Tooting Market is trying to reinvent itself. Leading the charge is the coolest new operation to set up shop, Unwined in Tooting, a wine shop, bar, and pop up restaurant in the weekends!
By day they’ll sell you wine; they’ve been running popups ‘taking the snob out of wine’ for a while now and it’s clearly something they are very knowledgeable and passionate about. By some days and nights, they add food to the mix, matching wines with different cuisines, depending on who they’ve got popping into the kitchen. This changes every month which keeps things interesting and gives you another reason to keep going back! Last month they had The Pickled Fork, and this month they’ve got popular Korean street food vendors Busan BBQ at the helm.
The menu is short and snappy which I like: it’s separated into snacks, small plates and larger plates as expected, then each section has a selection of matched wines, this I really liked! There’s an option of the set menu with a glass of wine with each dish, or simply go a la carte and choose from the handily listed suggestions.
We couldn’t resist starting with a bit of fizz, a Prosecco which was strikingly similar to a champagne (hooray), and those crowd pleasing Korean fried chicken wings. The coating was crunchy and light, not at all stodgy like some others we’ve tried, and the whole thing was satisfyingly messy to eat! We also chowed through a small bowl of candied anchovies… that’s not a typo on my part, these sweet, sticky morsels were inspired.
We hadn’t intended to but snuck in an extra plate of the spicy pork meatballs with gochujang and apricot jam before the large plates. These were a little disappointing; the sticky coating I loved, but overall the meatballs were a little bland and could have benefited from a lot more spice. We also moved onto our next glasses of wine; a certain someone enjoyed his Gran Cerdo Tempranillo, while I indulged in a Jean-Luc Baldes ‘Clos Triguedina’, a Malbec, Merlot, Tennet blend from Cahors in France, where the Malbec originated, not Argentina as some might be led to believe now.
The soy braised oxtail was far less bland, there was no mistaking the distinctive richness from this cut of meat and the soy seasoning. While it had that ‘I can’t stop going back for more’ quality, it didn’t impress me as much as the tofu with fried kimchi and pork belly. I know a lot of people don’t get tofu, I know it doesn’t really have a flavour, yes, it’s more of a vessel for other flavours… but I really like the texture and purity of it. The contrast with the salty little bits of pork and sharp kimchi was wonderful, my only complaint? Like the meatballs, this dish is bold enough to handle a whole lot more heat, my experience of Korean food is that it’s not afraid of spice and I wish there was more of it here. But I still loved it.
Months ago I might not have ever bothered setting foot into Tooting Market, but now I’ve definitely got an excuse to wander in. We were so pleased to see Unwined in Tooting full of happy winers and diners, this is a great addition to our neighbourhood and well worth a visit for locals and visitors alike! We hear that next month they’ll be embracing Tooting’s foodie roots in the kitchen… cannot wait to see what wine matches the team choose!