Is Deptford in a Good Place?

Deptford Fun City Records

Did anyone complain about gentrification when Henry VIII built the first Royal Dockyard at Deptford? Or ask if Peter The Great, Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh’s visits were ironic?

What would today’s papers make of Raleigh and his cloak and puddle gambit, that made all men since look bad? I only forgave him once I realised he introduced fags and spuds to the country.

Sadly none of those three stories about Raleigh are true. And neither are the recent yuppie scare stories appearing in publications that should know better. Deptford is not the New Somewhere Else, just yet. It remains faithfully Deptford. And that’s a good thing.

If the hacks involved had a greater interest in journalism they could have investigated the hidden scandal in the building of the pedestrian swing bridge, where developers demand greater profits for keeping their word.

My own proposal to scrap the bridge idea in favour of a walkway the length of the creek, lined with 47 bars and one off-licence, fell on deaf ears, possibly due to a stapling error. In fact, the whole collation process was compromised from the moment Half-Life traded my stapler for a Rizla in Brixton Market.

Best Pub

The Dog & Bell
The Dog & Bell

With apologies to children whose birth I’ve attended, is there any greater pleasure than finding a back street boozer that is superlative? The Dog & Bell is one such gem and the clear winner. Superb, well-kept ales, knowledgeable staff (about ale that is, not the eternal mysteries, though, to be fair, I didn’t ask), trad pub food, a nice selection of Belgian beers, amid a friendly, down to earth clientele. There’s even bar billiards. Please don’t ever change.

Pint at the Job Centre Pub
The Job Centre is a promising newcomer serving a delicious pint of Jaipur and Brockley Brewery’s Golden in a pleasantly wonky setting with vinyl sounds and a much more mixed crowd than we were led to believe. Antic also run the Royal Albert with similar care and warmth.

The Bird’s Nest at the end of Creekside is also worth a mention as a music and arts pub of some pedigree that went instantly into my Top 10 Pubs on a Roundabout.

Arts

Yes, arts. Those horrified by the opening of The Job Centre pub will be spinning on their beds of nails when they hear Deptford has had a theatre since 1899 and hosts one of Europe’s leading centres for the training of contemporary dancers, housed in one of the UK’s more interesting modern buildings. So theatre, dance, architecture and of course music. Squeeze, Dire Straits, Alternative TV, Athlete and Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel all started out in Deptford.

Here’s what Deptford sounds like:

Best Food

Deptford has a genuinely multicultural flavour food-wise with loads of Asian, African and Caribbean options. And Irish pubs. There are more Vietnamese restaurants than I can actually count, and all of them decent.

The pub grub at the Royal Albert is very satisfying but the roti at Chaconia is worth travelling for, if you can figure out when they’re open. I also find myself emotional around Goddard’s pie shop.

Best Café

Not being of the vegetarian persuasion, The Waiting Room wasn’t an obvious choice, but it does do excellent coffee and is creative with whatever ingredients are left when you take meat off the menu. It’s cosy, charming, and feels as much a part of Deptford as everything else.

Café Selecta is your stop if you need pig on your plate in the morning. Which I do.

Shopping

Deptford Market is still everything a food market should be. Full of bustle, ducking and diving and good value and good cheer. There’s a couple of vintage shops too, probably.

Any other recommendations?

Big Red Pizza Bus
The Big Red Pizza Bus is an extraordinary venue. It’s a bus, for a start. They’re nice people trying all sorts to get people of all ages in their gaff. They serve Mean Time beer (not my fave, but still) pizza and pasta. They put on kids’ movies (the good ones), host comedy and it’s a rockin’ place to find yourself in late on.

What is there to moan about?

The closure of Little Nan’s was a tragedy. The legendary, chintzy bar decked out with your granny’s doilys that served you cocktails in china cups and saucers out of teapots was a slice of genius. It is mourned by all who sailed in her, though we’re cheered to hear she’s popping up again in New Cross shortly.

Other than that, Southeastern trains are about to making travelling from Deptford a nightmare while they fuck about with the tracks for a few years.

And, shouldn’t the entire river and creekside be lined with pleasure palaces of fine ale, cocktails, hog roasts and bad dancing? Currently it’s populated by uninspiring flats staring at Canary Wharf.

Secrets

Deptford’s biggest secret has been the same for 500 years. Who, if anyone, killed Christopher Marlowe? Did he die in a Deptford Strand bar brawl over the price of mead and a Scotch egg? Was he assassinated by enemies made while spying? Was he executed for promoting atheism? Or, was his death faked so he could live in exile, maybe even writing Shakespeare’s plays? Was he, in short, Elvis Presley?

One to Watch

At last, a riverside boozes. Deptford Twinkle is a new pop up opening on Fridays and Saturdays near Twinkle Park, serving Brockley Brewery beer and cocktails. I refuse to believe it can be anything other than brilliant.

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