Mark Bibby Jackson spends a night in The Windmill Clapham Common, via Stay in a Pub.

As I was checking into The Windmill in Clapham Common, it occurred to me that I had never stayed in a pub in London before. I had emerged tired eyed from a few after a lock-in back in the day, but I had never formally checked in for the night as it were.

Clapham is an area I knew well from the 90s when I used to live in Lewisham and Streatham. The Common was always an inviting place to stretch out on a lazy summer’s afternoon, especially after a hearty lunch. However, later at night it transformed like Dr Jekyll into an area best avoided unless your activities were somewhat nefarious. Perhaps it should have been called Hyde Park.

Which is why, as I walked the few minutes from the Clapham Common Tube station to The Windmill on a cold night in February, I was pleased to see the park full of activity. I was more in danger of being knocked over by an errant jogger than mugged. How times have changed – for the better.

The Windmill Clapham Common

The Windmill dominates the east side of the Common. A quite magnificent inn, it is now managed by the Youngs group, so you can be guaranteed some good London beer on tap. The Wandsworth brewery claims The Windmill is their “iconic pub” and with justifiable cause.

Whether it is for a traditional Sunday roast or to watch the Six Nations Rugby on one of the many widescreen TVs, there is something for everyone here. And it is most definitely dog friendly. There is even a large terrace area with pop up food stalls outside should the weather ever improve.

My room at the Windmill Clapham Common
My room at the Windmill Clapham Common

Alongside the pub is the hotel with 42 somewhat eclectic rooms. Mine was spacious with beautiful antique furniture, ample desk and clawfoot tub. Yes, my bedroom had its own bath in it. Not that I had sufficient time to enjoy it, as I had my dinner booked at the restaurant below.

Dining at the Windmill Clapham Common

The Windmill might be renowned for its Sunday lunch roasts but the quality of the food served on a February evening was not bad either.

I started with a very substantial goats cheese and fig tart. This I followed with an excellent sea bream served with new potatoes, samphire and smoked mussels served in a sorel cream sauce. The dish was originally intended for halibut, but the excellent staff explained they had run out of the fish, and suggested the sea bream as a most adequate replacement. The broth was most interesting, and the fish was perfectly succulent.

The Restaurant at The Windmill Clapham Common
Inside The Windmill Clapham Common

I chose a glass of the excellent Te Henga. A New Zealand pinot noir, I will certainly be taking note of this for the future.

Although the pub was crowded, the restaurant area was really chilled inviting me to linger for a spiced winter fruit Bakewell tart, which really was sheer indulgence.

Replete, I returned to my room to discover there was the full Sky Sports package on offer for free. So, mentally flipping the coin between Sky Sports and Movies, I promptly fell asleep in the most comfortable bed, as Tom Cruise did something totally impossible.

I awoke to hear the birds chirping away in the trees outside my window, which fronted onto the Common. Rejuvenated by the Nespresso coffee machine and strong shower – I am afraid the bath was somewhat neglected – I returned downstairs for round two in the restaurant.

Eggs Florentine for breakfast at the Windmill Clapham Common
Eggs Florentine for breakfast at the Windmill Clapham Common.

In truth, I no more needed a breakfast that morning than I did the Bakewell tart the evening before, but I adopt a Wildean approach to temptation, and followed the most enormous croissant with an eggs Florentine.

Sufficiently fortified, I was ready for my cultural assault on London.

Neglecting Clapham

When I had booked The Windmill, my intention was to explore the surrounding area, but it is somewhere I know relatively well – my accountant lives here. So, I forewent the attractions of Abbeville Road and instead headed back for the less salubrious ambience of the Northern Line to head into the heart of town.

This is one of the advantages of staying in Clapham. Although it has a local vibe – this is a place where people actually live and work – it is only a short journey into central London by bus or tube.

So, within half an hour or so I found myself at the Barbican, trying to unravel myself at its latest exhibition. Unravel: The Power and Politics of Textiles in Art is precisely that.

Hammock by Solange Pessoa, photo by Mark Bibby Jackson
Hammock by Solange Pessoa, Unravel at the Barbican

A wonderful examination of the way artists have used materials not traditionally associated with fine art to push boundaries and challenge conventions, it reminded me a lot of Beyond Form Lines of Abstraction currently showing at the Turner Contemporary in Margate, which adopts a similar approach. Both are well recommended.

My next destination was a couple of stops along the Hammersmith & City Line. The Whitechapel Gallery is the bastion of arts in the East End of London. It is currently showing Dreams Have No Titles, a solo exhibition by Zineb Sedira, an artist who lives in Brixton, which somehow seems to round my London circle.

The exhibition is highly personal, a homage to militant cinema of the 60s and 70s. As a film buff I found it most interesting, but it certainly is not for those whose idea of the movies starts and ends with Mr Cruise.

A most welcome stay in Town, I just wonder why I had never stayed in a pub in London before. The Windmill is a wonderful introduction to the pleasure of spending a night in a pub in London. I am sure it won’t be the last time I do so.

Outside terrace
Outside terrace at The Windmill Clapham Common

Things To Do in Clapham

Unlike Mark you might wish to choose to explore Clapham further – it certainly is worth it. For more information on what to do in this fabulous part of London, we suggest you visit This Is Clapham.

Stay in A Pub

Mark booked his stay at The Windmill with Stay in a Pub. Established in 2013, to inspire people to discover a new way to stay in the great British pub, the website has all sorts of stays in pubs across the UK and even the Isle of Man.

The Windmill Clapham Common

To discover more about The Windmill, click here.

All photos taken by Mark Bibby Jackson.