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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.

The best bits of Deptford

11 reasons to go to Deptford High Street, SE8
Blog

11 reasons to go to Deptford High Street, SE8

Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe, who was murdered in Deptford after quibbling about his bar tab, wrote of ‘infinite riches in a little room’, and that just about sums up the high street. Over its short distance, it packs in a street market, a golden-hued library, one of London’s finest baroque churches, lots of Vietnamese restaurants and more history than you can shake a stick at. You’ll have heard of its famous anchor, which for years sat at the Deptford Broadway end, before it was removed by Lewisham Council, supposedly because it attracted street drinkers (anchors are notorious for this, apparently). It was a symbol of Deptford’s maritime heritage but for residents its removal marks the gentrification front line. The old order changeth. A development around the station is bringing in coffee shops and boutiques, plus the inevitable flats. The artists are leaving. But Deptford has always ebbed and flowed like its muddy, atmospheric Creek, and for all the changes, its spirit remains unique. There’s something theatrical about it, from the market traders to the post-church Sunday crush. Stroll past the wet fish shops and the buckets of giant snails. Fuss the cats in Terry’s Discount. Pause by St Paul’s (which is not a Hawksmoor church, though people will swear it is). Sign a petition to get the bloody anchor back. All human life is here. Marlowe would have approved.  Drink this   A photo posted by BUSTER MANTIS (@bustermantis) on Jun 22, 2016 at 7:44am PDT

Giant snails and dwarf porn: welcome to Deptford Market
Blog

Giant snails and dwarf porn: welcome to Deptford Market

You want London's best market? Head to SE8, says Alexi Duggins. But be warned: you won't find any artisanal parmesan or vintage jumpsuits here. Odder stuff? Yeah, different matter.  © Chris Waywell The first time I went to Deptford Market, a white stallholder was yelling 'Sod off, Mohammed!' at a Muslim passerby. Suddenly the air was filled with shouting. People stopped to stare. The two men stepped towards each other. And, as incandescent glares met over secondhand books, for a hot, tense moment, time itself seemed to stop. Until they pissed themselves laughing. 'See you later, Dave!' 'Cheers, Mohammed!' Deptford Market doesn't play by the rules. To be honest, I'm not sure it even knows that there are rules. The bric-a-brac pitches of Douglas Way are less stalls than old stuff fly-tipped on to the pavement. At local discount shop El Cheap 'Ou (motto: 'Love you can afford'), there are packs of LED lights mixed in with the cheese ravioli. There are gigantic African land snails being sold by butchers rather than pet shops. Once I nearly bought a beautiful pair of green curtains. Until a dog started rolling around on them while the stallholder chucked him greasy sausages. But the stuff! It's the sublime and the fucked, all jumbled up then thrown to the ground and priced according to the vendor's mood. There are beautiful, azure Singer sewing-machines next to heaps of loo seats. Charming old leather suitcases propped against knackered dishwashers. Antique clocks and baro

Restaurants and cafés in Deptford

London Particular
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
London Velo
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
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Archie's Bar
Restaurants

Archie's Bar

Having spent a rather a lot of time lingering in front of The Cheese Truck’s stall in Maltby Street Market, watching them hand out obscenely oozy toasties while trying to hold back a waterfall of drool, I’ll admit to feeling pretty excited when Archie’s Bar, their new spot in a Deptford railway arch, opened. And I was right to be: these guys have pretty much perfected the grilled cheese sandwich. Take the one with Rosary goats cheese, honey, walnut and rosemary butter, for example – it’s deliciously creamy with just a hint of sweetness, and spiked with a satisfying nutty crunch. They could serve nothing but this and the place, I am sure, would be a runaway success. There’s also one with Cropwell Bishop stilton, bacon and pear chutney, which is powerful to the point of being a little bit overwhelming – but blue cheese enthusiasts will struggle to find a better hit anywhere. These delights, along with a couple of other options featuring carefully sourced British cheeses, are served in a straightforward space with exposed brick walls and a picture in the corner of the converted ice cream van that started the whole thing off (a note: there’s no loo, but you can make use of the public one a few doors down). There’s other stuff on the menu too, including stringy mozzarella sticks, a range of skillets filled with macaroni cheese, shakshuka and queso fundido, and some fondue fries that were the only real disappointment on our visit – they were a little overdone and the excessive g

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
The Brookmill
Restaurants

The Brookmill

The Brookmill is a pub that makes an impression before you even step inside. Located on a parkside road between Deptford and Lewisham, the curves of the building look like they’ve been smoothed with sandpaper. It’s very fetching, and I’d quite happily spend an evening staring at the exterior without even going in. But enter you should. A decent bar selection makes the most of the south London location, featuring beers from some excellent local breweries (Gipsy Hill Brewing Company and Brockley Brewery among them). The atmosphere is lovely too. Bare brick walls, a weathered wooden bar and mismatched furniture may seem a bit hackneyed, but it matters not; the space is inviting and cosy, and large windows give it an open and airy vibe. But drinking is only half of the story here, thanks to a tempting seasonal menu featuring things like burrata with aubergine caviar, beautifully presented and spiked with a fab combination of aubergine and golden raisins, if a little weak in flavour, and tuna tartare with macadamia nuts, which are soft and silky, but served in a high-sided bowl that made it fiendishly tricky to eat. Clearly this ain’t your average pub kitchen, though not all the dishes we had were this fancy. Mains were more straightforward – cuts of pork belly and beef sirloin were notable for the outstanding quality of the meat – as were the simple, but satisfying, crème brûlée and chocolate pot we had for dessert. Those tiny niggles aside, this is an exceptional boozer and

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Check out our favourite restaurants in Deptford

Deptford highlights

Albany Theatre
Theatre

Albany Theatre

The roots of The Albany date back to 1899 when it was founded to encourage wellbeing in the poverty-ridden Deptford community. The 1970s saw the institute host theatre and music before a fire put paid to its artistic efforts. The Albany you see today was rebuilt in 1982 and, as a performing arts centre, has hosted a mix of theatre, music, comedy, spoken word and dance ever since. It continues to be rooted in the community with diverse, often participatory programming.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Little Nan's Bar
Bars and pubs

Little Nan's Bar

Remember when Pat Butcher came back from the dead? The homecoming of Little Nan’s Bar to Deptford – it originally opened in 2013 and was forced to close in 2014 – feels just as euphoric. The ‘EastEnders’ analogy will make sense to those who experienced the pure joy of visiting the bar in pop-up form, as it roamed around London waiting to find a way back to Deptford. It’s a retro living room parody in a railway arch at Deptford Market Yard, with leopard print, china and Pat references aplenty. The little nan in question belongs to Tristan Scutt, who refers to himself as the grandson of this operation. He set up the bar in honour of his late grandmother (who made it to 104), and has been very clear that while it’s all vintage, there’s nothing ‘shabby chic’. Instead, it’s full-throttle ’80s front room fetishism, with cocktail menus hidden inside Charles and Diana memorabilia books, mocktails served in leopard-print mugs, soap stars in photo frames and cat-covered cushions galore. You can order cocktails by the teapot, or go solo and get a cocktail umbrella in the bargain. The drinks are on the sweeter, sillier end of the scale, my Chief Girl of Deptford being a bubbly mix of gin, prosecco, lemon and Morello cherry syrup, which tasted a bit like a boozy cherry Vimto. Snacks are true Brits – from a cracking fish-finger sarnie to hoops on toast if you’re into nostalgia. They even stuck sparklers in our portion of hipster fries (dusted with paprika). If you’re trying to make sens

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

Bars and pubs in Deptford

Amersham Arms
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
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Big Red
Restaurants

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
Dog & Bell
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
  • 5 out of 5 stars
New Cross Inn

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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Big Red
Restaurants

Big Red

The Big Red is currently home to a pop-up called Wünderlust 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

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Deptford Market
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
Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden
Attractions

Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden

A volunteer-run community garden in Deptford. It's open to all on Saturdays and there are regular gardening and cooking workshops on Fridays.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Little Nan's Bar
Bars and pubs

Little Nan's Bar

Remember when Pat Butcher came back from the dead? The homecoming of Little Nan’s Bar to Deptford – it originally opened in 2013 and was forced to close in 2014 – feels just as euphoric. The ‘EastEnders’ analogy will make sense to those who experienced the pure joy of visiting the bar in pop-up form, as it roamed around London waiting to find a way back to Deptford. It’s a retro living room parody in a railway arch at Deptford Market Yard, with leopard print, china and Pat references aplenty. The little nan in question belongs to Tristan Scutt, who refers to himself as the grandson of this operation. He set up the bar in honour of his late grandmother (who made it to 104), and has been very clear that while it’s all vintage, there’s nothing ‘shabby chic’. Instead, it’s full-throttle ’80s front room fetishism, with cocktail menus hidden inside Charles and Diana memorabilia books, mocktails served in leopard-print mugs, soap stars in photo frames and cat-covered cushions galore. You can order cocktails by the teapot, or go solo and get a cocktail umbrella in the bargain. The drinks are on the sweeter, sillier end of the scale, my Chief Girl of Deptford being a bubbly mix of gin, prosecco, lemon and Morello cherry syrup, which tasted a bit like a boozy cherry Vimto. Snacks are true Brits – from a cracking fish-finger sarnie to hoops on toast if you’re into nostalgia. They even stuck sparklers in our portion of hipster fries (dusted with paprika). If you’re trying to make sens

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
See the full results of last year's Love London Awards

Comments

2 comments
Martin K
Martin K

new cross is not Deptford. honestly time out writers have such poor knowledge of London


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 ;)