Where shall we meet in Clapham?

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The Independent Culture
One of the elements that helps an area move from the estate-agent category of "transitional" to "up-and-coming" is when its restaurants start winning awards. Clapham pizzeria Eco has been doing just that for years now, and has helped its surrounding area move not only out of "transitional" but into "trendy".

Award-winning pizza? Do people really leave their little villages to check out Italian Cheese Toast? Certainly, there is enough bad pizza in the UK to sink the Belgrano, but surely, once you've weeded out monstrosities like deep pan (a marketing excuse for not having the oven hot enough, resulting in thick, soggy dough), pineapple (currently undergoing a revival in the Seventies retro market) and spicy beef (cheap animal by-products), pizza is much of a muchness?

Well, not really. A lot depends on the quality of the dough, the inventiveness of the chef and the pleasantness of the surroundings. The "special" at this consistently popular spot the other day was swordfish. Yes, really: a flank of swordfish, dressed in home-made tartare sauce, in the middle of a pizza. Sounds weird? It was, but also super: the extremely high temperatures at which pizza needs to be cooked are ideal for fish, and the product was juicy, crunchy, interesting and charming.

Eco's Egyptian owner displays the freshness that people coming to catering from other industries can bring. This former accountant and shoe-factory proprietor is a foodie, but only got into the professional side of things when he found himself demonstrating his leather-cutting skills to a chef who was having a bit of trouble with some meat. He claims that pizza is actually of Egyptian origin, and has set out to prove that the Middle Eastern way is best. I, for one, am convinced: Eco was the first place, some years ago, that I tasted aubergine on pizza, renewing my faith in the cuisine in one fell swoop. Try it: you'll never contemplate a deep pan Hawaiian again.

Eco, 162 Clapham High St, London SW4 (0171-978 1108)

CLASS IN COMMON

The Polygon Bar & Grill

4 The Polygon, London SW4 (0171-622 1199)

Rapscallion

75 Venn St, London SW4 (0171-787 6555)

The Belle Vue

Clapham Common South Side, London SW4 (0171-498 9473)

The Pepper Tree

19 Clapham Common South Side, London SW4 (0171-622 1758)

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