South London

Published on June 30th, 2015 | by Ben Southwood


No.32 The Old Town, Clapham

No.32 The Old Town, Clapham Ben Southwood

Summary: A truly glorious roof terrace


Perfect Summer

Oh, but Clapham Common is a lovely spot! Being the strange character I am, I decided to walk to No. 32 Old Town after work instead of getting the bus, which took about an hour from Westminster, mainly down Wandsworth Road. By the end of the trip you find yourself walking through a beautiful allotment/churchyard, past some of South London’s glorious terraces and semis, and into the cluster of pubs and restaurants right by the beautiful common itself.

I actually stumbled into No. 32 a few weeks ago, the day after Field Day festival, and had an excellent rejuvenating Bloody Mary in some extremely comfortable seats downstairs. This time, I was taken upstairs to a truly glorious roof terrace. Really, it was so nice, jammed full of tables, with a view out onto the grass (and an excellent quirky old house on a little road to itself called ‘The Polygon’), and with astroturf underfoot, that I wondered why there weren’t more around. Perhaps the planning system is so tight as to make more impossible?


Whatever the cause, this one was jammed with people drinking and dining in sun so bright and blazing hot that I worried if my sunglasses truly had enough UV protection. The drinks they served us were decent. £8-10 for cocktails—as seems the norm nowadays outside of the very fancy places—and mostly sweet drinks, although they were happy to bring me a Negroni when I asked. Happily, before I even asked, the waiter recommended me two favourites. I detest being told that everything on the menu is good.

The starters weren’t bad. The charcuterie board was acceptable if unimaginative: slices of salami, chorizo, and mortadella, which I’ve never managed to get myself to like. It came with an excellent selection of breads: dried and crispy with dried mushrooms, sourdough, oatcakes, rye with seeds; and mustard, cornichons and a sort of fig jam.


The other starter was also decent: black miso salmon with sliced up cucumber, pickled ginger, on top of a delicious light and fluffy deep-fried flatbread. The salmon probably hadn’t been marinated in the miso long enough, and to my taste there could have been a lot more of the wakame, but overall the dish was pretty satisfying.

The mains were less impressive. My roast cod with lentils and kale pesto was perfectly adequate although totally unexceptional, and cooked to the right point where it flakes off in substantial intact sections. But I found the mussels they served my companion—which it must be admitted, she liked—utterly inedible. The sauce, nominally lime, lemongrass, and coconut milk, tasted more like marinière, but not in a good way. It was just creamy and cloying. And the mussels were chalky and soft, rather than rubbery with robust bivalve life. I thought mussels were quite easy to do? Did they just accidentally massively overcook these? We shared a nice thick posset for dessert.


I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat food at No 32, even if they do some stuff OK. For one, my very favourite restaurant in London, The Dairy, is just a stone’s throw down the road. But if you happen to be drinking on their lovely terrace and you happened to be hungry, why, it wouldn’t be the worst decision you’d ever made.

No.32 The Old Town, 32 The Pavement, SW4 0JE

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