Balham Bowls Club remains to many as a favourite secret bar, the club is yet to hit the mainstream 'grubby but trendy' bars - thank goodness. Based in the old lawn bowling club, much of the decor remains - ignore the members only & guests sign in signs, though you can become a member for £10 which gives you access to use one of the two full size snooker tables (very rare in pubs in London) it's free to play on a Monday, £5 per hour the rest of the week.
A visit to the Bowls club isn't complete without tasting one of the homemade sausage rolls (75p a pop) these become a required addition to any round.
One of my favourite pubs in London.
I do like Antic pubs, so was pleased to finally be able to drop by Balham Bowls Club. While it lived up to my expectations in some areas, in others, such as the food and beer availability, I was somewhat disappointed.
Any lingering uncertainties over whether I'd found the right place were quickly dispelled by the sight of pushchairs, parents and children enjoying the sun in the beer garden. The tunes were '90s classics - You Got the Love being one of the memorable ones. The interior is a predictable if pleasing mix of battered country home and wooden tables and chairs.
The beer, however, was disappointing. Antic's better pubs (e.g. the Jam Circus in Brockley) have embraced the craft beer revolution and have interesting, locally-sourced beer on their taps. Here.. not so much. There was a nice cider that my girlfriend went for, but otherwise about the most interesting thing I could find was a Steph Weiss, which turned out to be possibly the least exciting wheat beer I've ever tasted. The food on the bar menu was better - a tasty sausage roll for £1.50 and a generous pile of pitta bread, dips, rocket good value at £7. We wondered if we might stay for dinner.. until we discovered that they don't serve main meals! Wow. So off we went.
The bar food, free wifi and music are great. But Balham Bowls Club would be better if they took a leaf out of the book of other Antic pubs when it comes to food and beer.
A lovely looking pub. You can see why it is so popular locally.
The first time I visited the beer range was a little bit disappointing, the choices common and predictable. 2nd time I dropped by I was pleased to find a couple of beers I had never seen before. I went for Neolithic from the Caveman brewery and it was very nice!
I love this place. It is such a cool and quirky bar and anything goes here. You cannot help but feel at home. It has got a great outdoor area at the back, although no heaters which is not so good in winter. It has heaps of space and there are loads of little corners to hide away. There are big comfy sofas to curl up in and it has masses of ecclectic charm. The vibe here is welcoming and my friends who had travelled up from Bristol were full of praise on how friendly everyone in the bar was, which certainly counteracts the view some people have of us London folk!
The food here is great too. We had Sunday lunch here on Sunday and it was fantastic. The pork belly was melt in the mouth and the roast potatoes cooked in duck fat were seriously moreish. The only negative was the vegetarian option, which was frankly a pathetic effort. My friend, a vegetarian, ordered the vegetable loaf and it was embarrasing to see what she received - a couple carrots and some other random veg squashed together. She was left hungry and it is for this reason I am deducting a point. However the dessert was delectable and this went a long way in redeeming the vegetarian failure!
The staff here are really good as well - very friendly and helpful. If you are eating here, partiularly for Sunday lunch you will need to book. It is a big room with plenty of space but this is really popular for good reason and fills up really quickly.
This is my favourite bar in Balham and well worth a visit if you are in the area, unless of course you are a vegetarian;)!
Had my first experience of the BBC last night and we had a lot of fun!
Having played a lot of rugby in my time, it felt like i was in some antiquated rugby clubhouse in the arse end of nowhere. It had a distinctly West-country vibe, but maybe I was getting too involved and carried away?
We were surrounded by a relaxed and, at 11pm on a Saturday, very inebriated clientele all having fun.
Yes the toilets could do with a makeover and perhaps the staff could be a little more interested in quicker service than having fun amongst themselves but that's just silly gripes.
I was also very happy to find Tusker beer behind the bar, reminding of me some fun times gone by in Africa.
I'll be back on a Sunday next as I suspect this would be a great place to chill out with the paper and some recovery beers.
This place is cool.
Yup, its chilled, quirky decore, cool background music, plenty of rooms and fun spaces including a restaurant bit out back.
Its got a good range of alco-mahol and is just an all over-cool place to go/be/hangout.
It also has bunting inside. I have bunting in my living room, so I'm a fan of that year round naff British street party decoration.
Good place for the trendy sorts to pass some time in Balham.
Balham does a good line in cavernous drinking establishments (The Bedford, The Exhibit) but the bbc is the one with the most character.
A maze of rooms full of mis-matched furniture, strange decor and ornaments and knick-knacks, it's got a really laid-back vibe and seems to attract a real mix of people.
As you'd expect, there are plenty of beers and ciders to choose from. Wine is served in a glass or a carafe (no 'small' and 'large' here) and is drinkable and then forgetable.
The food is not really my bag. Right now it's a a relatively pretentious take on English grub (no chips, it's all posh mash and glazed vegetable) and its quite expensive, though those famous sausage rolls are still available. I tried the Sunday lunch last Summer out in the back beer garden, and it was pretty decent - huge portions and loads of gravy which is always a winner. But generally, I'd say come here for relaxed drinks, not good grub.
The Balham Bowls Club is affectionately known as BBC to locals and frequent visits. It's name derived from it's origins as a bowls club, catering for the more mature audience.
Despite very little refurbishment work having been done, under a new management it's now a vibrant drinking hole that offers a range of eclectic drinks above and beyond Stella.
Think of it as a series of interconnected panelled rooms that harks back to austere 1950's Britain.
To seal the deal I would recommend you get the legendary home made sausage rolls, which due to their popularity go pretty darn quick
This is an old working man's pub which has been redone and turned into a classic example of old meets new.
The interior has all the signs of it's former glory, and outside there is room to relax in the summer months. My one quibble is the cost of the drinks, about 3.60 for a pint. I mean even in balham that's a lot. I haven't tried the food, but will update this if I do.
Also, even though it's no longer a working man's place, you still feel slightly unwelcome at times, because it still kinda feels like one. Anyway, make your own minds up, but remember, there's a lot of pubs around here, so places have got to keep their standards up.
I love the Balham Bowls Club! It took me ages to find and then brave it, as from the outside it can look pretty non-descript. I'm so glad I did.
Not only do they have the most charming and efficient bar staff in London* but the atmosphere, the whole quirky, idiosyncratic feel of the place is just lovely. Not too pretentious but absolutely unique.
It feels cosy and welcoming, while being quite a spacious place. There are leather chairs, wooden pews and benches and all sorts of unexpected items of furniture, and a little bit of random bowls paraphernalia, tucked away here and there. It's sensitively lit while not feeling gloomy and there's something curiously intimate and romantic about the place.
The clientele seem on the whole pretty decent and inoffensive. You have to endure the odd Rah in collars and pashminas talking about what a, you know, like sariously orrrr-sum time they had in En-fair-Nose last night, but such is life.
The music they play is just fantastic and most importantly, it is background music! It doesn't attempt to be heard over/drown out the pleasant sound of a good pub; it just complements the atmosphere when things are quiet. Kudos my friends. Well done!
They don't have a vast selection of drinks on draft but I admire that. I know people have different tastes but, on the whole, if you have one standard and one premium continental lager, a cider, stout, bitter and one other (Hoegaarden if my memory serves me correctly?) then you've pretty much catered for any one (other than those who won't be happy anywhere) And the wine list is pretty good.
The BBC keeps a very good Tim Taylor's Landlord, of which I am a fan. And frankly there is little point in living in SW12/17 unless you like Tim Taylor's Landlord and is nigh on the only beer not brewed by Youngs that you can get.
I don't like the food.
No! I hear you gasp!
Is it because it's a little bit pretentious and over priced but if you were being fair you'd be forced to admit that it's actually very imaginative and interesting and People like that kind of stuff?
Yes. Yes that's exactly it. It's just so fussy and noncy and would really make me excited if I saw it in a restaurant. But not in a pub please?
Basically, as I've said before and I shall say again, life is too short to poach quail eggs.
How ever, I shall let this flaw pass, docking but one star for the fact that one can't get a sandwich, because in every other way the place just rocks. (And the food is actually really interesting! But don't tell anyone I said that.)
I think I've covered everything. Apart from the massive rooms with pool and snooker tables (for members only. Membership is about a quid I think. And there's no need to pay in advance) front and back beer gardens (which shan't win awards but they are, like the rest of the pub, comfortable and quirky), and did I mention that the staff are charming? I think they also do book clubs and chess clubs and fight clubs (from which I'm now, presumably, banned), something to cater for everyone! Think of it like the Bedford but shrunk down to a sensible size, but where everything is nice rather than horrible.
*This may be an exaggeration, but not much of one
I liked it. Went on Saturday night, it was busy but not horribly packed. I only went to the bar once but got served pretty quickly despite the crowd, there were plenty of bar staff. As others have said, drinks selection isn't very interesting, but this seems more a place you'd go to have a good time with some mates and what you're drinking doesn't really matter.
Didn't try any food, the sausage rolls smelt lovely though. But be warned, my friend was not impressed to discover that they weren't still doing them at around midnight.
Quite a unique place, but all the better for it. Totally unmatched, old and worn furniture (seemingly what was left over from when it was an actual Bowling Club), but somehow it works and makes for an incredibly relaxed and comfortable place to have a drink.
They also do something they call international tapas and some bar food, but I haven't tried that yet so can't comment. Noticed that they just opened one of the additional rooms as well, with a couple of pool tables in it, which appear to be in regular use already.
And finally - free Wifi! Can't argue with that..
I went here for my birthday this year as I'd heard good things about it. From the outside it looks like a house andon the inside it's like an old man's working mens club yet full of trendy indy kids. I really liked it in here, it's spacious so good for big groups though you might not find seats straight away. There are also two massive pool tables in the back room. The bar is pretty small but you get served quickly.
They don't play music which I found quite weird but there is such a good buzzy atmosphere it doesn't really matter. It shuts at normal pub closing time but you can nip next door to be@1 for a few late night cocktails until 1pm if you want to carry on!
Balham Bowls Club feels so close to being a very cool local pub, but fails on one major area.
It stocks a terrible selection of beers. From memory, the only decent thing they serve is Guinness, with the rest being some fairly average lagers. More importantly - it doesn't have a single ale behind the bar - local or otherwise.
The result is that this feels like a (bad) brewery pub masquerading as a trendy independent.
Nice to see this has had so many good reviews already. I walk past the BBC club most evenings after work, and was always surprised at how quiet it was despite a lush and cosy-looking interior, thought it may be a secret, members only gentlemen's style club.
So I was pleased to be invited to a friend's birthday bash over the weekend, where I discovered that it is in fact open to everyone, and incredibly popular but always so roomy due to 4+ large rooms, furnished with comfy sofas and huge dining tables.
There were three areas reserved for parties and still heaps of room left over for the passer-by. And despite the amount of space, it still manages to be very warm and cosy.
Drinks were reasonable. A large glass of wine is exactly that. A variety of bottled and draught beers (although nothing you haven't seen before). And yummmmy-yet-gluggable strawberry and lime cider.
Only cons: Toilets could do with occasional attendance, as far as I could tell there were only two ladies cubicles throughout the whole pub. And on that night one was - let's just say - a write-off, so a bit of a queue formed as the evening went on.
And as much as I love the unique decor, a feature that I wish more pubs employed, anyone noticed the spooky portrait of smiling child in the front room?? Don't look her in the eyyyyyyes!!!!
My friend brought me here for a couple drinks and I have to say it was great! Pints were inexpensive, good beers on tap, great snacks, and quirky decor (somewhat strange cross of old man club combined with a bit of rundown-ness and maybe a twist of irony) with lots of small antlers hung about everywhere. Comfy couches. I'd be a regular if I lived there.
Nice, spacious, popular, good food, good rotating selection of beers, front garden, back garden, open 'til 12 (1 at weekends), friendly staff, generally nice people, gets busy but not mobbed, sometimes a little loud, generally just a nice hubbub, a good place for a cup of ale and a think.
I love the BBC. It's so chilled, has a really random mix of people and great pool tables. It is not an intimidating bar in anyway, so is a great place to wait for your friends. It can sometimes smell of sausage rolls and the staff can be a little slow but I will still give it 4 stars as it's my favourite local. There is a beer garden out the back in summer which closes early due to flats nearby.
This place is a bit crazy. I went there once after a couple of glasses of wine and got VERY freaked out by the weirdy portraits of Victorian Children adorning the walls. It felt a bit I'd stumbled upon a massive get together in someone's Gran's house with a pool table thrown in. There is so much random membrobelia on the walls and quite a musty smell in the air but this place really pulls in the crowds. It was certainly packed when we were there and you can definitely sense it was once a bowls club. From the outside the place looks really quaint and very enticing - definitely worth a visit.
Nice clubby feel, good service, rarely gets too crowded and a nice menu of drinks and bar snacks.
Great little place for a drink. Friendly staff. Large selection of drink choices. The ladies bathroom is very large and clean. (I know that may not be a biggie for everyone, but it is to me!) Lovely area behind building to sit and relax with your drink.
Wonderful place, brilliant food when its being served, FAB garden, and the greatest ambiance you can feel in Balham.
Inside is also lovely, with comfortable homely feel and weird and wonderful things dotted around the place for you to look atespecially when your date isn't all that brill to look at :P
We didn't realise at first that the Bowls Club was doing a roast - it wasn't advertised outside. But we liked the look of the menu by the door and fancied a Sunday afternoon glass of wine so thought we'd give it a go. It was really busy, we were asked if we'd booked which we hadn't but luckily they'd had a cancellation so we were taken straight to a table. The decor was great, it a huge room, felt nice and communal, like a school dining hall almost but full of families and other young-ish groups of friends. Great atmosphere. I had the pork belly and M had the 'vegetable loaf', and we had a glass of house red each - not sure what is was but perfectly pleasant. We didn't wait long for the food. Hands down the best roast I've had in ages. Presentation was great, bed of spring greens, what looked like roast rather than boiled carrots, CAULIFLOWER CHEESE, huge roast potatoes and the pork belly had a generous helping of crackling, which is one of my favourite items of food. The gravy was homemade and really tasty. Only complaint would be the roast potatoes were a bit too big and tasteless - I prefer crispy small ones. Pork belly was quite fatty but otherwise deliciously tender and moreish. All in all, a great meal. M was very pleased with his veggie alternative, a tasty slice of what looked like a nut roast. We'll be back!
This is my favourite pub in Balham. Interesting mix of beers and a quirky vintage style interior. Great atmosphere sitting outside on benches at the front during the summer months. They serve great food in a separate dining area and there is a function room for private events.
It's like walking into an old gentlemans club from the 50's, great atmosphere and perfect for an intimate evening, or if you prefer they have two full size snooker tables in their other Lounge!
I went on my own the first time and it felt totally relaxing just sat on a sofa with a beer and my book. Looking forward to summer with friend in the garden of this hidden gem
A definite south london favourite of mine. Wish there were more quirky places like this around. Want to know where they source all the fixtures and fittings as I love the style here! I swear their sausage rolls have got smaller though!
The people that go to this place are a sound bunch. A little gem.
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