“I remember talking to my wife long ago about where in London we should live, and telling her I’d live anywhere, anywhere at all, apart from Clapham, which I dismissed as being not very exciting,” says British author Henry Hemming, whose new book Agents of Influence will be published in Canada in October 2019. “Several months later, though, we moved there, and I’ve come to love it with the fidgety zeal of a convert.” Here are Hemming’s tips on how to live like a local in the southwest London neighbourhood.
Bakery and books
My favourite part of Clapham is the Old Town, the area south of the iconic Holy Trinity Clapham church, famous for being where William Wilberforce and others plotted the abolition of the slave trade. Looking onto the church is Madeleine, a café that feels more French than France, and has a bakery in the basement churning out — you guessed it — madeleines. Get them in the morning while they’re still warm. A few doors down is Clapham Books, the Mary Poppins’ bag of the book world. It’s tiny but has every book you’ll ever want to read. Plus, the people who run it are lovely.
Venn Street and Clapham Common
A short walk from the bookshop is Venn Street, where there’s a Saturday morning farmers market full of delicious baked treats, organic veg and excellent meat and fish, and Radio Alice, where you can feast on the finest sourdough pizzas in London. You might need to follow doing so with a long walk across Clapham Common, pausing perhaps for a sit-down at La Baita Bandstand Café. Its best kept secret — it took me a while to figure it out — is the food. They make their own pasta, which is extraordinary, tender and firm, and worth the trip in its own right; try their squid-ink linguine.
Pints and gelato
Where to finish? Most crawls around Clapham converge on The Polygon, a central area that boasts three pubs locked in a never-ending battle for customers. The pick of the trio is the Prince of Wales. Inside it looks like a flea market that happens to serve beer, and that beer is fantastic. Try the guest ale, or any of the craft ales. Head home with a sweet taste in your mouth, courtesy of the inimitable Nardulli gelateria. The queue outside tells you everything you need to know.