£30 - £49
2 Station Parade, Balham High Road, London, SW12 9AZ
A perennial favourite of Square Meal readers, Lamberts is praised for its seasonal British food, decent prices and exceptional staff. We’re great fans too, only adding that the room itself with its deep-red walls, sinkable banquettes and sense of calm, makes a very comfortable setting that lends itself to romantic and special dinners. Owner Joe Lambert’s uncompromising attitude to decent independent local suppliers, to buying British and to all things green is enormously refreshing and makes for guilt-free celebrations. The menu – ordered into ‘field’, ‘sea’ and ‘farm’ – has widespread appeal: from perfectly pink lamb with a pungent minty crust to a delicate sea bream served with broccoli and toasted almonds. Puddings such as lemon curd, brown sugar meringue and shortbread show there’s plenty of room for indulgence. The drinks list also celebrates Blighty, with Meantime ales, Aspall cider and English fizz – as well as natural wines from around the world.
More about Lamberts
£30 - £49
100 Balham High Road, SW12 9AA
Comfortable in its bigger, brighter premises, the Balham branch of this very French outfit seems to have lost a little quirkiness. Nevertheless, it’s a reliable place for French staples, from breakfast croissants to after-dinner espressos. Gazette’s frontage opens on to Balham High Road in summer, making it a pleasant place to sit and watch the world go by, continental style. The menu pays homage to Gallic bistro greats – start with snails, foie gras or soupe à l’oignon, move on to moules marinière, salades composées and poulet rôti, with pot au chocolat or cheese to finish. Cooking isn’t perfect but it’s pretty good, and the battered Le Creuset dishes that serve as crockery add to the jollity. The only downside is the service: often slow, workaday and lacking in French panache.
More about Gazette Balham
£30 - £49
77 Bedford Hill, London, SW12 9HD
Treated to a multi-million pound makeover in 2018, this iconic 1930s sibling of The Latchmere and The Rosendale now has a jewel of an attraction in its chic kingfisher blue art-deco lounge. Fig Bramble and Mezcal Margarita are among the glam cocktails, and pop-art rock posters hint at what goes on upstairs – The Bedford’s glorious galleried auditorium in the round is a showcase for live music, cabaret and stand-up for everyone from Ed Sheeran to Harry Hill.
In the busy main bar, sip Sambrook’s and other craft ales and order from an extensive modern British menu served in the restaurant and throughout the ground floor: classic brunch staples, sandwiches, artisan pizza and small plates (haddock croquettes with aïoli or pulled pork and scratchings, say). Competitively priced mains are more substantial and include pumpkin and mushroom Wellington or sea bass with saffron risotto, spinach and langoustine and dill sauce.
With a ballroom and a cosy cocktail bar (both for hire) and 15 plush ensuite bedrooms upstairs, you can check in and never leave Balham again.
More about The Bedford
20 Bedford Hill, London, SW12 9RG
A resounding hit with Balhamites, this hip café has expanded beyond its tiny corner site and doubled its capacity – though you’re still likely to queue at weekends (no bookings). Set up by young Aussie barista Julian Porter and artist/actress Lauren Heaphy, Milk houses a bakery producing organic breads, cakes and pastries for the day’s offer. “Cracking brekkies” are a highlight, but Milk is an “amazing” brunch spot too, with savoury platefuls such as roast mushrooms on sourdough or Kurdish baked eggs with chorizo, spinach, labneh and ‘kirmizi biber’ chilli on offer. Elsewhere, we’re sold on the layered sweetcorn fritters, while plump crumpets come topped with hay-smoked goats’ cheese and local honeycomb. As you’d expect, the baristas produce a mean flat white, but teas, organic juices and smoothies are also offered – plus craft beers, ciders and organic wines. A playlist of the owners’ favourite records adds a feel-good vibe.
More about Milk