Whether you live south of the river or not, there’s no denying the diversity of its restaurant scene. It might be tempting to opt for the much-hyped eateries of Clapham, Brixton and Peckham, but delving a little deeper brings countless culinary rewards. Long-term south-London resident and Eat Travel Live contributor Lucy Self takes us through some of her favourite South London eating spots, old and new.
Cornish Tiger, Battersea
I discovered Cornish Tiger on a balmy summer’s eve in August (it opened early 2014) and since then have been nagging my south London friends to check it out. Like the very best local brasseries, nothing about this casual Battersea joint is particularly challenging, but that’s part of its charm. It has great service, an interior to settle into, and a seasonal menu made from sustainable British ingredients livened by the odd sprinkle of subtle spice. Best described as one of those safe bet options that would work as well for a date as it would for a family lunch.
Standout Dish: Grilled halloumi with roast peaches, broad bean dressing & rocket.
Meze Mangal, Lewisham
It’s generally agreed that the best Turkish restaurants are in Dalston and, whilst I won’t disagree, I’d rather head south to Meze Mangal on Lewisham Way. For a start, every charcoaled meat dish I’ve sampled (and that would be most of it) is easily as exemplary as, say, its eastern counterpart Mangal II but there’s also less arm-wrestling required for a table. Rather than a round-the-corner queue of hipsters, you’ll find a steady buzz of locals who come for not only the juicy kebabs, but faultlessly executed mezze (me devouring the Acili Ezme starter with a basket of bread is something that only my close friends should see). The takeaway is fantastic too.
Standout Dish: Kaburga-Tarak (grilled lamb ribs)
Bravi Ragazzi, Streatham
I lived in Streatham for a short stretch and this tiny spot was recommended to me by a friend who also happens to write a pizza blog. Just off the main high street, two doors down from a Subway, it doesn’t look like much from the outside but to walk past it is to miss out on some of the best pizza I’ve had in London. The sourdough crusts come blistered and chewy every single time plus, no matter the topping, I’ve yet to see a soggy bottom. And if you’ve ever wondered why Streatham-ites look so smug, it’s probably because Bravi Ragazzi do local delivery…
Standout Dish: Maradona pizza with Italian sausage & sweet peppers.
The Exhibit, Balham
If like me, your daily commute takes you past Balham station, you’ve probably clocked The Exhibit’s rather, ahem, eye-catching exterior (subtle, it is not). Thankfully the multi-faced space is far more than shouty signage. The mismatched menu with everything from padron peppers to jerk mutton is soothingly reliable, and it’s a particularly good spot for weekend brunch (the bottomless option is £20 for unlimited Bloody Mary’s or bubbles every Saturday and Sunday from 10am-2pm). Drinkswise – check out the pun-tastic cocktail list (Rum-Dog Millionaire anyone?) best sampled at one of their endless roster of events.
Standout Dish: Sweetcorn fritters with poached eggs & tomato salad.
The Royal Albert, New Cross
Way back in my student days, five of my friends and I crammed into a tiny hovel in New Cross and paid £333.33 rent each a month. Which is probably why we had enough money to spend most of our time in the pub. The Royal Albert was at the end of our road and not only served us pints of endless pints of scrumpy cider, but brilliant dishes in their tiny, tucked away dining room. Realising my university days were probably not my most discerning food-wise, I’ve been back many times since and if, anything, the menu just gets better and better.
Standout Dish: Leg of speckle-faced lamb