Sandwiched between Clapham and Tooting and bordered by the twin commons of Wandsworth and Tooting Bec, Balham is often overlooked when it comes to South London. But more fool you if you miss out on visiting this relatively bougie spot, which is popular with both young families and working professionals alike. There’s a whole gamut of world-class restaurants, some excellent boozers and those aforementioned commons where you can easily get away from it all. Plus, Gordon Ramsay supposedly lives here, and if it’s good enough for Gordon Ramsay – it’s good enough for us. So, without further ado, here’s our roundup of 11 of the best things to do in Balham:
1. Tuck into a blue brunch at The Apple Blue
Blue French toast, incredible, frothy lattes, and an array of mouthwatering sweet treats – you can find them all and more at this lovely little spot on Balham High Road. The team at The Apple Blue proudly proclaim to love food ‘in all its magnificent glory’, and when you cast an admiring glance over their menu, that becomes readily apparent.
Vying for attention with the French toast on the brunch menu are the likes of avo on toast (naturally), shakshuka, shawarma and tabbouleh, and a Dutch Baby (looks like a Yorkshire pudding, tastes like a pancake) with crispy fried chicken. We’re practically salivating at the thought… They also have a supper club in the pipeline here too. Keep your eyes peeled on their website or socials for further details.
📍212 Balham High Road, London, SW12 9BS.
2. Catch a flick at The Exhibit
Now I’m sure you’re aware dear reader that we love ourselves a cinema here at Secret London. But a cinema with an added bar, restaurant and event space? Now that we can really get on board with!
The Exhibit bill themselves as ‘a damn good time’, and to be honest, we have to agree. After all, they’ve got bottomless brunches, a happy hour every day from 4 to 7pm, and DJs spinning the decks every Friday and Saturday night until the wee hours. Add in Drag Race UK viewing parties, life drawing, karaoke, film screenings, open-mic nights and pub quizzes (phew!) and you can see why this is the place to be if you’re looking for a grand old time in this neck of the woods.
📍12 Balham Station Road, London, SW12 9SG.
3. Gorge on fantastic Moroccan food at Tagine
A South London institution, Tagine whips up some of the best Moroccan cuisine you can find anywhere in town. Situated just down the road from Tooting Bec Common – this lively spot is all about great food, authentic Northern African interiors and lovely staff, who have been serving the local community since they first opened their doors back in 2004.
Starters like hummus, pastilla of chicken and carrot salad make for a great stomach warm-up before you take on hearty entrees such as vegetable tagine, chicken with preserved lemons, olives, onion compote and saffron or the vegetarian couscous. This is real food for the soul, and boy is it good. It’s also BYOB – ideal!
📍3 Fernlea Road, London, SW12 9RT.
4. Go for a wander across Tooting Bec Common
Speaking of Tooting Bec Common, it’s well worth a visit if you find yourself in SW12 and are looking for a sweet dose of fresh air. Perfect for a dog walk, the common itself dates all the way back to the Mediaeval times, and there are some beautiful oak trees here which supposedly were first planted back in the 17th century!
If you’re feeling a tad more athletic, then there are some tennis courts here where you can practise your swing, as well as the UK’s largest lido which is a whopping 100-yards-long. If you’d like to make an afternoon of it, then make your way over to Wandsworth Common on the other side of Balham.
📍45 Tooting Bec Gardens, London, SW16 1RF.
5. Pour yourself a glass of vino or two at Heidi
Hang on – a place where you can pour your own glasses of vino? Talk about heavenly! Heidi is a cosy wine bar where you can actually serve yourself… No, really, you pour the wine yourself, so whenever you’ve glugged your way through a glass and need a top-up, it’s fair game! No waiting to be served, no queueing out the back door – think they’re onto a winner here…
An even bigger draw for the drinker on a budget is their champagne happy hour, where glasses of champers and champagne cocktails are just £7.77 each until 7pm every day. Yep – seriously. Best get yourself down here then darling!
📍1 Balham Station Road, London, SW12 9SG.
6. Enjoy a heart fry-up at the Heart of Balham
Another worthy addition to this roundup of the best things to do in Balham is paying a visit to the Heart of Balham – which we think does one of the best breakfasts in the whole of the capital – a big claim we know. But we stand by it. After all; scrambled eggs, a beef sausage, organic bacon, mushrooms, roasted tatties, grilled tomatoes and mixed herbs – all from just £12.90 – you can’t really go wrong, right?!
Other things on the bill here are pancakes, deli beef burgers, tuna melts, and jacket potatoes stuffed with all manner of goodies – and that’s before we even get to their milkshakes and luxury hot chocolate…
📍113 Balham High Road, London, SW12 9AP.
7. Indulge in the Sunday roast at the Balham Bowls Club
Now we all love a Sunday roast, am I right? Well good news for you then dear reader, as the Balham Bowls Club whips up one hell of a good’un. A social club-come-boozer right just down the road from Balham tube station, it used to be an old bowls club – hence the name – and is decked out in all manner of memorabilia from days gone by.
Now to the roast. Expect melt-in-your-mouth pork belly or lemon and garlic roast chicken supreme served alongside duck fat potatoes, roasted carrots, seasonal veggies and lashings of gravy – best washed down with a pint or two of ale. There’s also a cracking vegan option, and at just £15, it’s pretty good for the old wallet too.
📍7-9 Ramsden Road, London, SW12 8QX.
8. Shop for plants and more at Hildreth Street Market
A lively farmer’s market back in the day, Hildreth Street Market has undergone a bit of a facelift in recent years and is now a bougie street with pop-up street food stalls, colourful florists, comfy cafés, and independent clothes stores which are just waiting to be rifled through. It’s well worth a visit if you’re looking to pick up some new threads or a new plant for your digs. And let’s face it, who isn’t most of the time in London Town anyway?
📍Hildreth Street Market, London, SW12 9BW.
9. Get your craft beer fix at The Cyclist
If you’re into your craft beer and you’re wanting to scratch that itch, then you really need to make your way to The Cyclist. They’ve got plenty of pale ales and roadie IPAs on tap here from an array of breweries, as well as a fantastic selection of whisky if that’s more your bag.
Add in an extensive array of sumptuous small plates, a great wine selection and tasty brunches and you can see why we think that this is the perfect date spot. They also offer the obligatory bottomless brunch (what else) and a DJ who spins pop and R&B bangers every Saturday night until 1am. I mean, that sounds like the ideal Saturday night to me…
📍194 Balham High Road, London, SW12 9BP.
10. Check out what’s on at Banana Cabaret
Our penultimate addition to this roundup of the best things to do in Balham is none other than Banana Cabaret – a stand-up comedy club based upstairs at The Bedford on, well, Bedford Hill. It’s a bloody great venue which has been running for almost 40 years now, and has seen everyone from Sara Pascoe and Stephen K Amos to Jason Manford and Tom Allen perform here.
Shows run every Friday and Saturday night here, and tickets are under 20 quid. Plus, the pub downstairs is a banger and rustles up some ruddy good food. Winner, winner.
📍77 Bedford Hill, London, SW12 9HD.
11. Try some traditional dishes at the Polish White Eagle Club
Rounding off this list of the best things to do in Balham is the Polish White Eagle Club – a gem of a restaurant which serves hearty Polish grub and other Eastern European cuisine, as well as draughts of Polish beer too. Sign us up!
It’s also a centre for all local Polish people in the surrounding area, and they organise activities, outings and seminars – as well as games of darts in the bar! This Christmas, they’re also throwing a Gatsby-style party with live jazz and a burlesque performance by none other than Fallon Dee, and there’s also a New Year’s version to boot too. Rock on!
📍211 Balham High Road, London, SW17 7BQ
So there you have it – a roundup of the best things to do in Balham. From wining and dining at beloved boozers to belly laughing at a comedy show, there’s plenty in this neck of the woods to keep you entertained – whatever you’re into. So, best get yourself down to SW12 then!