When I first started looking for a place to live in London, I made a personal commitment to avoid ending up in an area known for attracting fellow Aussies. This meant Shepherd’s Bush, Fulham, Earl’s Court and all the Claphams were automatically blacklisted.
But in news surprising no one, the place I ended up moving to was Clapham Junction. Not that I’m complaining. Living there for almost a year turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made.
Oddly, the eponymous train station is not the official name of the area – apparently, it’s Battersea – but most Londoners I’ve met in my short time here seem to refer to the locale nestled between Wandsworth and Clapham Common as Clapham Junction. Perhaps it’s a way to differentiate it from the other side of Battersea that people recognise through the park of the same name and the iconic power station.
Visit Clapham Junction by day and you’ll find it bustling with young families and living up to the area’s nickname of “Nappy Valley”. On the weekends, cafes burst at the seams with friends catching up over brunch while Northcote Road is filled with market stalls.
However, pop by in the evening, and it’s a different picture: the area’s bars, restaurants and clubs along Northcote Road, St John’s Hill and Lavender Hill all come alive with people from all over London.
With all this in mind, it’s hardly surprising that I thought Clapham Junction was the perfect place to base myself when I first moved to the city just over 18 months ago. I could write about the area at length, but here are five reasons why it’s worth a visit.
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Look, I may be biased but Story Coffee is one of the best cafes I have ever been to. From espresso to a range of filter options, the coffee on offer is absolutely superb and meets all my requirements as a (shameless) coffee snob. Its pastries and brunch menu are also worth trying.
In addition, Story Coffee is a welcoming, community-orientated space with huge windows for plenty of bright, natural light. The owners have refused to bring in wifi, thus encouraging guests to interact with each other or to have some quality time out if they’re on their own. 115 St John’s Hill SW11, more here.
EATING: Powder Keg
I discovered Power Keg by accident – it was one of those times where you randomly pick a place at the last minute for a dinner with a friend. To my pleasant surprise, it turned out to be a quirky bar and British conservatory restaurant filled with Victoriana, including costumed barmen who sport moustaches, flat caps and waistcoats.
This theme may have been done to death across London, but with the absence of taxidermy, birdcages and random stuff fermenting away in glass bottles, Powder Keg’s character shines through and the food on the menu is fantastic. You can eat at the bar or at one of the booths, or the conservatory that serves as a more formal dining room. With splendid cocktails on the menu as well, Powder Keg is an ideal place for any date. 147 St John’s Hill SW11, more here.
DRINKING: The Four Thieves
The Four Thieves is an eccentric, two-storey bar set in a former music hall with a classic menu, exceptional house-brewed ales, DJs, and ping-pong machines. But what really makes this place stand out is its dedicated arcade games area with a remote-controlled car race track, virtual reality headset, and indoor mini golf. If you want to avoid the queue to get in on Friday or Saturday nights, visit during the day or late in the afternoon – it’s just as good. 51 Lavender Gardens SW11, more here.
VENUE: Northcote Records
Northcote Records is the southern cousin of Shoreditch’s Old Street Records and the bigger brother of Venn Street Records in neighbouring Clapham Common. Northcote Records is renowned for its exceptional live music shows – held almost every night of the week – of emerging artists covering a variety of musical genres. With trendy interiors and great pizza on the menu, the venue is a gem among Clapham Junction’s eclectic range of pubs. 8-10 Northcote Rd SW11, more here.
BURGERS: Dip & Flip
In my opinion, the best burgers are those that create an excessive amount of mess all over your hands or, for hirsute men like me, all over your beard. Dip & Flip ups the ante and provides an extremely juicy yet satisfying experience.
Its menu stands out from other burger joints in that it offers a French dip (which is an American sandwich, but that’s a different story), cheesy fries, milkshakes and Korean chicken wings – but it’s the eponymous Dip & Flip burger that you want. The roast beef cheeseburger is served with a pot of delectable gravy, and you’re encouraged to either drench your burger or dip it in the pot like a condiment. It’s your call – but either way, you’ll realise how much you enjoy slurping on a gravy-soaked burger. 87 Battersea Rise SW11, more here.