Tuesday, 14 February 2017

New Deptford eateries: Dirty Apron

Despite my initial objection to the name, over the few months that Dirty Apron has been open in Deptford Market Yard I've come to love this small but almost perfectly-formed little cafe.

I've visited a few times now, eaten brunch, lunch and dinner, and even dropped in for a takeaway sandwich. The food has never disappointed. 

There's only a few tables so it can be very cosy at times, and although they do their best to address the occasional unexplained draughtiness with fan heaters, it does sometimes suffer from unpredictability in terms of the ambient temperature. 

The evening menu changes on a very regular - perhaps even daily? - basis, which I find pleasing as it means you can go back frequently and always be surprised by something different. There are options for both meat eaters and veggies, and if there's nothing vegan listed, they are happy to whip something up on demand.

They serve a staunch range of breakfasts and brunches including the good old bacon or egg bap, alongside fancier breakfast bap options that add things like avocado, parmesan omelette and chilli jam. There's varieties on the 'full English', not to mention a mean-looking kedgeree, and quite a few fruity/porridge/toast options for those wanting something a bit lighter.

Prices are reasonable for the quality of the food on offer. Some of the specials I've taken advantage of include £5 for coffee and a breakfast bap/ £5 for soup and sandwich. They have already hosted quite a few themed evenings including a vegan night and a Burns Night Supper, with Mussel Mondays (moules frites and a beer for £12) looking set to be a regular thing once a month.

Beer from Deptford's own local Villages Brewery is on sale, and there's a suitably short but varied wine list too. 

With such a tiny kitchen it can sometimes take a while for food to be served, especially if you are unlucky enough to pitch up right behind a large group. But it's great food and it's freshly prepared, so give yourself enough time to be able to enjoy it, is my tip. 

Friday, 10 February 2017

Smart benches in Deptford

The good news; you can now charge your phone for free!

The bad news; you have to sit right next to the traffic while you do so.

Lewisham is one of two boroughs chosen to pilot 'smart benches' which are intended to offer free phone charging, free wifi and the opportunity to find out about local air quality as well as somewhere to sit.

One of the new benches has landed on Brookmill Road, right next to Broadway Fields, so being a nosey bugger, I went along to have a look. 

First impression - not somewhere I'd naturally chose to sit for an extended time while charging my phone, especially at rush hour when traffic backs right up to this point from the lights on the A2. 

That being said, it is right next to a bus stop so might be handy when you've got a long wait.

The panel on the bench offers two ready-installed charging leads which while not particularly flimsy are bound to be a target for vandalism. One has an Apple-type charger plug but my phone did not recognise the device so I wasn't able to use it (not a massive surprise if I'm honest). 

However if you happen to be carrying a USB charging lead with you (I wasn't) there are USB ports on the panel that you can plug straight into, and they also offer wireless charging.

The power comes from solar panels on the totem and according to the bench manufacturer, Strawberry Energy, the design includes batteries so that energy can be stored for days when there is no sunshine (most of the last few!) and at night. 

Wifi access requires creation of an account etc, which would be ok if you were planning to use the free wifi regularly but for a one-off I decided to pass.  

There's also a Strawberry App that allows you to access the information about air quality, noise, temperature which is gathered by sensors in the bench. 

It was obviously as a result of a bit of lateral thinking that the manufacturers came up with the idea that you would be able to donate to Cancer Research via the benches (ah I see now from the press release that it was all about launching in time for World Cancer Day on 4 Feb).

Apparently you can do so by 'simply' tapping your contactless payment card on the bench. I didn't see any kind of hardware on the bench that would enable you to authorise such a payment, so I'm a bit confused about how that is supposed to work. Probably best not to have your wallet in your back pocket when you sit down. 

According to the website there's also some of the benches on Lewisham High Street and one on New Cross Road at the top of Clifton Rise. 

It's something of a double-edged sword. From the point of view of collecting air quality data I can see the logic of putting these benches right next to busy roads, but I'm not sure how attractive that will make them to people wanting to sit for a more than a few minutes to charge their phones. 

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Improvements to Deptford High Street

Lewisham Council has got some funding from Transport for London to pay for improvements to the north end of Deptford High Street and the six-month programme of construction work is set to start next week.

Improvements to the south end of the high street were carried out a few years ago with money from the Mayor of London's Outer London fund, and because this fund had a wider scope, the bid also included money for other improvements such as the shopfronts that were jazzed up, and to support the development of the 'food market' which was such a painful flop.

There's none of that fluffy stuff with the TFL funding that's being used for the north end - it's all got to be tangible stuff that makes the street a more pleasant, and safer place for pedestrians and cyclists in particular. But it's not all about getting rid of trip hazards and putting some seats in - there will be some kind of arty lighting installation under the railway bridge designed by light artist Peter Freeman. There's also going to be a few new trees, although not very many, and some new paving with words carved in it on the approach to St Paul's church.

(click to see a bigger version)

I wrote about the consultation for the plans last year; there's been some changes to the original plans, mostly for the better as far as I'm concerned. They have steered away from blunt (and most likely ineffectual) one-way restriction that was suggested for the section of street between Edward Street and the junction with Evelyn Street, and instead gone for some rather more subtle and probably more effective controls.

There will be a ban on right turns out of the high street into Evelyn Street, and into the high street by Greenwich-bound traffic on Evelyn Street; there will be no left turn out of Frankham Street into Giffin Street to prevent traffic rat-running through before the lights; there will be a ban on lorries of more than 7.5t turning into Giffin Street from Deptford Church Street, and there will be a new chicane on Giffin Street outside the former HSBC Bank with priority to eastbound vehicles.

Footways will be widened with parking bays set into them; consequently the highway will be much narrower which should in theory slow traffic down. If you've lived here any length of time you'll be aware that theory doesn't always apply in Deptford, especially when it comes to the highway code. Let's hope that in this case it might.

The main aims of the work are:
  • Improved wider footways  
  • Connection with future proposed crossing improvements at the junction with Evelyn Street to provide a safe, attractive and direct route between the river and the High Street. 
  • Trees and seating to the Evelyn Street junction. 
  • Creation of a pedestrian and cycle friendly environment that caters for the expected increase in people using the street. 
  • Traffic calming measures. 
  • Improvements to parking provision and improvements for Blue Badge holders. 
  • Introduction of a new taxi rank below the railway bridge to serve the High Street and Deptford Station. 
  • Artistic lighting under the railway bridge. 
  • Enhanced design retention of heritage elements at the St Paul’s and Crossfield St junction.

You can download the details from the council's website here or there are plans on show in the Deptford Lounge at the moment - although I'm not sure how long for.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Smashfest 2017 coming soon!

Deptford's annual family science festival Smashfest UK is back at the Albany this month with a world record-breaking attempt!

This year, things are going to go with a bang!

Unbeknownst to Deptford a supervolcano is bubbling under Lewisham and things are going to get hot! The tectonic plates are shifting, the lava is bubbling, how do we survive?

The team will be building a 5m high cryo-volcano at The Albany Theatre which will erupt, spewing liquid nitrogen at -196℃ all over SE8, and World Record officials will be there to confirm it’s the biggest one the world has ever seen!

Taking place over February half term, Smashfest UK is a BIG adventure for all the family; comedy, music, performance, arts, crafts, science, hands-on engineering, games, activities, experiments…and more!

The aim of the festival is to widen participation in science, technology, engineering and maths through the arts and design, with a special focus on under-served audiences.

And it's free!

Want to know the scientific secrets of Dr Who?

Listen to BBC presenter and author Jon Chase rapping about science?

Or find out all about volcanos?

At the Deptford Lounge 13th-17th February and at the Albany Theatre, Deptford 16th & 17th February

For full listings see http://www.thealbany.org.uk/whatson

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Deptford bikes

Have you got a bike languishing somewhere that needs fixing so you can ride it?

Maybe you want to learn more about keeping your own bike in shape so you can save money on maintenance?

Or do you just want to meet cycle buddies and find out some of the good routes to ride around the area?

Deptford Folk, the community group representing the users of Folkestone Gardens and Deptford Park, has won a grant from the Community Cycling Fund for London to develop cycling projects and activities in the area.

They are working with Lewisham Cyclists as their delivery partners and right now are planning a programme of rides, bike maintenance training, repair sessions and fun things to do with bikes.

The first event is a series of bike maintenance and repair lessons starting on Thursday 19th February at Ron Hoskins Hall, Childers St, Deptford SE8 5NU.

The lessons start at 7pm and run till 9.30pm. Each class has space for four, and you can attend one or more sessions. They will be run on a donation basis.

Contact Jane on 07826559603 or email lewishamcyclists@gmail.com to book a place.

19th February: Bike check and cleaning: Removing wheels and tyres: Mending punctures
26th February: Brakes (Rim brakes only)
2nd March: Gears

For more events follow either Deptford Folk or Lewisham Cyclists on Facebook, Twitter or by signing up to mailing lists on their websites.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

More proposals for Creekside redevelopment - public exhibition

As any Deptfordian knows there is plenty of redevelopment already happening in the Creekside conservation area with Faircharm being a major part of the ongoing changes.

Now land at the other end of Creekside is being put forward for redevelopment with a public exhibition planned for Wednesday and Thursday this week. Publicity has been quite scant so I thought I'd share it here for those interested in finding out more.

The exhibition will be showing plans for 'an exciting development proposal' for these two bits of land behind and across the road from the Birds Nest Pub. It includes some of the land to the side of the Birds Nest, where the former pizza bus, (and now also former Wunderlust) are located; the yard behind the pub, some of which is under the DLR viaduct, and the old Medina building across the road at number 3.

John Cierach has teamed up with some new mates who have form in creating shipping-container pop-up developments such as Artworks at Elephant & Castle, so expect to see something along those lines on the plans. The site behind the Birds Nest in particular is limited by the presence of the DLR, with restrictions on how high and close to the piers any buildings - temporary or permanent - can be placed.

But what of Deptford Creek's boating community? There are quite a few residential boats with permanent moorings on this section of the water, and the presence of this community is one of the things that contributes to the unique nature of the Creek's conservation status.

When development comes along it's often these parts of community that suffer the harshest penalties or are under greatest pressure to move on and allow a sanitised, characterless environment to be created. The land could certainly be used more productively than it is now, but I want to know what the landowners intend to do to protect and enhance conditions for long-term residents of the creek.

Public Exhibition:
Wednesday 25th January 12-8pm
Thursday 26th January 10-6pm
3 Creekside, SE8 5SA

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Ravensbourne sediment linked to river improvement works

The River Ravensbourne winds its way through Brookmill Park in a semi-natural channel that was built in the late 90s as part of the construction of the DLR extension to Lewisham. 

It's one of my favourite 'secret' cycle and walking routes near Deptford - although a cycle path runs officially through the park and along the Ravensbourne all the way to Lewisham Station, many cyclists bypass it for the sake of speed, taking the route along the road instead.

More often than not a heron can be spotted hunched over the water, or stalking its prey with admirable stealth - sometimes you might even see two or more along this stretch. For those with patience, there are plenty of other bird spots to be had, including little egrets and kingfishers. (If you don't believe me, check out the Friends of Brookmill Park Facebook page, which regularly offers great photos of the birdlife and flora of the park.)

But last year these local residents became concerned that wildlife was being put at risk by regular discharges of sediments into the river, discolouring the water for whole days at a time. These discharges continued over a period of at least a month and more than once were reported to the Environment Agency, with no noticeable change or explanation of the cause.

(All photos of pollution copyright Friends of Brookmill Park)

Suspicion initially fell on the works being carried out at the Lewisham Gateway site. As part of this extensive development of the area around Lewisham station, a number of huge blocks of flats are being built right over the place where the Quaggy River flows into the Ravensbourne. The  Lewisham Gateway development includes creation of a 'park' in between the tower blocks that will be called Confluence Place.

But according to Lewisham Gateway, the work in the river is being carried out with the blessing of the Environment Agency.

They have sent this statement: "Part of our development plan is to open up access to the Ravensbourne and Quaggy, in doing so we have been carrying out work in the river which involves placing gravel into the river bed to enable fish and eels to travel up the catchment. Naturally this work will cause some sediment (sand and gravel) to become displaced. To mitigate this, we placed straw bales directly downstream to catch the sediment. All our work in the river has been overseen by the Environmental (sic) Agency."

It has also emerged that other contractors unrelated to the Lewisham Gateway works have been carrying out investigation works in the car park behind Tesco, which has also caused sediment to flow into the river.

Charity Thames 21 will be leading river clean-up events at Brookmill Park on 21st Jan and 18th Feb (see details on this calendar http://www.thames21.org.uk/events/) for anyone who wants to get more involved. And hopefully communication between the various groups working in and around this vital water corridor will improve. 

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

New Deptford pubs/eateries; the Royal Standard

In its former days this pub at the bottom of Tanners Hill had the claim to fame that even my ex had turned his nose up at drinking here, and he was notorious for his pub tolerance.

So with the refit and relaunch back in July I was optimistic that the result could only be an improvement - it was just a question of whether it would be sufficiently improved to tempt me to go that little bit further for a drink.

Initially I was disappointed that the refit did not include the introduction of any real ale - keg beer was on offer but it was either chilled and tasteless Meantime fizz or headache-inducingly-pricey 'craft' beers from south London. Some of their craft beers were so expensive I momentarily considered going teetotal.

Hence I let out a great cheer when I heard that they subsequently installed a hand-pump and were serving Sambrooks Wandle ale for just £3 a pint!

Even on my previous visits, while the beer range was disappointing, the food was good and the prices keen.

The menu is generally standard pub dishes - bangers and mash, burgers, fish & chips and so on - but done well and reasonably priced. Specials are often available and these are advertised on Twitter or Facebook. 

On my first visit, chicken livers on sourdough were pretty tasty and the mains (a veggie burger which no longer seems to be on the menu, being replaced by the mushroom/halloumi stack, and toulouse sausage & mash) were filling and hot. I wasn't too keen on the slate/mini fryer basket presentation of the burger but it didn't spoil my enjoyment of the grub.

On my most recent visit (apologies no photos this time), the food was again delivered to a high standard. The calamari was as far as it could be from the regular tasteless rings - chunks of squid in crunchy batter which was properly seasoned and incredibly moreish - really wished we'd ordered a portion each. The only reason we did not fight over the last piece was that my companion is more gracious than me. 

Fish and chips was plentiful and fresh - great value at just over a tenner even if the 'mushy peas' were of the crushed variety, rather than being proper northern. Always something of a disappointment for me but all too common in this unenlightened city...

I was also heartened to see they are still offering cask ale at £3 a pint, which in itself is a good reason to drop by and check the place out. 

One thing I have a major beef with in the Royal Standard is the enormous screen that dominates the far end of the room and leers down over the vast majority of the dining tables. I had initially assumed that the screen was installed so that they could show sports, but it's been on every time I've visited and I find it very off-putting. 

Last time I dropped in the screen was showing 80s pop videos with the sound turned down and the radio playing instead, making it almost impossible to dine in comfort. People dining alone might like the screen it as a distraction, and no doubt it will earn its keep when there's sport to watch, but at any other time it's surely going to put off anyone who wants to eat in company? 

Only a handful of customers were in the bar at the time and this mish-mash of entertainment seemed to emphasise the emptiness of the place. If the food and drink are going to get the attention they deserve, I think this aspect really needs addressing. 

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

New Deptford eateries: The Full Nelson

The Full Nelson is the eagerly-awaited eatery from the team behind my favourite Deptford coffee shop, The Waiting Room; it opened a couple of months ago and is a bar that serves veggie and vegan 'junk food'.

(Photo by The Full Nelson)

It's not quite as minuscule as the tiny shop front on Deptford Broadway suggests, but it's still quite snug. However if you are familiar with the Waiting Room you'll realise that these guys are already adept at working miracles in confined spaces. 

From the front door the premises stretch back quite a way, opening out to make room for a long thin bar and a number of tables. The first couple of times I tried to visit were aborted due to the place being packed to the rafters, but having been back twice, the general impression is that they certainly seem to have achieved what they are aiming for, and it's definitely filling a gap in the market.

The drinks focus is on cocktails and shakes, with a selection of craft beers on offer at the bar, both draft and bottled. On Wednesdays you can get two cocktails for a tenner, rather than £7 each. No cask ale sadly, but I presume they just wouldn't get the turnover to make it viable. (Perhaps they could be persuaded to stock one or two traditional bottled ales for those who like something a bit less hoppy?)

(Photo by The Full Nelson)

The junk food range consists of veggie burgers, 'seitanic' wings or a faux-beef reuben stacker, with optional sides of fries (cheesy or otherwise) and battered jalapeƱos/pickles. Everything can be made vegan on request.

I tried out the Sith Burger as I am a big fan of the hot sauce that the Waiting Room puts into its falafel wraps - it didn't disappoint. Despite being a meat-eater I never turn up my nose at veggie fare, and the burger made a very acceptable substitute when compared to those bland potato-based things that are often served up elsewhere. We ordered the fries and the deep-fried sides too, all of which were good and fresh and crispy.

Food is priced very competitively with a burger and fries adding up to just £8 - and unlike most places you can save yourself a couple of quid if you are not so hungry by just ordering the burger. Drink prices are similar to elsewhere with the draft craft beer prices still able to make me wince a little.

In keeping with the 'junk food' theme the food is served very informally on greaseproof paper and plastic trays - not something I'm a fan of but I guess I'm just showing my age...! I always find burgers quite challenging to eat without dropping half the contents down my front. They should probably just give me one of those baby bib things and have done with it.

Opening hours are currently Wed - Sat from 4pm weekdays and from midday on the weekend. A great addition as far as veggie and vegan locals are concerned - I recommend even sceptical meat-lovers should give it a go, you may surprise yourselves.

The Full Nelson

Monday, 2 January 2017

Coming soon to Deptford High Street - Winemakers Deptford

One of my (admittedly few) complaints about Deptford High Street has been the complete absence of any decent wine, so I'm quite excited that later this month will see the opening of Winemakers Deptford, at 209 Deptford High Street, right between Pho Hanoi and Perfecto's chipper.

I remember there being a 'wine bar' on the high street when I first moved to Deptford - we visited it a couple of times for food and drink. It lasted a year or so, failing to attract sufficient custom to survive -  I think it's now the 'vape bar'.

I suspect Deptford's changing population - along with the signs that it's becoming something of a 'destination' for food and drink (imagine that!) - will provide a more fertile customer base for this latest venture. It's a spin-off from the Winemakers Club, a wine-importing business based in Farringdon Street under Holborn Viaduct, whose website claims "we are passionate about high quality, organic and biodynamic wines from small, traditional wineries around the world."

The premises on Deptford High Street has been unused for some time, having opened very briefly as a restaurant when it was first launched as the luridly-branded 'Hungry Boy'. I did eat there once and recall it was ok, nothing particularly special, but the doors shut soon afterwards and never reopened.

Winemakers Deptford promises not only off-sales of wine, but will also have a wine bar and small restaurant serving 'simple, hearty food' and charcuterie.

Wonder if they'll be retaining the characterful mural? (photo: @winemakersdept)

The fitting out of the new wine bar has been continuing over the last month or two, and the opening date is currently anticipated to be sometime in January.