Newly opened No 32 The Old Town, Clapham
Over the last few years, Clapham has undergone an impressive influx of trendy food spots. The Clapham Common end has the likes of Honky Tonk, the Dairy, Mama Lan and now public-toilet-turned-quirky-charcuterie, ‘WC‘ and the Clapham South end has seen the likes of the effortlessly cool The Rookery on its doorstep.
And now, within the last month, the former Frog pub has undergone a transformation to become a stylish bar and dining spot called No 32 The Old Town.
I was there last week for an impromptu mid-week girl date with a fellow journo friend. I hadn’t seen her in a while and neither of us were feeling great (she was suffering a three day hangover from the weekend, I was feeling under the weather), so it was one of those nights where you really don’t know what to eat, or whether you want to eat at all.
So as a precursor to this review, the lack of my usually large appetite may be a reason for the mixed review I’m about to write. Impromptu restaurant choice & generally feeling under the weather = poor menu decision = unsatisfied customer. That said, do read on, we were impressed with a lot of what No 32 The Old Town had to offer. So don’t be put off just yet.
There is no doubt whatsoever, this place has style. And if you ever visited the premises when it was the Frog (a bit rough around the edges and lacking some love) you’ll see it’s undergone quite a makeover.
Everything from the incredible use of lighting to the slick warehouse-style interiors, it’s undeniably cool.
Post-work drinkers were enjoying tipples and chats in the informal bar area which hasn’t changed its general set up since The Frog. But we seated ourselves at either side of a long communal bench lit by low-hanging steel lights and with the open kitchen in view. With subway tiles and a paired back minimalist style, we almost felt like we were in some cool New York hangout.
We each ordered a Diet Coke, served in a classic cola bottle with the candy striped straw. Our glasses even said ‘bestie’ on them. Too cute.
Oh and the waiter was American and both charming and efficient. So far so good.
Then I went and ordered the fishcakes. Epic fail. They were a million miles away from the big fat squashy scone-shaped cakes I expected to get. These five mere morsels were barely an inch thick and if they hadn’t been served with the horseradish tartare, they’d have also been pretty flavourless. I guess the clue was in the fact I ordered from the ‘small and sharing’ section of the menu. But £7.95 for this? I think not. A few pounds more and I could have had a humungous burger. Who’s behind this ridiculous pricing?
Had I not had a big bowl of fries to make up for the wildly over-priced fish ‘cakes’ I’d have possibly had a bit of a tantrum. But our waiter was so nice, I refrained from complaining. After all, I generally do believe in giving restaurants a second chance.
That said, the chips were too salty for my liking. The saltiness that makes you wake up in the middle of the night with a mouth like a hamster cage. However, it was a generous portion, I’ll give them that. And it came with an incredibly garlicky dip.
Now that’s the bad bit over. It’s now time to discuss what No 32 The Old Town does well.
After recommendation from one of the waiters, my friend went for the No 32 House Burger. A succulent patty with fresh salad and what she described as an ‘exceptional’ bun, this really won top marks. You can’t see in the photo but it was served with a knife sliced through the top and it was really quite a good looking burger. You can choose from Montgomery cheddar or blue cheese and, at £10.95, it was a mere £3 more expensive than my fish cakes. You can see who made the best meal choice here….
After our meal, we took a walk upstairs where they have more seating, a foosball table and the terrace that has lovely twinkly lights dotted around.
I keep using the word ‘cool’ but there was definitely a ‘cool’ vibe here and I’d absolutely come back for drinks. I can see too that they do a tempting breakfast menu. Blueberry pancakes with maple syrup and whipped creme fraiche? Mmm, yes please.
I was hugely impressed with our waiter, the ambience and the overall feel of this place. I just hope they reconsider the size of their ‘small and sharing’ menu and their mean portions aren’t repeated in their breakfasts. Otherwise, I could end up in a very bad mood.
And trust me, you don’t want to see that.
Until next time x