Think New Cross is a one-way system bordered by chicken shops? Guess again. The area was dubbed the ‘New Cross Tangle’ in bygone years for its great knot of railways, and running through its centre is the ever-bustling thoroughfare of New Cross Road. Here nail salons look up at statues of Nelson, and bars and betting shops lie in the shadow of Ben Pimlott’s ‘squiggle’ sculpture atop Goldsmiths college.
Strikes by thousands of locomotive workers in the 1920s led a local paper to run the headline ‘Rowdyism in New Cross’ and this unruly raucousness lives on today : it has grown into a vibrant creative hub. It’s lauded as the birthplace of nu-rave (remember Klaxons?), and greats such as Mary Quant, Damien Hirst and Steve McQueen all honed their crafts here as Goldsmiths students.
As ever, where artists lead, gentrification follows. Uproar ensued when a Costa Coffee set up shop here, and favourite haunt The Hobgoblin (famous as the scene of not one but two bar brawls involving Shia LeBeouf) has turned into another boilerplate gastropub. But the road retains its unpolished vitality. Fresh-faced students down pints next to New Cross natives, jerk joints nestle next to artisanal coffee shops and laughs from eccentric comedy nights mingle with neighbouring metal gigs. Rowdyism still reigns.
A Guinness at SE14’s stalwart watering hole, The Marquis of Granby. This no-frills Irish pub attracts a rich collection of punters from old-time locals to art students. Swig a pint under a photo of the road in former days, while watching the horse racing.
A pale ale at cosy boozer The Amersham Arms, which also runs guest DJ nights with indie celebs to quench your musical thirst.
An expertly poured negroni at LP Bar. If cocktails are your thing, this tiny bar decorated with kitsch aero-nautical knick-knacks serves an inventive and delicious array.
A pint of locally brewed ale on a leather sofa at The Royal Albert. This Victorian den is a home from home, with laidback live jazz on Sundays for a magical evening.
Handmade pizza kneaded in front of you and cooked in a wood-fired stone oven at the decoratively tiled New Cross House.
Something healthy with quinoa in at compact café The London Particular.
Perfectly spiced Caribbean jerk pork at Cummin’ Up. You’ll smell the shop before you reach it, and, oh, will it live up to expectation.
Perfect falafel and mammoth-sized burgers at Chinwag.
Spit some tunes at The New Cross Inn’s weekly open mic night. A venue for hardcore music fans, the Inn offers some great live shows, particularly if you have a penchant for bands with at least one profanity in their name.
Catch some experimental comedy at Out of the Brew. A recent addition to the street, this coffee shop hosts events for all persuasions – try one of its evening supper clubs or art exhibitions.
Take a short walk up to Telegraph Hill Park where you can watch the sun set over Canary Wharf, safe in the knowledge you won’t bump into anyone wearing a suit.
A classic paperback at The Word Bookshop. It specialises in academic texts, but there’s plenty for anyone to sink their teeth into here.
Second-hand vinyl and fresh veg at Dig This Nursery. It’s housed in Hungarian restaurant The Rosemary, so you can even tuck into some goulash after you shop.
And if you only do one thing…
By Alex Sims, who’s neither new nor cross.