Cafe Society: Clapham but not common

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Indy Lifestyle Online
As the centre of the coolest city in Cool Britannia spews theme restaurants, holosuites, chain outlets and the odd place where food is good if your credit is, Londoners find themselves looking to the inner suburbs for the interesting developments. I'm secretly convinced that this is part of the government's London Appeal: that Tony B doesn't come from the ancient stamping grounds of Ken, Chel and Westminst, but from what the tabloids have officially dubbed London's Trendy Islington.

Plenty of places have won this nomenclature, but south of the river is heating up nicely. We haven't got as far as London's Trendy Stockwell yet - though I did come across someone talking about Vos Halles the other day - but there have been numerous references of late to London's Trendy Clapham. Not without reason. In the last five years, Clapham High Street, among the pawnbrokers and discount stationers, has developed more chrome than a Cadillac, and is filled, in the evenings, with hordes of Chablis- drinking, subtitle-reading, designy folk.

Central to the revolution is The Rapscallion, a small, and shinily attractive bar-restaurant opposite the Clapham Picture House. Open for a year, they have been been doing jolly well since. A good place to stop for a cocktail (pounds 5), and their wine list is an intelligent mix of European and New World, aimed more at quaffing than sloshing round your mouth and spitting.

And their chef is some sort of cracked genius. Fusion cuisine is starting to wear a bit thin thin - too many Thai curries with fried plantain - but the menu here has an eccentricity that only someone very sure of themselves would pull off. Tables are full of people going "Chargrilled Tunisian chicken with sweet potato and lime-leaf broth (pounds 7.50)?" and "Chinese red roast pork with kimchee and cumin mash (pounds 6.50)?" in tones of incredulity, then sighing with surprised pleasure.

They also manage that thing that only good restaurants do, which is leave room for pudding (pounds 3.50) without also leaving you feeling cheated. A good thing, as their crispy milk chocolate hazelnut parcels are the sort of food that makes grown women weep. This is as good as anything I've had at the Sugar Club, and about half the price. Go before it's too late: remember that the only way for a suburb to go after it's gone up is the inevitable slide into Notting Hill syndrome.

The Rapscallion, 75 Venn St, Clapham Common, SW4 (0171-787 6555)

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