Neighbourhood Guide: Deptford
Deptford is the perfect case study for the appeal of high-low culture. Shadows of its shipbuilding past sit beneath a present covered with cutting edge art. Natural-wine bars beside shops that have served authentic pie and mash for decades. It's as close to buzzing markets as it is to Surrey Quays, Bermondsey and the City.
Folkestone Gardens’ sycamore woodland and pond draped with willows offer a welcome escape from city life. But for a stroll with a difference, wade through Deptford Creek - London's so-called 'Grand Canyon'. Spot the rare wildlife on a tour with the Creekside Centre (and get your hands on thigh-length waders), or take some time out to connect with the great outdoors at Surrey Docks Farm – a working city farm and charity that educates the local community on farming, food production and the natural environment.
In this neck of the woods, The Albany – sister to the Canada Water Theatre – steals the limelight. But no evening feels as ‘Deptford’ as one spent at the Matchstick Piehouse, where live theatre, cabaret, comedy and music are served with plant-centric pies, mash and pints from South London brewers. The sweet potato and goats cheese pie goes down well with a Rodeo Pale Ale from Villages, brewed just up the road.
For more arthouse vibes, check out Deptford Cinema, where programmes have been themed around Nordic film and women directors. It’s searching for a new brick-and-mortar venue, but hosting pop-up screenings across the neighbourhood and online too. Grab a bag of popcorn and settle in for movie night watching the Deptford Storytelling Project, a collection of tales from diverse local filmmakers.
Stretching a quarter of a mile south from the famous anchor, Deptford High Street is lined with global eateries and local history (playwright Christopher Marlowe is buried at the nearby St Nicholas Church). Grab a coffee at bike-workshop-meets-café London Velo, or dip off the main drag towards the station and choose some fresh greenery at local plant shop, Forest.
A piece from Deptford Does Art is perfect for curating a gallery wall. Its shop and exhibition space on the high street is packed with prints by local artists. Plus, the kind of handmade jewellery, ceramics and one-off homewares that make it a go-to for nailed-it gifts. Check its calendar of events for workshops and cocktail nights.
For stocking your pantry: zero-waste, vegan-friendly shop Deli X (pick up one of its turmeric lattes for the walk home). Meat eaters: try W. H. Wellbeloved, a family-run butcher which has supplied locals with sausages and marbled steaks since the early 19th century. Look around the historic cottages of Tanner’s Hill while you’re there.
Head north to saunter along The Bermondsey Beer Mile, a dressed-up pub crawl between artisan brewers and bottle shops. Start at Fourpure’s cavernous taproom on Bermondsey Trading Estate – a Citrus Session IPA in one hand, Oh My Dog! burger in the other – and work your way to Anspach & Hobday, a handy three-minute walk from Maltby Street Market. The 188 bus takes any struggle out of navigating your way home.
If you’d rather stay local, the Dog and Bell is a quintessential old school boozer – all wingback leather armchairs and mahogany panelling. Digestifs are best served in The Watergate, a low-lit, herringbone-floored bar from the guys behind Buster Mantis and another much-loved high street haunt, Stockton. Daiquiris get a herbaceous twist. The espresso martini is London’s best. And its natural-wine menu goes down well with small plates that satisfy big appetites. Save room for its signature deep-fried Oreos.
Winemakers pairs cloudy, small-batch bottles with a seasonal, sustainable chalkboard menu scrawled by Klose & Soan. Expect the likes of burrata with burnt leeks, baked sea bass and squid-ink tagliatelle. A good spot for date night. And for a late one with friends, don’t forget Isla Ray. This buzzy cocktail bar stays open till 1am on Fridays and Saturdays, and hosts a heady mix of DJ sets, club nights and mood-lifting live music.
But it’s at Little Nan’s where you really let your hair down. Think 80s belters, Charles and Di memorabilia, cat cushions and ‘Queen Cilla Black’ cocktails served by the teapot. For snacks? Fish-finger sarnies and teacups of disco fries. No surprises here: its bottomless brunch (available Friday to Sunday) is very boozy and served to a soundtrack of 90s anthems. Get up and dance when the drinks kick in.
Man cannot live off pie and mash alone but with Manze's on your doorstep you might well be tempted. This local institution has served the real deal, made each morning to the same family recipe, since 1902. For something more contemporary, aforementioned local hero Stockton will take you from a healthy breakfast right through to a hearty dinner, with modern European flair. But, if your tastebuds are craving for something from further afield, Cafe East makes pho and other Vietnamese specialities to die for.
On the weekends, kickstart our morning with The Pear Tree's Australian-inspired brunch. Think veggie fly-ups with thick halloumi served with a golden carrot juice in a dining room of Crittall, dandelion tiles and shelves stocked with deli goods. Still-warm spelt sourdough and cultured butter are must-haves for back at Vida House. We suggest taking a detour back home through Deptford Park.