Lewisham’s reputation as an area bereft of excellent restaurants is not without some basis. Its reputation as a place with plenty of interesting places to eat — well, that’s a different story. Here, as with any tight-knit community, neighbourhood dining reigns supreme: come to SE13 and/or SE4 to find one of London’s best fried chicken sandwiches, Nigerian neighbourhood dining, and modern European excellence via St. John.Read More
Where to Eat in Lewisham
Crispy, shattering fried chicken, seasonal, elegant brunch and dinner, Nigerian neighbourhood dining, and more
Perched in the shadow of Lewisham’s monolithic shopping centre, the sheer physicality of Sparrow’s location feels like a metaphor for migrating the seasonal, restrained cooking familiar to central London to SE13. Chefs and partners Terry Blake and Yohini Nandakumar are up to the task, having met at St John and done stints at The Square and Bao. Working upon a modern European canvas, inflections come from far and wide: dinner could start with cured salmon, lemon and crème fraîche before turning to massaman beef cheek curry, or tender duck breast with chilli jam and endives. Brunch is essential, with Sri Lankan appam pancakes reflecting Nandakumar’s roots, and mince on dripping toast
2. Meze Mangal
While the majority of the city’s best Turkish restaurants are clustered in North London, Meze Mangal does a sterling job south of the Thames. Adored by locals, the restaurant is dominated by a massive mangal grill turning out delicious skewers of tender quail, chicken and lamb şiş, and a wood-fired oven at the back that delivers hefty pide and crisp lahmacun sprinkled with minced lamb and fragrant coriander. Choosing from an interesting list of Turkish bottles is the only polite thing to do, and the restaurant’s regard in the annals of Lewisham gastronomy makes it essential to book ahead.
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With south-east London’s Nigerian community on its doorstep, Enish owners Olushola and Eniola Medupin draw from the country’s diversity, while acknowledging that pulling together the traditions of over 300 distinct tribes is an impossible task. Efo riro, a rich vegetable stew from western Nigeria, comforts with tender green amaranth, studded with tripe and smoked fish. Muscular beef suya and the ever-popular grilled fish — here, Atlantic croaker or tilapia — are best consumed with a peaty Nigerian Guinness in hand.
4. Everest Curry King Restaurant
London SE13 7SW, UK
The A20 corridor isn’t an obvious place for an interesting meal, but hidden gems are so named for a reason. Everest Curry King is legendary among south-east Londoners for its spit-and-sawdust directness and bevy of Sri Lankan and south Indian dishes, all prepared in advance and reheated to order. Those familiar with Tooting’s finest will be on familiar ground, as delicious egg hoppers, kottu roti and mutton rolls mingle with south Indian dishes like vada and spicy drumstick curries. A smattering of Jaffna-style dishes from Sri Lanka’s northern reaches make an appearance in fish frys, and a curry of crab smothered in spices and coconut milk.
5. Antonio Delicatessen
London SE13 6BG, UK
A Lewisham institution, the former Gennaro Delicatessen passed from founders Maria and Gennaro Massiello (who founded it in 1983) to Antonio and Elena Nigro, another young Italian couple, after the former retired. Renamed for its current owners and in possession of a shiny refurb, this tiny deli is as integral to the local landscape as it’s ever been. Aside from being perhaps the only place in SE13 for good scamorza or aged parmesan, there’s a superb selection of antipasti, homemade arancini and Italian charcuterie. Service is noteworthy, even in an area known for its humour, and spending lunch with a fresh panino and Campari soda here is a wonderful thing.
London SE13 7SZ, UK
A wine shop-cum-tapas bar serving a lavish array of Spanish ingredients, each dish at L’Oculto is a stand-out. The establishment is a labour of love from the owners of Flavours of Spain, an import business that buys all of of its sherry, cheese, ham and cava directly from suppliers across the Iberian Peninsula. Locals pack the restaurant to sip minimal intervention wines and snack on the creations of Galician chef Irene Loreno Muñoz: standards like pan con tomate and sweet flan with sherry cream are excellent, but watch out for specials like tortilla vaga, an open tortilla of runny eggs, poached onion, sea urchin caviar and fried parsley.
7. Up In My Grill at Model Market
Not all locals have embraced the Dalstonian vibe of Street Feast’s Model Market on the high street. That said, there’s no denying that the Friday and Saturday evening “market” has boosted the area’s food offerings. The steaks served at Up In My Grill are arguably the pick of the bunch: while plant-based goes mainstream, the appeal of steak and chips endures, especially when said meat comes from native breeds. Staples like bavette and rump cap are expertly grilled over charcoal, while specials include Dexter sirloins and bone-in ribeyes from Longhorn cattle, all served with chimichurri and shards of deep-fried potato — that is, chips — hot from the fryer.
8. Dirty South
The 2011 riots devastated the High Road, and few more so than Dirty South, a respected bar and concert venue that was forced to close. Thankfully, a makeover six years in the making saw it reopen in 2017 as a “laid-back pub and restaurant” (read: craft beer bar). While the music element has been lost, there’s some solace to be found in the fact that Other Side Fried—- makers of arguably London’s best fried chicken sandwich — have taken over the bar’s kitchen. Now responsible for keeping an entire pub happy, they’ve experimented with avocado and celeriac — the latter of which is deep-fried and served in a bun with pickles and cheese — but the classic buffalo and honey butter burgers remain objects of singular majesty.
9. Maggies Cafe & Restaurant
The family caff is a magnificent thing, and few can match Maggie’s for sheer hospitality. An Irish gaff run by matriarch Maggie Khondoker — Lewisham’s very own Peggy Mitchell — and her sons Anthony and Oliver, locals are drawn to this beloved institution for ample breakfasts during the day, and home-cooked dinners like slow-cooked lamb shank and roasts in the evening. Cups of coffee and tea are replenished within seconds; bubble and squeak is appropriately coarse; and the ever-scarcer option of tinned tomatoes is offered over fresh. Maybe don’t order an oat milk latte.