Crystal Palace is worth a trip, despite sitting eight miles south from Charing Cross, down a lonely twig of the troublesome East London — “Ginger” — Overground line. The place is a community and, around its village-like triangle, between the busy young parents' pubs and antiques shops, you’ll find fine neighbourhood restaurants. Crystal Palace will feed you everything from Nepalese to Portuguese, from wine to oysters. Not to mention a fantastic pizza, enjoyed while admiring one of the best views in London; this postcode is 367ft above sea level.Read More
The 9 Best Places to Eat in Crystal Palace
Everything from Nepalese to Portuguese — and French to third-wave brunch
In 1978, finding a decent steak in London was much harder than it is now. Especially in the Deep South. Joanna’s, an American-style joint with wood panelling and cocktails, served one then, and still does today. The restaurant is one of those rare family-owned places that hasn't changed hands. And, as it always has, Joanna’s does proper bistrot cooking: polenta with devilled mushrooms; chicken thighs and romesco sauce; hake with lemon and anchovy butter. There are often hearty fishcakes, and always a decent pasta dish.
2. The Crystal Palace Market
The Crystal Palace Market runs on the ultra-fash concepts of local sourcing and tumblers. It bills itself as a market first, restaurant second, and that’s certainly the case up until lunchtime. But go on a Friday night, and you feel like you could well be somewhere between Soho and Mayfair. The restaurant’s cooking is solid: succulent lamb chops from Devon might follow a happy charcuterie board of meat and brine. Picking out a fish, usually grilled whole and served with salad and a zippy sauce, is a good idea. As is nipping next door to the Wine & Oyster Bar.
3. Numidie Bar and Bistro
This is the type of place the prompts you to wonder: "How do they survive?" My money is on the ratatouille crêpes: a little bit of Provence wrapped up in an Algerian blanket. Numidie specialises in Algerian-French cuisine, veering towards the spicy notes of north Africa, and handling them with charm and flair. Chicken livers come seared, rich and sweet, and the tagines come sizzling, as they should. Simple cooking, not extraordinary, but it's crowd-pleasing stuff. And it gets very lively in the bar when live music kicks off post-merguez sausages.
4. A Torre
A Torre well pre-dates London’s sudden desire to visit Lisbon and Porto to take pictures of pasteis de nata. It opened in 2004, which makes it quite old in restaurant years, and, since 2013, has been run by Jorge and Maria, who have brought flavourful authenticity with a luscious take on meat-and-two-veg. A Torre is a place for feasting: the caldeirada, a hefty stew of fish, potatoes and vegetables, is a must, as is the roasted octopus; the chargrilled Portuguese sardines are big and plump, unlike Cornwall’s smaller numbers, and the fiery clams are best washed down with one of the country’s rosados — the ones you can drink two bottles of and feel absolutely fine. All in all, a holiday of a restaurant.
5. Yak & Yeti
Yak & Yeti does have a menu longer than the bill you’ll end up with, if only just. But it’s deceptive. You can try to restrict yourself to a couple of the starters each before diving into one of their fragrant lamb curries (basic is best here) — but you shouldn't. The samosas are that heavenly blend of fluffy and crisp, the aloo chat fearfully moreish and, then, there are the momos. These north Indian/Nepalese pockets of salty softness are one of snacking’s greatest inventions. Yak & Yeti does them brilliantly. Just do it. Order it all.
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6. Brown & Green at the Station
Brown & Green is a gem. There are four in south east London, and this one in a relaxed corner of Crystal Palace’s hectic station makes morning commutes tolerable thanks to brilliant pastries and coffee. At the weekend, the cafe is a pleasing environment for a bit of low-key escapism; magazines underneath mighty scrambled eggs on sourdough toast, partnered perhaps with an early Aperol spritz. The café is somewhat of an eggy paradise, in fact. Add chorizo if you desire, or bacon, though, really, you’ll want the harissa and Parmesan option. There’s avocado all over the place, too. If you’re just passing through and have a spare five minutes, get a toastie: cheese and Marmite, or peanut butter and banana are best. Locals can check out the evening supper clubs.
7. Four Hundred Rabbits
It’s a slice curious as to why Four Hundred Rabbits hasn’t attained the celebrity of new age London chains Pizza Pilgrims and Homeslice. Its pizzas fit the bill: good sourdough, inventive combinations, lots of craft beer, commendable sourcing. Four Hundred Rabbits gets its charcuterie from Cannon & Cannon (has done for a while), uses San Marzano tomatoes (oh yes, there’s that telltale sweetness), and tops its pies with fior di latte. Word is the higher fat content creates a more thrilling ooze. Provenance and wood fired ovens aside, honestly, the pizza is beautiful. There’s a restaurant in Peckham, too, but plans to open in West Norwood fell through in March this year. Watch this space.
8. Cafe St Germain
London SE19 1UA, UK
Cafe St Germain is the epitome of Continental, doing a "chef's omelette" on a busy terrace with a little 330ml bottle of beer. Sadly, no Kronenbourg, but there is Peroni. Still, the café suits francophiles, and is always packed with people tucking into silky crêpes with egg and garlic, or an immense salad dressed with a sharp, proper vinaigrette. What puts Café St Germain on this list, though, isn't the food, but the prices. Even if you aren't enamoured of the omelettes and sirloin steak, for £8 and £14 respectively, it's difficult to get anything but pleasure.
9. Kish Mish
Do not expect masterful gastronomy at Kish Mish. Instead, ready yourself for a happy world of halloumi and hummus, where pickles give way to flat bread, and grilled aubergine is doused in abundant olive oil. Pistachios are everywhere. There's tahdig — beautifully crisp rice taken from the bottom of heavy pots — served with aromatic stews; fragrant spiced rice laden with slow-cooked lamb; and kebabs to satisfy even the hungriest urban ramblers. This kind of Iranian food is so filling and warming. Take leftovers away in a metal tray.