No area of London has been as unfairly ignored as its south east. Perhaps it’s the big blank white space on a tube map that means many north Londoners’ conception of the city stops at Bermondsey (hint: just get the rail). Perhaps it’s because the communities most visible in the south east are those whose food lies at the bottom of what food theorist Krishnendu Ray calls “the hierarchy of taste” and haven’t yet convinced British “tastemakers” and “gatekeepers” that certain cuisines are yet worth eating, talking, and writing about.
Although their restaurants rarely receive exposure, the backbone of south east London is its West African and Caribbean communities. Their restaurants, cafes, takeaways, bukas, suya spots, jerk centres and roti huts are what Korean strip malls are to LA and Jewish delis are to New York City. Nigerian London doesn’t stop at Peckham but stretches out like fufu, following the Thames all the way to Erith, while Caribbean communities run deep, to Thornton Heath even, where there are craftspeople putting out barbecue several degrees better than anywhere in central London that charges north of a tenner for burnt ends.
Amid this, exist small pockets of Nepalis in Woolwich, Vietnamese in Deptford, Ethiopian and Eritrean all over, and some of the best British greasy spoons and pie shops run by Italians and Cypriots.
Start at London Bridge or Victoria, and the south east is a Londoner’s oyster.Read More