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An NYC style neighbourhood bar in Clapham - test driving The Rookery

An NYC style neighbourghood bar in Clapham - test driving The RookerySo what can you tell me about The Rookery?

Recently opened on the South Side of Clapham Common - and just within view of the grassy stretch where virtuous Londoners sweat it out at military-style bootcamps - The Rookery is the new kid in SW London. Modelled after "a great NYC neighbourhood bar in Brooklyn or the Lower East Side", it's a bold venture in the land of cosy fireside pubs and al fresco beer gardens.

Presiding over this revamped corner of smart suburbia is chef Stephen Gadd, formerly of fine dining favourites Pied a Terre and Hibiscus, and the food is pitched somewhere between upscale bistro and gastropub - plenty of seasonal simple dishes, but with enough Mediterranean flair to turn a few heads.

Who's it aimed at?

The Rookery will be hoping to harness local residents of the surrounding townhouses, even a small percentage of which would keep the place bubbling at profit all winter long. It's also a natural stop for visitors looking for a post-Common walk or drink at the bar - too much fresh air and no wine can't be good for your health.

Where should I meet for a drink?

Just across the common is one of our favourite SW pubs, the Windmill - fresh from a redesign and featuring a brand new menu itself, along with a welcoming roaring fire.

And where should I sit?

Slip into one of the corner tables if you want to hide amongst the eaves - or take a perch at the bar if you're not shy

Onto the food - is bread included?

It's not - but first up on the menu is a homemade bread and oil dish, a snip at 1.50. We'd suggest kicking things off with one of their signature prosecco cocktails. Our plum and apple version was fresh and fruity - and dangerously addictive.

And what should we order?

The daily menu was rich with classic dishes as well as more unusual choices, and we felt spoilt for choice. For starters, we chose an ox tongue with gribiche and Jerusalem artichoke with a goats cheese dressing. The ox tongue was prepared simply, making the cut of meat the star, while the artichoke came piled on a bed of leeks and crisped potato - well prepared enough to be memorable, but ultimately a pretty simple dish.

For mains, we continued a veggie-friendly streak with a squash, walnut and rocket risotto - a tasty, zesty dish made all the more impressive for not relying on a heavy buttery base like so many pub risottos. On the meatier end of the scale, a slow-cooked lamb shoulder with pearl couscous and cavolo nero was more conventional, but well cooked and generously portioned.

Desserts stuck more closely to the bistro handbook, with a chocolate mousse and baked rice pudding taking pride of place. We chose a lemon meringue pie - addictively warm and creamy - and a more modest single scoop of semifreddo, served with pomegranate and shortbread.

Generally, the menu tended towards seasonal safe zones - the coley and roast pork starter served next to us looked like wise choices - and offered a good variety. No must-have signature dishes yet - but we're excited to see more.

Anything for vegetarians?

Some solid choices - including the light and fragrant risotto - but the short menu means those who don't eat fish may not be spoiled for choice.

What about wine?

True to it's bistro roots, the wine list is impressive and thoughtfully chosen, including natural and biodynamic wines. Bottles of white start at 15.50, with glasses from 3.80, with bottles of red starting at 15.45 and glasses at 3.75 - but trust us on the prosecco cocktail.

Overall thoughts?

The Rookery is certainly a great looking addition to the Clapham Common set - and a great spot for a romantic dinner for two. Choose wisely and pay attention to simple, seasonal choices, and it's a good choice for any Clapham native or tourist

The Rookery - 69 Clapham Common Southside, SW4 9DA

Photos by Joseph Guercio.

Hot Dinners was invited to eat at The Rookery.  Prices were correct at time of writing

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