Canadian Geographic - - THE CITY SCENE -

“Ire­mem­ber talk­ing to my wife long ago about where in London we should live, and telling her I’d live any­where, any­where at all, apart from Clapham, which I dismissed as be­ing not very ex­cit­ing,” says au­thor Henry Hemming, whose new book Agents of In­flu­ence will be pub­lished in Canada in Oc­to­ber 2019. “Sev­eral months later, though, we moved there, and I’ve come to love it with the fid­gety zeal of a con­vert.” Here are Hemming’s tips on how to live like a lo­cal in the south­west London neigh­bour­hood.


My favourite part of Clapham is the Old Town, the area south of the iconic Holy Trin­ity Clapham church, fa­mous for be­ing where Wil­liam Wil­ber­force and others plot­ted the abo­li­tion of the slave trade. Look­ing onto the church is Madeleine, a café that feels more French than France, and has a bak­ery in the base­ment churn­ing out — you guessed it — madeleines. Get them in the morn­ing while they’re still warm. A few doors down is Clapham Books, the Mary Pop­pins’ bag of the book world. It’s tiny but has ev­ery book you’ll ever want to read. Plus, the peo­ple who run it are lovely.


A short walk from the book­shop is Venn Street, where there’s a Saturday morn­ing farm­ers mar­ket full of de­li­cious baked treats, or­ganic veg and ex­cel­lent meat and fish, and Ra­dio Alice, where you can feast on the finest sour­dough piz­zas in London. You might need to fol­low do­ing so with a long walk across Clapham Com­mon, paus­ing per­haps for a sit-down at La Baita Band­stand Café. Its best kept se­cret — it took me a while to figure it out — is the food. They make their own pasta, which is ex­tra­or­di­nary, ten­der and firm, and worth the trip in its own right; try their squidink lin­guine.


Where to fin­ish? Most crawls around Clapham con­verge on The Poly­gon, a cen­tral area that boasts three pubs locked in a never-end­ing bat­tle for cus­tomers. The pick of the trio is the Prince of Wales. In­side it looks like a flea mar­ket that hap­pens to serve beer, and that beer is fan­tas­tic. Try the guest ale, or any of the craft ales. Head home with a sweet taste in your mouth, cour­tesy of the inim­itable Nar­dulli gela­te­ria. The queue out­side tells you ev­ery­thing you need to know.

Clock­wise from top: Au­thor Henry Hemming in Clapham Books; The Prince of Wales pub; staff at Madeleine serve baked goods made on-site at the French café.

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