The appeal of Isla Ray lies in its ramshackle lack of novelty. It’s a café, bang in the tumult of Deptford’s loveably grungy High Street market – a few minutes’ walk but stylistically miles away from the fancy, foodie Market Yard. That’s not to say it swerves the area’s artsy vibe: the theme here is ‘chintzy tropicalia with added neon’. There’s a giant seahorse sculpture. Piles of community mags. Uncomfortable vintage furniture and some vaguely psychedelic ’60s nonsense on the stereo. It’s cosy.
Food-wise, it does solid sourdough sarnies, bagels and a couple of salads (plus some sharing bits in the evening). There was nothing particularly thrilling about its tomato, mozzarella, salami and pesto toastie, or a minimalist brie and ham bagel, though the ingredients were decent. And, in fairness, I’d happily snaffle both again. But an open smoked salmon and mascarpone sandwich truly was ace, the silken cheese imparting a subtle sweetness and the whole lot festooned with teeny capers, dill fronds and radish. Basic, but thoughtfully built. There’s nothing to get too frenzied over here, but as reliable and quirky little spaces go, Isla Ray is textbook stuff.