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TOOTING MARKET: SOUTH LONDON’S NEW FOODIE HAVEN

Brixton Village is one of south London’s greatest recent success stories, and it was only a matter of time before other markets followed. It’s time for Tooting Market, with a host of new openings and talented traders, to take the spotlight…

Words: Vicky Smith

It was always going to happen. With the once pretty shabby Brixton Village enjoying an unprecedented level of success as a go-to destination for some of London’s best food and drink, it was only a matter of time before someone looked at Tooting Market and thought that the same thing might just work. And with the end-of-summer food and drink extravaganza, Tootopia, returning on the weekend of 23-25 September, there’s never been a better time to rediscover the area.

What makes Tooting a little different, though, is that it’s happened so damn quickly. Or at least it seems to have. While the entrance is still flanked by the Chinese food sellers and fruit and veg stalls that have stood firm for years and years, as you continue past the fabric shops with their enormous rolls of floral metallic lace and leopard-print fur into the heart of the covered 1930s market, you notice a new open-fronted stall showing off trays of freshly-cooked Caribbean patties, and a buzzy new stand where you can buy a made-to-order super-juice or fresh coconut with a straw. 

The once dominant smell from the butchers and fishmongers is now overpowered by the scent of freshly-ground beans from Brickwood coffee. Perhaps the most astonishing addition is a new branch of mega-hip, Brixton-born pizza chain Franco Manca, which opened in mid-July. It seems that Tooting Market has most definitely ‘arrived’.

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What’s important to note, however, is that while all the newcomers are undeniably a welcome addition to SW17, the original traders – including Stannards butchers, which has occupied a large corner spot for as long as I can remember, and the fishmongers with its impressive selection of seafood from perky mackerel to colourful red snapper – are still very much part of the space.

Supporting the market originals was a crucial part of Market Operator and Manager Roi Mengelgrein’s original plan when he came on board at the market in 2010: ‘We handpicked the traders who enter the market to ensure a healthy market eco-system with the new and old businesses,’ he says.

We handpicked the traders who enter the market to ensure a healthy market eco-system with the new and old businesses

Mengelgrein joined the project after 10 years running the Stables Market in Camden, and has plans for Tooting that promise to take the site even further than it’s come already: ‘The future is bright, we have new additions planned, like new toilet facilities for the public, more up-and-coming tenants, and more community events.’

At the core of his plans is a dedication to encouraging ‘young, cool, quirky businesses to set up and grow’. With a range of cuisines on offer that already includes Guyanese, Filipino, Mauritian, Portuguese and West Indian, as well as its own wine bars, craft beer store, burger joint and even its own GIN, it’s impossible to predict what the next raft of arrivals will bring, but what’s for certain is it’ll be pretty exciting…

And what’s more, Tooting Market has launched the UK’s first online platform for markets called Marketsnapp, which is set to revolutionise how people shop in markets across the country and improve sales for traders and improve footfall into town centres.

Meet Tooting Market’s new faces

Laura and Kiki, Unwined

Laura and Kiki's know how to 'Unwined'

Laura and Kiki know how to ‘Unwined’

Why have you chosen to open up in Tooting Market?
We opened Unwined in July 2015, so we have literally just celebrated our first birthday here! Prior to setting up Unwined we had been running ‘pop up’ wine bars and always chose locations that were quirky and off the beaten track, somewhere you wouldn’t expect a wine bar – the market represents just that, we still have people coming in saying they haven’t visited the market for years!

Has the market changed since you opened up there?
The market has changed dramatically in the last year, we could never have predicted that Franco Manca would be opening a year to the day we did! It’s becoming a real destination for families and local residents.

How do you see the market developing in the future?
We believe the market will continue to evolve into a south-west London destination – the market has gone from two nights to five in a year and the buzz in the market at night is electric. This atmosphere is only set to increase as from August we will be hosting regular DJ nights on Saturday evenings.

Why is it a good place to run a business?
In the market you’re never alone, there are so many unique and individual traders from Danny the butcher who has been there 30 years, to Vic at Graveney Gin whose success has been phenomenal in a year, it’s like a little community, and all businesses really work together to bring the Tooting Market experience!

 

Jayke Mangion, Brickwood Coffee

Brickwood Coffee, Tooting, serves a great brunch

Brickwood Coffee serves up great coffee and a cracking brunch

What’s it like being part of the buzz that’s quickly generating in Tooting Market?
About two years ago I would wander around the market and always thought it had potential to be the next Brixton Village; at that time there were so many vacant shops so seeing the progress has been exciting. I had a chat with the market manager Roi and he had been brought on to take the market to the next level and believed in his vision. 

At Brickwood we pride ourselves on quality coffee and brunch in local areas and the market is about as local as it gets in Tooting. Trade has been steadily building and we are coming up to nearly a year old now. It’s very obvious the best is yet to come.

 

James Hickson, We Brought Beer

We Brought Beer, Tooting

We Brought Beer

Why have you chosen to open up in Tooting Market?
I’ve noticed that over the past nine months the buzz in the market has been building all the time. It really is one of the best places in Tooting to hang out, enjoying a gin, a coffee or a beer!

How’s your experience in the market been so far?
We’ve only been open three weeks but we’re really happy with our experience so far. All the other traders have been very welcoming and friendly, and we’ve been impressed with the buzz and atmosphere of the place. The evening vibe is really fun.

Where do you see the market going from here?
The market is going from strength to strength. The beauty of it is it has retained a mix of traditional market retailers alongside the newer businesses such as ours. This keeps the atmosphere friendly and authentic, and all the more interesting. They are about to redevelop a large part of the rear making way for new operators which should only mean good things for the rest of us as the market becomes the food and drink destination in Tooting.

 

Victoria Christie, Graveney Gin

A Graveney gin cocktail

A Graveney gin cocktail

Why have you chosen to open up in Tooting Market?
I created Graveney Gin in Tooting, I have my home in Tooting and I have been supported by Tooting so it means that I always wanted to share it with locals. I used social media to ask if anyone knew of a place I could call Graveney Gin home and Tooting Market was the only place people wanted me to be. I feel like it’s the heart of the town.

How’s your experience in the market been so far?
Friendly and welcoming, it’s absolutely amazing. From the moment I opened the shutters, locals have supported me and taken such a caring interest in how I am doing and the business. I feel like I am starting to be part of the community and have made so many new friends along the way.

Where do you see the market going from here?
The market has two vibes to it: it has always been a great daytime market with so much to offer locals but what is exciting is seeing the nighttime vibe take shape. There are a few newbies to the market to help it all out and we are all working hard to bring DJs and improve the communal space where groups of people can grab anything from any trader and sit together.

 

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