But rather than being saturated in hipster cool, a relaxed atmosphere permeates the establishment, lending it the feeling of a neighbourhood bar, albeit one with a touch more sophistication. Lightbulbs hanging from chains, exposed brick walls and white tiles are among the design touches, and low lighting with candles create an intimate mood.
The grub: You don’t always find mackerel on restaurant menus, its full flavour putting some diners off, but The Rookery does the fish well, its version Cornish, smoked and complemented nicely with cucumber and horseradish. For her starter, my companion opts for the watercress soup with crème fraiche, a gamble, she feels, as she is ravenous after a long day, but one for which she is paid dividends, as it soon takes the edge of her hunger. It’s red meat for the main courses.
My Hebridean lamb bursts with flavour, almost gamey on the tongue, and incredibly tender. The pearl couscous provides a filling accompaniment and the charmoula adds a freshness to the meal. A bavette steak, my date’s main, can be tough if overcooked, but thankfully the chef prepares it expertly and it falls away under the knife, pickled walnuts on the dish adding a welcome spicy surprise. It’s all washed down with a bottle of Italian Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, finished off with Montgomery cheese, oatcakes and red onion chutney. Service is spot-on: helpful but never annoying.
Behind the bar: A range of craft beer from around the world; interesting wines by smaller producers from Italy, France, Iberia, Austria and Spain; and classic cocktails.
Bill please: Starters from £5.20; mains from £10.25; dessert from £5; beers from £3.50; wine from £3.85 a glass, £18.25 a bottle; cocktails from £4.50.
Verdict: Dining with a sense of adventure, drinking with a touch of class. Be sure to enjoy The Rookery if you’re in Clapham this summer. Jahn Vannisselroy
69 Clapham Common Southside, SW4 9DA
Tube | Clapham Common