Just one stop from London Bridge, Deptford joins Peckham and New Cross as an increasingly exciting place to eat. The local food and drink scene has also evolved in recent years, with a fair number of independent restaurants and bars scattered along and around the high street joining stalwarts of West African, Caribbean, and Vietnamese cuisines. These are the best places to eat and drink in SE8.Read More
Where to Eat in Deptford
Sichuan and Hubei Chinese specialities, a vegan iteration of some of London’s best Jamaican cooking, a quality neighbourhood Italian, and more
1. The Watergate
The third Deptford venue from Gordon McGowan, who also owns Buster Mantis and Stockton, The Watergate opened in March 2020, just before the first national lockdown. On Watergate Street, towards the Greenwich end of the High Street, The Watergate occupies an intimate space and focuses on natural wines, cocktails and a small plates. As for the food, the menu isn’t too dissimilar to that served at Stockton but, broadly, the dishes are slightly lighter. Think Cornish crab croquettes dusted with flaky sea salt, courgette flower stuffed with goat’s cheese and drizzled with truffle honey, or wild seabass with batons of pickled daikon and cucumber.
2. Good Vibez Jerk Centre
A Caribbean takeaway, Good Vibez Jerk Centre prides itself on accommodating service and serving a rotation of classics. For those new to Caribbean cuisine, the website includes fairly detailed descriptions of each key dish. While the menu is fairly standard, it’s filled with predominantly Jamaican comfort food that’s well-executed and reasonably priced. Curry goat and oxtail with butter beans are a must-try, plus coleslaw and mac and cheese by the slice.
London’s original fast-food, Manze’s on Deptford High Street is one of south east London’s few remaining pie and mash shops. Traditionally decorated with white tiles, bench seating, and white marble tables, the shop is open for lunch from Wednesday to Saturday and has been serving pie, mash and liquor for over 100 years. Mince beef pies are made on site to a time-tested recipe, capped with flaky pastry; mashed potato is scraped onto plates and lashed with lurid green parsley liquor, best enjoyed with a splash of chilli-infused vinegar. Gravy is available for those wishing to break with tradition.
4. Winemakers Deptford
With a wine bar and shop operated by The Winemakers Club, Winemakers Deptford’s wine selection changes so regularly, they don’t have a wine list, per se. To accompany those wines predominantly sourced from small-scale producers, the space’s food offering has been taken over by caterers Klose & Soan. Expect a stream of European leaning dishes such as a bright salad of violet artichokes with shaved fennel, olives, saffron and orange; burrata with marinated cherries and hazelnut brittle to bring textural depth; or rich beef shin croquettes with cherry ketchup.
A sprightly neighbourhood restaurant from the team behind Artusi in Peckham, Marcella champions Italian food dictated by seasonality. Naturally, the food is often majestically straightforward, with the constantly changing menu scribbled onto a blackboard, the focal point of the stylish dining room. Dishes may include smoked ox heart skewers with peppers, olives and anchovies, or seared scallop with brown butter, rosemary, and a film of lardo. Fresh pastas are the main reason to visit, however, served in two different portion sizes. The bucatini alla carbonara is an essential when it’s on the menu, or ricciarelli with ‘nduja and cauliflower, both paired with a glass of light red from the exclusively Italian wine list.
6. Cafe Mama Pho
Opened in 2014 by members of the family behind Cafe East — which occupied this site before it moved to a Surrey Quays car park — Cafe Mama Pho is a stalwart for its crystalline rendition of the soup that gives its name, as well as a bun bo hue which balances oily heat with the umami hum of fish sauce. Soup-seekers know where to go.
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7. Buster Mantis
Set across two railway arches, Buster Mantis is a Jamaican restaurant, bar and music venue. Serving elevated takes on Jamaican classics, the jerk chicken with mango salsa is locally adored, and for good reason, while jerk pork belly is served with sweet potatoes and papaya slaw. Jackfruit and sweet potato curry is another standout, while callaloo is the star of a tagliatelle dish finished with parmesan.
8. Tomi's Kitchen
With restaurants in Deptford and Hackney, Tomi’s Kitchen has been serving a large menu of West African dishes since 1994. Staples such as jollof rice with beans and plantain and amayese stew heavy with green pepper are must-try options; joined by the likes of peppered gizzards and delicious ogbono soup made with African wild mango and hake. To complete the experience, a selection of African soft drinks are also served, including Maltina, and African Fanta.
9. Taproom SE8
The second outpost from Woolwich brewery Hop Stuff, Taproom SE8 is another fresh addition to Deptford Market Yard. Bedecked with a domed pizza oven, reclaimed wine barrel tables and rough plywood surfaces, the space is stylish but approachable (uncommon in the trendier-than-thou world of craft beer.) Alongside the brewery’s core range, local beers are also celebrated, with guests such as Deptford-based Villages and The Gipsy Hill Brewing Co. Hop Stuff’s Juicy Fruit Pale Ale is a must try, as is a pizza topped with Calabrian ‘nduja, mozzarella and basil.
10. Eat Vietnam Bar B Grill
99 times out of 100 something described as “juicy lamb from the grill” is going to be profoundly boring, yet at Eat Vietnam on Evelyn Street — the locus of the area’s latest flowering of great Vietnamese restaurants — it’s a proper Barnsley chop, marinated to the bone and rendered properly so the last bite of crispy, caramel fat is the sweetest, most satisfying bite of the evening. A fried sea bream comes on its belly in a beautiful chainmail of silver skin, still opalescent inside once the jerky exterior is peeled back. The head is picked at until the bill arrives. Not a word of criticism is aimed at a simple dish of morning glory from connoisseurs of the vegetable. What is Eat Vietnam doing differently to most of the places on Kingsland Road? The answer is simple: the owners still care.
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11. Isla Ray
Open sandwiches have been swapped for tacos as the evening menu’s key focus at Isla Ray, a café inspired by founder Rachael Dalton-Loveland’s time working in Melbourne, Australia. The casual space on the High Street is festooned with plants and open all-day. Breakfast and brunch offerings such as healthy ‘overnight oats’ and various pastries are still served, while the evening menu centres on tacos such as refried beans with cheese, salsa, and crème fraiche, or king prawns with guacamole, chipotle mayo, and pink pickled onion petals.
Named after the national flower, Chaconia specialises in the food of Trinidad & Tobago. A good selection of dishes are available here, but the roti is a specific highlight, made onsite each day. Soft, chewy, and less oily than most local options, Chaconia’s roti is available with fillings such as fragrantly curried chickpeas and potato; chicken curry; or — best of all — slow-cooked curry goat with meat that’s perfectly seasoned and tender in slight contrast to the snap of roti skin. Saltfish accra, pholourie (lightly spiced dough balls), and kuchela are also on offer.
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At the Deptford Bridge and New Cross Road end of the High Street, Stockton is owned by the same team behind Buster Mantis. While Buster Mantis has a casual feel, Stockton is fairly glossier, named after NBA player John Stockton. Styled as a café, kitchen, and late night cocktail bar, Stockton serves a good range of inventive cocktails, plus an regularly changing evening menu of small plates. Expect the likes of plump mussels with fiery ‘nduja tamed by crisp white wine; saltfish croquettes; or asparagus and peas with bright tomato relish, hazelnuts, and vegan prosciano shavings.
14. Suya & Lobster
London SE8 4PA, UK
Capitalising on the popularity of affordable lobsters, this new Deptford restaurant swaps burgers for suya, serving Nigerian food which promises to deliver on “flavour, spice and tradition.” While the company was founded in 2015, the Deptford restaurant is brand new, serving a menu filled with seafood specials. The platter containing beef or chicken suya and grilled lobster is the main draw, paired with a choice of two sides such as Jollof rice or plantain, but the Cornish snow crab legs are a must order, cheaper and far more flavoursome than lobster. Two seafood boils, packed with eggs, potato, corn, prawns, lobster tail, and more of those crab legs — provide a chance to sample the restaurant’s entire seafood bounty.
15. Viet Anh Pho
One of many great Vietnamese restaurants in Deptford and nearby Greenwich, Viet Anh Pho is a casual spot that’s trendily decorated but retains a canteen-style. Alongside a large selection of vegan dishes — best of which is the imperial hue — the bánh mì are the main reason to visit. Although towards the smaller, slightly more expensive end of the scale, the special is a must try with its betel-wrapped grilled pork filling heavy with lemongrass, complete with coriander, pickled batons of carrot, cucumber and daikon, and homemade chilli sauce that occupies the median ground between fiery and sweet.
16. Le Gia Restaurant
London SE8 4PH, UK
Set back from Deptford’s côterie of High Street Vietnamese restaurants, Le Gia serves an extensive menu of classics in its low-thrill dining room. Beef pho bo is a must-order, with ribbons of pink beef lulling in the velvety broth deep with umami flavour, generously pelted with fresh herbs. The restaurant’s bánh mì bò kho, on the other hand, features a heavier broth, served with a bread roll on the side. For those with a sweet tooth, the Viet càphê is a fair dessert alternative.
17. The Brookmill Pub & Kitchen
A 19th Century corner pub with a sizeable beer garden, the venue serves an à la carte menu during the week, but the Sunday roast is the main draw. Expect the likes of roast sirloin cooked medium-rare, superlative roast potatoes, horseradish cream, cabbage aggressed by lashings of butter and dreamy fondant carrots. Moreover, the pub’s reasonable line up of draught beers includes selections from Camden Town brewery and the local Meantime.
18. JinJiang Chinese Restaurant锦江
While various Cantonese standards are served here, it’s the food of the Sichuan and Hubei geographies that is most brilliant. Mapo tofu and its punchy sauce of chilli, black bean and fermented broad beans harbours an explosion of flavour, while dry-fried pig’s intestines have fine texture and deeply porcine flavour — edified, naturally, by a wealth of Sichuan peppercorns and dried chillies.