A firm Clapham favourite comes of age with a grown-up new look but all of the same pulling power that has long made it a Saturday night hotspot.
A welcome escape from Clapham’s busy high street, SOUK Clapham can be found little more than a stone’s throw from the Common. Having recently undergone a chic makeover, its decor offers a break from the surrounding bar scene. Stepping inside you are greeted with a Moroccan-style lounge bar, complete with brown leather seating, ornately detailed lamps and a couple of predictable but fitting Buddha statues. Among the subtle aroma of incense you can enjoy a drink at the bar, which runs along one side of the room, or huddle around a candlelit table on the right. If you’re lucky enough to nab a seat on the sofa side of a table, you might end up feeling sorry for your companion perched opposite on a fairly uncomfortable-looking stool, but it seems on a Saturday night no one’s come for a quiet sit down. Just be warned, SOUK Clapham is not the biggest of venues, so arrive early if you don’t want to queue or fight for a space at the bar.
Everything from the chic decor to the attentive service makes for a relaxed drinking or dining experience early in the evening, but come nine o’clock the lights start to dim, the DJ starts to play a little louder and SOUK Clapham is transformed. Small groups of friends catching up over a glass of wine quickly turn into groups celebrating birthdays with cocktails and shots, and by ten o’clock the place is almost completely full of predominantly twenty-somethings from south London, looking for a good time. Perhaps bear this is mind when you plan your visit and make sure you book an early table if you’re there to eat, or you may feel like you’re at one of those ‘dining in the dark’ restaurants.
The low tables do make dining at SOUK Clapham a bit uncomfortable, but the food is worth the struggle. Taking inspiration from all over Asia, the menu offers crispy pancake duck rolls served with a rich hoi sin and plum sauce and grilled chicken skewers with a sweet chilli dipping sauce. There is also a hearty portion of authentic tasting chicken pad Thai with thick noodles topped with crushed peanuts, and a delicious beef stir-fry served with rice. It’s rare to find pan-Asian cooking in the capital with ingredients as fresh-tasting and high quality as these. The vegetables in the stir-fry are crunchy and the beef lean and tender. All suitably impressive when you consider the reasonable prices. However, you may be left feeling you’d have been happier to pay more for a larger portion of the beef.
SOUK Clapham is a destination for stylish cocktails rather than a casual pint. Clearly a serious business at the bar, a wide selection of cocktails are made using fresh ingredients and quality liquors. Thoughtfully divided into sections, the cocktail menu is easy to navigate boasting the majority of the classics as well as some original recipes. The Rapaska is a resounding favourite as a deliciously sweet concoction of fresh passion fruit and raspberries, raspberry vodka and pineapple juice, but the Honey Berry made with delicate honey vodka is also an unusual but tasty choice. As an established party venue, SOUK Clapham also offers sharing cocktails and a table bottle service.
The Last Word
SOUK Clapham remains a see and be seen bar with a bevvy of stylish cocktails to boot, but the food menu is by no means an after thought. If your idea of a good night starts with a steaming bowl of pad Thai and ends with a cocktail and a boogie, SOUK Clapham is definitely worth a visit.