Over the last few years Balham has become a go to place for great food and funky bars. Despite the streets being occasionally clogged with 4x4 push chairs replete with yummy mummies and designer labels the dating single can find some great place to find refreshment.
Just off Balham High Road sits a gem of a pub. The Balham Bowls Club (or The BBC as it's known to the locals), is run by the innovative Antic chain and boasts character that has been sadly disappearing from London's streets as the larger breweries increase their strangle-hold on the city's drinking holes.
As former lawn bowls club house which was closed in the 1980's, many of the original features have been lovingly left hanging giving the place an authentic retro feel.
Off the small main bar are several of half rooms with old Chesterfield sofas and a the hint of an old private members club, while the front room offers a more intimate space replete with open fire, a variety of seating options and more old lawn bowls paraphernalia. The large dining room continues the theme but with less clutter, lending an air of opulence to what could easily have descended into kitsch. Upstairs is a huge open function room with separate bar that hosts the weekly pub quiz, monthly comedy, monthly vintage clothing market and various other gigs and events.
You'll find a garden to the rear and more outside seating out front.
The bar is stocked with a standard tap array plus some interesting beers and ciders and a surprisingly good - and cheap - wine selection. But it's the food that really surprises. Even when busy, service is remarkably quick with a broad selection of bar food and an exquisitely prepared gastro menu for the dining room. And at around 7pm word of mouth sees the main bar crowded by those in the know, waiting for the justifiably famous sausage rolls that are sold over the counter every evening.
The friendliness of the service is what this part of South West London bar has become known for, serving a mixture of locals justifiably smug that they have such a cracking local, and those who have been tempted by the growing fame of the pub's gastro menu.
It holds together beautifully and is equally suited to a dark ale in front of the fire, or a cool lager in the newly renovated beer garden.
If it's affordable gastro fare with a good drinks selection, served by wonderfully relaxed and friendly staff in one of South London's most original and atmospheric pubs you're looking for, then the BBC is for you.
Is it right for a first date?
Definitely, there's loads of quiet nooks and crannies and plenty of seating for you and your date. You won't have to shout to make yourself heard and the food and drink are good-quality and well priced. For more privacy choose a day Sunday to Thursday.
Arrive at 7pm and grab one of their famous sausage rolls. Perfect for post work sustenance.
The Original Dating verdict
If you're looking for a casual place with more than a hint of retro cool you'll love The BBC. It's a firm favourite of Balham Locals for good reason.
Original Dating rating (out of five)
Balham Bowls Club, 7-9 Ramsden Road, Balham, London, SW12 8QX
020 8673 4700