With 33 bridges over the Thames you wouldn’t think there would be much trouble getting people from north to south. But for many folk there seems to be an invisible force field just beyond the Southbank.
The brave souls that do venture further are always surprised that we have roads, street lights, even schools. Not to mention plenty of fab places to eat and drink. So, as I’m often banging on about how great south east London is to anyone that will listen, I thought I would share some of my favourite haunts here. I challenged myself to include just five places to eat, and five to drink, which was really tricky as I have so many favourites, hence why this post is a little delayed and I’ve been silent for a week… So have a read and let me know if you have any firm faves. If you want more recommendations please get in touch – comment on here or tweet @saretaskitchen.
TOP FIVE EATING SPOTS
MALOKO is somewhere we literally stumbled across one Sunday after an afternoon of sampling Camberwell‘s fine drinking establishments (The Tiger, The Sun of Camberwell and Hermit’s Cave to name a few). It’s vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free which is probably one of the dreamiest combos I could come across! The staff are super smiley and welcoming, and it has a homely vibe about it with large comfy armchairs, scribbles on the walls and hessian sacks for ceiling covers – not sure why the sacks make it homely but they do! The menu is nice and simple: buckwheat crepes with various fillings – both sweet and savoury, and they can take specific requests too. Sweet potato and spinach is my fave. It’s also BYOB if you fancy a boozy drink with your meal, but they do freshly made juices in the café.
Nearest station: Denmark Hill (Overground and National Rail)
BABUR could easily be missed, wedged in the quieter area between Forest Hill and Honor Oak Park, if it weren’t for the giant tiger on the front of the building, that is. I’d never tasted Indian cuisine like Babur’s before in a restaurant – being half-Indian makes going for a curry with me a nightmare usually! It is full of exciting flavours and unique dishes which I can actually get excited about and will be why it wins so many awards. My favourite is the veggie thali, which in other Indians can be really boring, but this one has inventive dishes such as paneer makai tawa masala (creamy homemade cheese curry) and green bean fogath (steamed Goan-inspired beans). Meat-atarians also have loads to choose from including buffalo with okra and clove-smoked lamb chops. I also love the homemade pickles and chutneys so don’t pass on these thinking they will be the usual bland ones. They recommend different wines for every single dish and do lots of cocktails too. If you can’t be bothered heading to the restaurant there’s also a takeaway, Babur To Go in Crofton Park, which delivers across most SE postcodes. Nearest station(s):
Forest Hill and Honor Oak Park (both Overground and National Rail)
URBAN ORIENT in Crystal Palace is my favourite Vietnamese place in the whole of London, not just the south. It has a really simple menu of phò, bún, salad and other dishes. I usually go for the Phò Chay (tofu and vegetable broth), with tofu that really melts in your mouth, or the Bún Hue (spicy noodle soup) for an extra spice kick. It’s the type of place you should go to hungry, so you can feast on starters too – dim sum and other appetisers like spring rolls and savoury pancakes – yum! The staff are really cheerful and welcoming, it’s got a very family-run vibe. It’s BYOB which means even more gold stars from me – and a much cheaper night out than central London!
They don’t have a website but the address is 74 Westow Street, London SE19 3AF and telephone is 0208 616 4511.
Nearest station(s): Crystal Palace (Overground and National Rail) and Gipsy Hill (National Rail)
MODEL MARKET in Lewisham is a foodie’s dream, bringing Street Feast south of the river (they also run pop ups in Dalston, Shoreditch and Hackney). Situated in a disused market, round the back of Lewisham shopping centre, this just reopened last week (April 2015) for the summer months. There are eight different traders each week – check online to see who’s there for the week ahead. I absolutely love Mama’s Jerk Station for their veggie patty bean cakes and Rola Wala for their dahl naan roll. I’m excited to see who pops up when I visit on the May Bank Holiday! The choice and variety is brilliant as it means you can eat differently from your friends (always handy if you’re veggie!), all for fairly cheap. Plus with several bars dotted around the site, makes it a fab place for a night out. Model Market is a much more mixed crowd than other pop ups in London – you’ll get grannies happily sipping on cocktails next to younger locals, then families having a nice meal out out just across from them, which is fairly reflective of many places in south east. Hopefully these chilled vibes will continue as it gets more well-known in it’s second year.
Nearest station: Lewisham (DLR and National Rail)
KITCHEN 54 in Peckham is not an obvious choice for a vegetarian, as it’s essentially a chicken shop (and no, I’m not that type of vegetarian), but it does so many mean veggie sides that I absolutely love it! These sides include mac cheese, BBQ beans, corn bread and slaw, complimenting the main menu of chicken and ribs. There are also loads of veggie options on the brunch menu including veggie hash, scrambled eggs and pancakes, plus some sandwiches and subs. I’m not into waffles but if you are then you’ll be in sugar heaven with banoffee, peanut jelly and candied pecan just some of the flavours on offer. And it is super cheap! With in-house DJs, friendly staff, an – as yet – unpretentious crowd and BYOB, it’s definitely a double thumbs up from me!
Nearest station: Queen’s Road Peckham (Overground and National Rail)
TOP FIVE DRINKING HOLES
CATFORD CONSTITUTIONAL CLUB is probably my favourite pub in the whole of London. Gentrification is slowly reaching this corner of London – most famous for a dilapidated dog track and giant plastic cat – but the locals from the previous boozer down the road mix with the newer arrivals making it a really nice, mixed crowd. Owned by the Antic group, who know a think or two about shabby chic, this old Conservative club has it all: authentic exposed beams, a super sparkly chandelier and photos of creepy families adorning the walls – and not just the ones of Charles and Di. There is a separate restaurant area and the food is absolutely amazing – by far the best pub food I’ve had in London. Like all Antic pubs the beer and wine lists are vast and ever-changing. There’s a cute, wee side room that can be rented out, they host regular comedy and open mic nights, and if you like pretty toilets then definitely get down to the CCC!
Nearest station(s): Catford and Catford Bridge (National Rail)
The SYLVAN POST in Forest Hill is another Antic pub favourite (we’ve invented a game called Antic bingo: quite simply this involves going round London striking off their various pubs. Great Sunday afternoon fun). This converted ‘60s post office is where I love to come for a Sunday pint, roast and some board games. Here, you can sit inside the old money vault – which freaks me out a bit as although it’s wedged open I’m always scared it’ll shut – or in the back office in amongst retro files and postage stamps. For someone who’s favourite game was playing post office and who dreamt of working in a sorting office, this is pretty dreamy. The only thing better would be if Paperchase had a bar in it (that would be such a pretty bar…. Anyway, as with all Antic pubs, they have a good selection of cask ales and beers, decent wines, and a really great food menu. Oozing baked camembert – ’nuff said. Friday and Saturday nights are usually quite buzzing and there’s sometimes events or DJs, and on Tuesdays there is a quiz.
Nearest station: Forest Hill (Overground and National Rail)
LITTLE NAN’S cosy living room first opened it’s doors in an unassuming building in Deptford, hosted by grandson Tristan (not the same as my Tristan, to avoid confusion). However, the anti-fun licensing gods that run London issues with licensing led to Nan taking up residency in Birdie Num Nums in New Cross. Recently Nan has has been spreading her vintage-cloaked, cocktail-swilling love, across south London throwing brilliant house parties, discos and afternoon teas in places like Greenwich, Telegraph Hill and Stockwell. What makes Nan’s different to a lot of the other ‘vintage’ places in town is that it genuinely feels like you could be round Tristan’s nan’s house. And the cheap cocktails in teapots – named after various royals, soap stars and politicians (I love a Paddy Ashdown), disco tunes and friendly punters, always contribute to a fun night at Nan’s! In May, Little Nan’s will be migrating to Shoreditch for a few months but will be back south for the occasional pop up, and hopefully a more permanent home.
Nearest station: varies depending on location so check the website.
BAR STORY in Peckham is somewhere I always have a great time and – controversially – a preference in my books to nearby summer rooftop bar, Frank’s. The 2-4-1 cocktails every day from 6-7pm aren’t the only reason I love it, but they definitely help! The pizzas are totally boss (2 for £10 on a Tuesday) and they also serve salads and snacks for the non-pizza fans around, and they do brunch at the weekend. It’s got an industrial feel about it, being located in a railway arch, and has a really good beer garden out front, complete with big fires on the colder days we usually get. On a Saturday night it can take a while to get served so be prepared to get your elbows out – and maybe order two drinks at once! Bar Story closes at 11pm on Friday/Saturday, 10pm through the week and 9pm on Sundays, which is quite early for London, but it does mean you have time to check out other surrounding pubs (The Montpelier round the corner is usually my next stop).
Nearest station: Peckham Rye (Overground and National Rail)
THE IVY HOUSE in Nunhead was London’s first community-owned pub (the Antwerp Arms in Tottenham has just become the second) and you really do get a sense of community every time you’re there. Customers and staff know each other as many of them are amongst the 371 shareholders, but even non-shareholders are really friendly and chatty. The first time we went, we were actually shocked at how helpful the barman was being. ‘Why would he recommend beer to us?’ went through our cold London minds. Being community-owned also gives the pub more freedom in what ales and beers they have on offer, meaning they change regularly and usually includes local favourites like Brockley Brewery or Late Knights. The pub has three rooms with regular gigs and events including beer tastings and yoga. Sign up to their newsletter to find out what’s going on as there’s so much to tell you about here. I’ve not eaten here yet but I have it on good authority that the Sunday roasts are banging!
Nearest station(s): Brockley (Overground), Nunhead and Crofton Park (both National Rail)
If you would like me to devise a good pub/bar crawl route or a restaurant recommendation in south east London tweet @saretaskitchen – letting me know if you have a prefered area and I’ll get some ideas back to you!
If you’re looking for vegan places to eat in London check out my post here.