When we arrived for lunch on Saturday the outside space was populated by young Claphamites with ruddy cheeks and a smile that says they have just done something earnest – like a long walk across the common. The Rookery offers a splendid refuge from the wind torn wilds outside.
The interior is positioning its self in the gritty New York style. With tiled walls, exposed bricks and stripped floors. The chairs are mismatching and there is even a mezzanine level or should that be Rooks nest where you can hold an intimate gathering for 25 or so. The feel is relaxed and friendly.
The menu is quite short which is a blessing and inspires a thoughtfulness and confidence from the kitchen. In fact that is exactly what I had in this kitchen as its run by Stephen Gadd who has learned his craft at such luminaries as Hibiscus and Pied a Terre. I first tried a lovely little drink they had on offer, Plumb and Apple Prosecco cocktail. Not had that before – very decadent with a slight fizz, the sort of drink that suggests Christmas is on its way but not here yet.
Now the menu isn’t really split into starters and mains and they do refrain from calling them different sized plates (good!) We were talked through each dish and decided to order 4 as we were told they are not so large. The Watercress Soup had a slight peppery, silky way about it. The twist on that Italian staple of Tonnato replaced the usual veal with Roast Pork and added Crispy Potatoes into the mix – well sitting on top actually. This was very high on the comfort food scale. It had the bite of the anchovy but was kept under control (and thus comfortable) by softness of the tuna sauce. Then there was a pause and we chatted and looked at interiors a bit closer, there were those light bulbs that have the lower half painted silver, everywhere – they give a slight uplighter effect. It makes being there seem quite sinful. Perfect.
A Squash, Walnut and Rocket Risotto was presented, it was smooth and creamy and frankly didn’t last long. We had decided to share each dish so it became a race to make sure we each had our ‘fair’ share. I must remember not to that again if I think I’m on to a winner like this. Then a classic lesson in how to cook a Steak Sandwich with Caramelized Onions in a home made Ciabatta with Tripple Cooked Chips. We didn’t talk at all for a few minutes as we worked our way through the crusty bread and pink meat. Very good indeed and at £9, a complete steal.
On Sundays they already have a growing loyalty in locals who ensconce themselves in for lunch with their families and stay the afternoon. The menu changes daily here so if you see something that takes your fancy then order it pronto as it might not be around next time.
We concluded with a Semifreddo with excellent Shortbread topped with pomegranate seeds, which is available by the scoop – forward thinking with kids around. I had a very well looked after Vacherin Cheese with in house Chutney and home made biscuits which had fennel and caraway seeds sprinkled over. The gooey glory of this cheese matched with unsung biscuits (just called biscuits on the menu?) was a winning combination of texture and abounding flavours.
The food here is simple and honest, most of the dishes cost £5 – £7 but are not too large, but that does leave plenty in the kitty for some of the craft beers and intelligently chosen wines on offer, a lot of which are available by the glass so you can flit about the globe without any conscious. The Rookery has only been open a few weeks and is still stretching its wings but I think it will be flying solo in no time at all. So, for your après-Clapham Common go to the Rookery, find your perch and order that Steak Sandwich.
69 Clapham South Side
London SW4 9DA
Tel: 020 8673 9162