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Deptford area guide

From cut-throat pirates to cutting-edge culture, Deptford has a long history of edgy cool. Here's your guide to a unique patch of south east London

In 2009, The New York Times proclaimed Deptford a must-visit destination, describing it as ‘a boisterous concoction of blue-collar aesthetics and intermittent hipsterism’ with ‘the most heady of urban ingredients: an edge'. What sets Deptford apart from its arty counterparts Soho and Shoreditch is its strong south London identity, and its history – clues to the area's past as a major dockyard hub can be found around every corner, and only add to its quirky charm. Want to add Deptford to your London to-do list? Read on for Time Out's guide to things to do in SE8, including its must-visit restaurants and places to drink.

Love London Awards: this year's winners

Restaurants

A J Goddard

Pie and mash shop.

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Bars and pubs

Birds Nest

There's plenty of pedigree to this south London boozer – once upon a time it was called the Oxford Arms, and it played host to the likes of Dire Straits and Squeeze. These days, live music still plays an important part.  That means gigs from Thursday to Sunday every week, plus there are open mic nights every Wednesday. There's variety, too – expect anything from blues, ska and folk to hardcore punk and alt-rock. Probably best to keep an eye on listings, then. Outside of the music there are monthly art exhibitions at their own 'Undercurrents Gallery', alongside a keenly priced daily food menu featuring dishes such as Thai pumpkin soup, Greek salad, chilli con carne, chickpea and spinach curry and a range of burgers. And if you miss the train home? There's a hostel upstairs.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Restaurants

The Waiting Room

A Deptford veggie and vegan café with one eye on the dude-food bandwagon. In addition to meat-free buffalo hot wings, sticky BBQ ribs, hot dogs and burgers there are cans of Brewdog and Beavertown beers, Union coffee, hard shakes, cocktails, staff with tattoos and rock on the radio. A world away from the patchouli-scented vegan spots of lore, then.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Shopping

Deptford Market

Most of Deptford Market is your standard south/east London fare: three-pack pants, timber wolf fleeces, Duracells and lighters. Halfway down its length, though, is a distended gut of impacted crap, presided over by two tennis umpires up stepladders who take money, dispense change and guard against pilfering. There’s a brisk turnover of domestic breakables and massive accretions of video cassettes that never seem to move – a Monument Valley of the VHS age. Haggling can be hit and miss: friends have witnessed stallholders smash items if they think barterers are taking the piss.  

Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Art

Art Hub Gallery

Gallery and events space.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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See the full results of this year's Love London Awards

Restaurants and cafés in Deptford

Restaurants

London Particular

Food, described as ‘classic English with a modern twist’, is treated with respect at this tiny café just by New Cross station. Particular by name, particular by nature, founder and head chef Becky Davey and her team source seasonal ingredients from small-scale producers, then prepare them freshly on the premises. Lunch shows vegetarian leanings – soft, tasty sweet potato and leek cakes served with halloumi, a salad and a beetroot dip, for example – while light suppers are meatier (rabbit rillette, harissa sticky pork ribs), but if you are the kind of person who encounters a vegetarian dish and thinks ‘this is delicious but it would be even better with bacon’ then you can add that too for an extra pound.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Restaurants

London Velo

Okay. Let’s put this on the table, then get it cleared away. London Velo will be seen as evidence of the G-word. To be fair, Deptford has supposedly been in the throes of ‘gentrification’ for so long that you wondered if the gents had just gone somewhere else. LV is a bike café that does a few simple things very well: coffee (from Union Coffee Roasters), cooked breakfast things, bagels, cakes, bike-fixing (they have a mechanic on site, and he was beavering away the two times I visited). It has Meantime beer and will bring you a pizza from The Big Red Bus round the corner in the evenings. It caters for vegetarians and vegans, has a friendly dog and the staff are lovely. It’s hardly revolutionary in London in 2015, but it sticks out on Deptford High Street like a sore thumb. I can’t feel too guilty about this. There’s clearly demand: it’s busy all the time, and the High Street is hardly blessed with great places to eat, unless your diet consists of little pens from bookmakers. Plus, in the dozen years I’ve lived in or near SE8, I never set foot in whatever preceded it on this site and I can’t remember what it was. So yeah, I like it a lot. Does that make me an oppressor? Maybe. But at least I’m an oppressor who’s just eaten a delicious bagel.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Bars and pubs in Deptford

Music

Amersham Arms

The nexus of south-east London's live music scene, the Amersham Arms brings together the character (and prices) of a trad pub with a souped-up soundsystem and 3am licence, a 300-capacity performance area, an upstairs arts space and a walled garden for smokers. From the same stable as Camden's ultra-fashionable Lock Tavern, the Amersham Arms's roster is dominated by London's hippest promoters, bands and beat-makers (Adventures in the Beetroot Field, Skull Juice, Rob Da Bank and The Teenagers to name a few) plus comedy from the likes of BBC3's We Are Klang. All that plus the best-value Sunday roasts in town. Forget the east, head south.

Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Restaurants Book online

Big Red

Quite how a No. 30 double decker ended up in Deptford is anyone’s guess – Toto, we’re not in Hackney anymore – but it seems to be having fun in its new location and new role as a pizzeria. Under the long concrete curve of an elevated section of the DLR, and with an unloveable portion of Deptford Creek tucked mercifully out of sight, it’s a surprisingly convivial spot, in part due to the boss who, despite coming across as a little otherworldly, is very friendly and thoroughly content with his eccentric operation. What of the comestibles? Drinks, served off a short blackboard list from a small booth by the entrance, run from a too heavily limed mojito (£5) via a couple of wines to some Meantime beers, while the food, produced in a small kitchen beside the bus, is pizza and a few salads. We tucked into the chorizo and black pudding pizza (£8) – one of half a dozen options on a second blackboard. Although punchy with flavour, the sausages left the dough a little soggy with fat. Still, the size is generous and the delivery prompt. There are seats and tables inside the stranded bus, of course, but also plenty more on the decking outside. Some sofas have a little shelter against sun and rain, as well as low tables that encourage poor posture among those nodding to a soundtrack of Billie Holiday, Sade and Depeche Mode. A sequence of tables for couples at the far end look like telephone booths built for the Chelsea Flower Show, awaiting wisteria, while planters of basil, honeysuckle,

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Bars and pubs

Dog & Bell

It’s perhaps not all the better for the refurb a little while back – whatever happened to that Empire-era map of India? – but the good old Dog & Bell still charms the local creatives and ale aficionados. Mounted art, even Fred Aylwood’s wacky collage, is now neatly framed; a gas fire in the corridor linking the two rooms is surrounded by tables, thus creating a third space. Beers include treats from Dark Star (Hophead included) and Fuller’s; draught Budvar comes in regular light and dark varieties; and a string of Belgian beers (Gentse Tripel, Liefmans) is individually labelled with little Post-it strips in the fridge. Food-wise, the place has moved a little upmarket (stuffed peppers?), but you can still get a dish of pork sausages, mash and onion gravy for £5.95. Also present: bar billiards, the lyrics to ‘Homeward Bound’ (not the Paul Simon tune but a music hall ditty mentioning this very pub) and, yes, the regulars. Plus Deptford, tu meurs.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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New Cross Inn

Without the attraction of regular live music or the guarantee of an easy drink after midnight, this large corner bar close to Goldsmiths would be as it was ten years ago: a workaday Irish pub selling nitrokegs to the low-waged and loan-dependent student. But since New Cross was transformed into ‘Rocklands’ (no, us neither), indie acts regularly thrash about while pierced types flock to the horseshoe bar or make out on the black sofas. If concentration is required for anything, it’s the pool table at the back. The team behind the place has also transformed the nearby Deptford Arms into something similar. Indie Über Alles!

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Things to do in Deptford

Shopping

Deptford Market

Most of Deptford Market is your standard south/east London fare: three-pack pants, timber wolf fleeces, Duracells and lighters. Haggling can be hit and miss: friends have witnessed stallholders smash items if they think barterers are taking the piss.

Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Read more
Theatre

Laban Theatre

Laban's Deptford location may seem far-flung, but the spacious south-east London spot allowed the venue to call itself the largest purpose-built contemporary dance centre in the world when its new building opened in 2002. 

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Comments

1 comments
Claire M
Claire M

Guys you are missing the best pub on Deptford High Street - The Job Centre! They are launching a very exciting Kitchen Hijack series tomorrow where OH MY DOG will be serving up their delicious hotdogs!! Come down and check them out!  Pineapple Jam DJs will also be there - coolest place in Deptford to be I reckon! Get it on the list ;)