For a fortnight of the summer every year, the eyes of the world turn to a south London suburb for the most famous tennis tournament on the planet. But there's more to Wimbledon than two weeks of tennis. True, the area around the tube station might look like any town centre in London, but head up the hill to Wimbledon Village and you'll find an olde worlde high street where anything that isn't a chic boutique is likely to be a chic restaurant. Here's our pick of Wimbledon's best places to eat – game, set and match.
What: This new neighbourhood Italian occupies the former Cau site in Wimbledon Village and has undergone a complete transformation from steakhouse to sleek and contemporary dining room. The menu kicks off with starters such as calamari fritti with wasabi mayonnaise. To follow, there’s a small selection of pizzas, pasta made fresh in-house (beetroot ravioli with burnt butter and crispy sage, say) and classic mains along the lines of steak, lamb cutlets and panko-crusted calf's liver.
Where: 33 High Street, SW19 5BY
What: Gently spiced Hakka cuisine (Chinese food as eaten in India) is the stock-in-trade of this bright, spick and span little restaurant opposite Wimbledon Park tube. Salt and pepper squid has a little spice added, while Manchurian chicken curry is flavoured with soy. Those looking for a truly authentic spice kick might be a touch disappointed but ask for the temperature to be raised a little and the kitchen will fire on all cylinders, while there’s no faulting the value for money.
Where: 147 Arthur Road, SW19 8AB
What: Located on the edge of Wimbledon Common, this classy gastropub dates back to 1787. The crowd-pleasing menu mixes British pub classics such as burgers and beer-battered fish & chips with more ambitious dishes and some international flavours: Thai crab cakes, perhaps, or a juicy pork ribeye steak served with braised cabbage and a piquant cider and mustard sauce. Behind the bar, expect a choice of craft beers and real ales, alongside a dependable wine list.
Where: 9 Camp Road, SW19 4UN
What: This first London outpost of the upmarket bistro-style Thai chain repeats the recipe for success that has seen its spread its tentacles across southern England. The namesake signature dish comprises steamed baby squid stuffed with minced chicken, squid, basil and chilli, but there’s plenty more to enjoy. Work your way through pork dumplings, hot-and-sour salads, curries, stir-fries and noodles, plus seafood fished from British waters. Well-chosen wines, too.
Where: 26 High Street, SW19 5BY
What: This luxe hotel group has a special-occasion feel without putting on airs and graces: polished wood and warm lighting create a cosy, clubby feel in the bistros, while smartly uniformed, professional staff deliver plates of French-accented comfort food to diners who prefer the traditional three courses to modern fads for queues, sharing and obscure ingredients. As befits the name, the wine list delivers on all counts, while steaks are the kitchen’s signature.
Where: West Side Common, SW19 4UE
What: The full menu of modern brasserie classics is offered at this Wimbledon Village café, which with its art deco-style interiors and seductive lighting is basically a full-blown restaurant. Highlights include wonderfully fresh and tangy prawn cocktail with creamy avocado, cheesy truffle arancini and a succulent, egg-topped chicken Milanese that fills the plate. Prices are reasonable, service is impeccable – and you get the chance to act like you’re hiding from the paps.
Where: 75 High Street, SW19 5EQ
What: This appealing all-day café/restaurant fits the Wimbledon Village niche market perfectly. The functional white decor is nothing to write home about, but it serves as a comfortable backdrop for some rather ambitious and suitably fashionable food. Start with smoked rare tuna, shaved fennel, orange and rocket, ahead of a top-notch burger, coq au vin or a clever salad combo. The dining room broadens its appeal in the afternoon by morphing into a teashop with an array of homemade cakes.
Where: 48 High Street, SW19 5AX
What: One of the few decent places to eat near Wimbledon tube rather than up the hill in the Village, this branch of the groovy Copenhagen-based Japanese chain is entirely approachable, if not exactly authentic. Arty minimalist surrounds (sculptural dangling lights, acres of bare brickwork) combine with a sophisticated version of communal eating that promotes sushi for those who don’t necessarily like raw fish. The results look good on the plate, flavours are fresh and it’s inexpensive, too.
Where: 58 Wimbledon Hill Road, SW19 7PA
What: You’ll find this très jolie neighbourhood joint among the boutiques of Wimbledon Village. The good looks don’t stop with the varied artworks on the wall, as the beautifully presented plates showcase a similarly assured touch. Punchy roast Périgord goat’s cheese wrapped in thin slivers of ventrêche bacon, with sweet figs to balance the saltiness and a delicate lavender foam, is typical of the kitchen’s intelligent outlook. La Fromagerie cheese and decadent desserts give plenty of reasons to linger.
Where: 67 High Street, SW19 5EE
Prefer to avoid the tennis crowds but stay south west? Check out our selection of the best brunch restaurants in Richmond
Main image: Bill Oxford