You can’t miss Deptford High Street. At the top end sits its famous anchor, returned by the council in 2018 after it was mysteriously removed five years earlier, supposedly because it attracted street drinkers (anchors are notorious for this). Over a quarter of a mile, it packs in a street market, a golden-clad library, one of London’s finest baroque churches, lots of Vietnamese restaurants and more history than you can shake a stick at. Stuff changes fast here. Recent years have seen tons of new openings (and a few closings) around the redeveloped Market Yard. A new food market is arriving. Locals fear that SE8’s character will be lost for ever, but – for now – it sails on. Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe, who was murdered in Deptford after quibbling about his bar tab, described ‘infinite riches in a little room’ in ‘The Jew of Malta’, and that just about sums up the high street. From the market traders to the post-church Sunday crush it’s some of London’s best street theatre. Stroll past the wet fish shops and the buckets of giant snails. Fuss the cats in Terry’s Discount. All human life is here. Plus a lot of other stuff.
Pub chain Antic caused a right hoo-ha when they opened The Job Centre, following their policy of naming bars after their former uses. ‘Shameful’ and ‘insensitive’ was the social media verdict on the name. They redid the frontage recently and revealed a ghost sign for ‘John Brittans Stores’, so they could have called it that and avoided all the fuss. It’s a big, shadowy concrete place with good beer and cocktails and a decent small-plates kitchen.
Get a punch or four in Jamaican bar-kitchen Buster Mantis on Resolution Way. There are meaty, jerky things to soak up the rum and a lot of great old-school reggae.
Little Nan’s Bar started in a windowless concrete bunker on Deptford Broadway. Now it’s rolled out to Catford and Fitzrovia. The original venue has closed, but its new SE8 home in Market Yard by the station is impressive, commanding three whole railway arches, and continuing to deliver a winning recipe of cocktails, kitsch and un-self-conscious fun.
Vegans rejoice! Occupying the bit of the Venn diagram where metal meets meat-free, The Waiting Room has an ethically fleshless menu, great coffee and Sabbath on heavy rotation.
Pho Hanoi is the pick of the Vietnamese joints: reliably delicious and not as packed as its Kingsland Road counterparts.
If you’re after caffeine and breakfast things, bike café London Velo offers bagels and top-notch coffee (plus they’ll fiddle with your sprockets).
Sister to Peckham’s celebrated Artusi, Marcella (along with the late lamented Winemakers) has brought a whole new level of sophistication to Deptford dining. Stunning small plates, a great wine selection and an always-buzzy atmosphere are a winning combination.
Have a pint and some spice at pub-curry-house mash-up Deptford Esquire. A hook-up between Little Nan’s Bar and Masala Wala Café, it has the granny’s parlour vibe of the former with the flavour of the latter.
Head to the top of the high street and on to the Broadway and visit artsy, volunteer-run Deptford Cinema. It has a great programme of cult movies, plus talks and other cool silver-screen shit.
Or head in the opposite direction to the bottom of the high street, over to Deptford Green and visit St Nicholas church. Christopher Marlowe is buried in the churchyard and its skull-and-crossbones gateposts are supposed to have inspired the pirate flag. You know, that one.
An anchor tattoo (at Kids Love Ink). Some art (at Bearspace). Some more art (at Enclave). Some chic vintagewear (at Rag ’n’ Bone).
Everything else (on the market).
If you only do one thing…
Don’t miss the flea market. It’s best on Saturday when it has mountains of old clothes, bric-à-brac and furniture. You’ll have to dig to find the gold, but it’s there, and the whole experience is kind of great. At packing-up time, traders ritually smash up stuff they can’t be arsed to take home.
By Chris Waywell, who is still confused about that bloody anchor.
Fancy a change of scene? Here are 12 reasons to go to Shacklewell Lane in Hackney, E8Share the story