Image credit: Alicia Clarke Photography/Unwined


Hattie Lloyd 09/02/24

A Low-Key Tooting Date Night

Itinerary Location: Tooting |  Duration: 4 Hours

South Londoners make a lot of noise about Tooting.

And with good reason – it’s one of the city’s great food-driven neighbourhoods, with Antipodean cafés, authentic global flavours, and vibrant indoor markets ripe for a street food crawl.

You could easily just hit the pavements here and follow your nose – Lahore Karahi‘s legendary Pakistani food, the long-standing Sri Lankan BYOB spot, Apollo Banana Leaf, and the gorgeously atmospheric Little Taperia are all more than capable of pulling you in from the street. But we’ve taken the liberty of putting together this itinerary for a low-key date night in Tooting, which will seamlessly lead you from market-stall wines to pillowy-soft bao, to the dancefloor… stopping in at what we’d venture to call – in the face of almost no competition whatsoever – the world’s fanciest bingo hall.

Meet your date at Tooting Broadway tube, and set off down Tooting High Street towards…


Sat almost side-by-side, Tooting’s two covered markets are some of London’s buzziest. They’ve been going for almost a century here, with shops stocking everything you can think of, from Persian rugs to records, with butchers and jewellers rubbing shoulders.

tooting market

Spudgun67/Wikimedia Commons

Tooting Market sits behind a handsome art deco front, with a community blue plaque at its centre celebrating the neighbourhood’s proud migrant history. Broadway Market’s entrance might be less eye-catching, but it’s actually the larger of the two, with a small alleyway suddenly emerging into a vast, warehouse-like warren filled with over a hundred stalls.

At night, the markets are bathed in a neon glow thanks to garlands of colourful bulbs festooned across the industrial roofing. Happy punters dine elbow to elbow at the tables set up outside shuttered stall fronts, and it’s not unusual to catch a little live music. They’ve got buckets of atmosphere; the kind that can only come from a long-embedded community full of grass-roots businesses.

unwined tooting

Unwined – Alicia Clarke Photography

There’s plenty jostling for your attention here, but we’d recommend making a beeline for Unwined in Tooting Market. Two market units have been transformed into a laid-back, cosy and convivial wine bar that’s just as amenable to a quick pre-dinner glass as an extended guided tasting session. Befitting the bar’s independent roots, small producers and lesser-known labels are the order of the day here, with a rotating selection available by the glass and a bimonthly spotlight on different themes, from emerging wine regions to vineyards working with the weather. Overwhelmed? The highly knowledgeable staff are on hand to point you in the right direction.

From here, head back to the station and swing a left down Mitcham Road to reach:

➋ DADDY BAO | 7.30pm

daddy bao tooting

Younger sibling to Peckham’s Mr Bao (confusingly), Daddy Bao is one hell of a date spot. It’s absolutely tiny, ensuring maximal atmosphere. The dim light from the table lamps and paper lanterns overhead gives everyone’s faces a movie-star glow. And, most importantly, you’re going to have an excellent meal here. The signature pillowy-soft buns are pitch-perfect, enveloping moreish fillings like slow-braised pork belly with roasted peanut; fried chicken, marinated for 24 hours and slicked with wasabi mayo; and miso-rich shiitake mushrooms with pickled onions.

daddy bao

Then there’s the accompanying adornments, from Szechuan smacked cucumber to sesame-flecked aubergine and aged beef tataki with a perky yuzu soy dressing. The drinks are just as special, with a solid selection of sake and a custom Daddy Bao lager on the menu – but kicking off your meal with a barrel-aged plum wine negroni comes highly recommended.

Stuffed with stuffed buns, it’s time to burn off some energy in a fast-paced bout of bingo (stay with us here). Or rather, take a short stroll back towards the tube and step back in time, and into:

➌ BUZZ BINGO | 9pm

Walking into Buzz Bingo is like viewing the world in split-screen. From waist-height down, it’s every inch the typical bingo hall, with rows of identical booths and a florid, slightly sticky carpet. But soaring up to its quadruple-height ceilings is something totally unexpected: sweeping, Gothic arches designed to look like a Russian Orthodox church.

granada cinema bingo tooting

Paul The Archivist/Wikimedia Commons

Its history is just as incongruous, really: the place was originally built as the Granada Cinema in the 30s, a bombastic picture house designed by a Russian theatre director. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones even played gigs here. And for the past 50 years, it’s been a bingo hall. It’s massive, so you don’t need to book ahead – just drop in if the mood takes you, and enjoy a game of Grade I listed bingo before moving next door to…


The second, and final, stop on your ‘historic Tooting landmarks repurposed for unexpected new uses’ tour is Tooting Tram and Social, a massive bar housed in the shell of an old tram shed.

tooting tram and social

Adorned with chipped Victorian tiling and enormous chandeliers, it’s one of the more unusual spots for a drink in Tooting. And depending on when you swing by, the place has something different to offer: there’s comedy on the first Thursday of every month, rockaoke (that’s karaoke with a live band) on the second Friday of every month, and on weekends, a roster of DJs take to the decks, and the bar turns into one giant dancefloor. But the rest of the time? You’ll find plenty of snug corners and cosy banquettes.

Looking for a nightcap spot that’s laid-back but can still knock out a decent Old Fashioned? Bingo.


The Itinerary:

Tooting Market | 21-23 Tooting High Street, London SW17 0SN

Daddy Bao | 113 Mitcham Road, London SW17 9PE

➌ Buzz Bingo | 50 Mitcham Road, London SW17 9NA

➍ Tooting Tram and Social | 46-48 Mitcham Road, London SW17 9NA

Looking for more inspiration? Try these 101 London Date Ideas on for size

Tooting Neighbourhood Itinerary

Start at Tooting Broadway, Tooting,