I'm a local Balham-ite and absolutely have to recommend The Avalon as one of the best local watering holes. What was previously a run-down local boozer has been taken on by the team who run The Bollingbroke and The Abbeville and it's unrecognisable compared to its former self.
The pub itself is a cosy, relaxed yet trendy place during the day, good for watching sports and with a good selection of nibbles but it's the outdoors that really sets it apart. There's a front terrace with awnings for shade, heaters for warmth and plenty of seats, a side garden which is small and private – PERFECT for nabbing in the summer with a group, you can pretty much take it over and it's like a private room. The back garden is definitely the best beer garden in South West London. It's decked, pretty, a good size and you really could be miles from the noise and bustle of Balham High Street. The BBQ in summer is really good although they could do more with the salads, perhaps by adding a salade nicoise or a seafood salad.
The restaurant does excellent gastropub food which changes seasonally (crab linguine for starter followed by roast quail?! YUM) in a really smart, 1930s style setting. Sunday lunch is a real winner and the restaurant is child friendly, although they could do with more high chairs for busy periods. I would definitely recommend booking in advance though; we wandered in on a Thursday in January and the place was packed!
Finally, the private room, aka The Blue Room. I've hosted two events there now, a baby shower and a 30th birthday party and both were very successful. There is no charge for the room, no mimimum spend, and the chef will work around your budget for food.
For the 30th b'day we had a three course lunch for £27.50 a head which included grilled halloumi with spiced aubergine salad or ham hock terrine with quince jelly and pickles for starter, followed by steak & chips, grilled whole mackrel with potato and beetroot salad or spinach & ricotta tortellini for main course. Desserts were sticky toffee pudding, chocolate pot or apple crumble. We had lunch while watching the 6 Nations on the 100 inch screen in our private room and everyone had a fantastic time. It was excellent value and really good food – all our guests were delighted. The only issue was when we moved downstairs for the evening and were right beside the DJ which was very a bit of a conversation killer.
For the baby shower we had champagne and canapes for about £15 a head, the staff were really helpful and couldn't do enough to help me get the slideshow with embarassing pix of the Mum To Be up on the big screen, sort out the iPod with music for the party, organise the furniture as appropriate, etc.