Friday, 12 December 2008

Deptford delicatessen

Just a few days ago I was bemoaning the loss of Deptford Properly (again!). Today I am delighted to be able to report on the opening of a new business in the same location.

I have occasionally harped on about the woeful inadequacy of Deptford High Street shops when it comes to cheese, ham and wine. We may have fresh fish and exotic vegetables galore, and the quirky groceries of Housewives Cash & Carry continue to delight, but when it comes to Mediterranean foods, it is a veritable desert!

But not any more! Ladies & gents, please join me in welcoming the Deptford Deli!

One of my readers alerted me to the presence of the deli, which apparently opened last weekend. I was quite surprised about it, having been down to Wellbeloved's butchers the very same day and not having noticed it. (They are going to have to ramp up the marketing a bit if they are going to get the passing trade!)

So I made a special trip yesterday to check it out - and I was not disappointed! As well as a cafe area where you can sit and drink coffee and eat delicious-looking cakes and muffins, there is a well-stocked fridge and shelves selling a much wider variety of food than you could imagine would fit into a shop of that size.

As well as various cold meats and salami, and a range of cheeses, the fridge also contains bowls of tasty-looking dips etc sold by weight (humous, vegan pesto and so on).

On the shelves, as well as fresh bread, are jars of Deptford Creek Honey, jams and chutneys, mincemeat (and vegetarian suet if you want to make your own), fresh bread, Nairns oatcakes and other biscuits, Rocks organic cordials, olive oils, vinegars, coffees and teas, and even boxes of clementines and tomatoes stacked up on the floor. This is only a tiny fraction of what they are selling; I urge you to go down there and check it out. There is a friendly welcome by the owners, who also run Feast Your Eyes at the Laban Centre.

The quality of the goods they are selling is of course reflected in the price, but I found it reasonable compared with the places I usually go for this kind of food - the Cheeseboard on Royal Hill and the Italian deli stall in Greenwich market, for example - and without the time and effort needed to get there.

Finally, to make my delight complete - I understand that they are intending to get a licence to sell alcohol, so good wine on the doorstep might be coming soon!

***Updated 13/1/09
I sampled the food at the weekend and am delighted to report that it lives up to all expectations. The blackboard menu suggests that it changes regularly; I had the pork and chorizo stew which was served with rice and salad, and was excellent value at just £6 for a large dish. The menu included soup, a smoked fish platter, and a vegetarian option, among others, and they also offer sandwiches made from deli-counter ingredients, and cakes of course. The coffee is also excellent quality, and very good value at £1.40 for a small cappucino.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Wavelengths customer forum

Just a reminder about the customer forum at Wavelengths leisure centre tomorrow evening, Thursday 11 Dec.

The manager, Clare Motton, will be available to answer questions and take your comments about the pool, gym, classes etc etc.

She will be available from 6pm onwards, however if, like me, you cannot get there until 7 or later you will probably miss her, unless the turnout is more than the half dozen who came to the last forum. She is more than happy to take feedback and answer queries by telephone, which I found out today.

As well as raising the issue of opening hours (which I fear is not going to change any time soon), I suggested that the weekly timetable for the fitness pool should be put on display. At the moment the timetable, which shows the availability of lanes throughout the day, is kept behind the reception desk. She took on board the fact that it would be more useful if it was visible, so that swimmers would have more information to help them plan their visit (recently I found myself sharing the pool with a local swimming club who had booked half of it for a three-hour block in the middle of Sunday). Of course it would be even more useful if this information was on the website so we could find out without having to go to the pool, but it's a start.

Finally I mentioned the showers, which have been cold on recent visits. Apparently someone was there (again) today, trying to fix them; like the opening hours it seems this could be a bigger problem than was originally envisaged.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Deptford photography archive

A very pleasing synergy occurred today, when I found out about Jane Laine's project to create a digital archive of photographs of the Deptford area. She wants to collect photographs of Deptford, the people who live and have lived here, their homes and their lives. Jane had a stall at the Deptford Project christmas market to promote her project and to ask people to dig out their photos and bring them along to a collection day at the Albany in January.

If you want to participate, come along to the Albany Theatre on 21 or 23 January, from 10 till 6, and bring your photos!

Jane was keen to point out that this is not just a case of wanting to collect faded, sepia photos from the distant past; she is also keen to archive the here and now. The area is changing so much that it is also important to record Deptford as it is today. To prove this point, I offer a very recent photograph of something which is now, sadly, history.

Jane's plans link seamlessly with the collection of photographs I was sent by Steve Golton after my post about the Royal Albert pub (formerly the Paradise Bar and before that, the Royal Albert!). Steve told me that he had a collection of photos from the 80s of a band called Rubber Johnny that used to play regularly at the venue.

(Photo courtesy of Steve Golton)

Steve has scanned the pictures and uploaded them here - he is also on a quest to get in touch with any of the former band members. You can contact him via Flickr, or leave a comment for him here!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Dog & Bell/Camra pickle festival

(The Dame's homemade mincemeat - best eaten hot in pies)

As if Deptford needed more excitement this weekend, it's the world-renowned Dog & Bell/SE London Camra pickle festival on Saturday!

For those pickle festival virgins, let me explain. Assorted hopefuls bring home-made bread, pickles, chutneys and preserves to the Dog & Bell on Prince St, and several large slabs of cheese are provided.

Everyone present then samples the aforementioned goodies, and votes on their favourites. There are also categories for arts and crafts, the entries for which are not eaten, just scored by people in the pub.

Winners are announced, certificates are distributed, and more beer is drunk.

Everyone goes home, replete!

If you've never visited the D&B, it's a great excuse to try out their wonderful selection of ales while snacking on some fabulous pickles and breads. But get there early, otherwise it is standing room only.

Submit your entries between 7.15pm and 8pm; judging starts at 8.30.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Deptford Christmas 6&7 December 2008

Next weekend is the first Deptford Christmas event, organised and partially hosted by the Deptford Project.

A yurt at the Deptford Project will be the venue for Snow Stories performances morning and afternoon on both days, and there will be a Christmas market in Giffin Square and at the DP throughout the weekend.

'Home-made fairground games and clowing around' will be taking place from midday onwards Saturday and Sunday and if you want to get your own home-made Christmas decorations on show, bring them along to the Deptford Project where they will be hung up on their festive wall.

Arts and crafts for kids are promised from 11am on Saturday in Giffin Square, and at 4pm the grand switch-on of the lights on the Christmas tree will take place, with Snow White as the guest of honour.

It seems there will be festive music from carol singers and a band over the weekend, not to mention Santa in a grotto at the Deptford Project. More info here.

Don't forget it's Cockpit Arts open studios the same weekend - another great reason to pop along to Deptford for a visit!

Once you are tired of shopping, how about some art?

Bearspace is showing Raising Ground while APT Gallery has a show by Emyr Williams.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Vote for Deptford Park!

Deptford Park is one of 47 across London that have been shortlisted by the Greater London Authority for the chance to win a bit of extra cash.

It's one of the two in Lewisham that have been shortlisted, but it needs your vote if it's going to win! Only ten of the shortlisted parks will win funding, so it's up to us to make our voices heard!

I reported earlier this year about the masterplan that has been drawn up for the park. Funding was secured for the first phases, but additional money could pay for

* a new pergola and shelter;
* new seating;
* improvements to the play area including natural play features;
* colourful 'picture meadow';
* fruit trees;
* community food growing plots.

Investment funding of up to £400,000 each is on offer.

Londoners can vote to choose which parks get the £400,000 simply by logging on to, by text message or by postal vote. Voting closes on Friday 30 January 2009.

The Dame says go along and vote, and good luck to Lewisham Council for this initiative.

Just don't try and sneak anything into my leasehold bill for it afterwards!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Lewisham Homes "resident-led" programme of works

I suspect that some of the regular readers of this blog might be leaseholders or tenants of Lewisham Homes, the arm's length management organisation that took over ownership of some of Lewisham Council's housing stock a couple of years ago.

This is particularly relevant to Deptford, since the vast majority of its council housing - the Pepys and Evelyn estates which stretch west from the High Street towards the river, and the Crossfields estate on the east, among others, are all now owned and run by Lewisham Homes. And the Dame's limited experience, so far, had suggested that it was an improvement on the service offered when the council was in charge.

Those readers who are Lewisham Homes residents may well be aware of its ongoing 'resident-led' programme or works. Essentially, we were told earlier this year, we were being given £500,000 to spend on improvements to our estates, and residents were going to decide how it should be spent.

Individuals, residents associations and local groups were invited to put forward their proposals for improvements, and bid for a slice of the pie. At the end of the summer, the winning schemes were announced - and the funding was split between the north and the south of the borough. Residents were even involved in the judging panel which decided where the money should be spent.

Two projects won funding on Evelyn estate, the Dame's demesne. A community garden (nice idea!) and a dog run (unnecessary - we already have one and it has become a grubby, misused strip of mud). Letters were sent out asking for feedback from residents - did we think the projects were a good idea or not?

But one MAJOR piece of information that has been left out of all correspondence and publicity so far is the fact that leaseholders will have to pay towards these works! Only a thorough read of the article on the next to the last page of the recent Homes magazine revealed the true state of play.

Believe me, this has NOT been communicated to leaseholders. They believe, as they have been led to, that this money is 'free of charge' from Lewisham Homes. They are NOT expecting to see it in their maintenance bill next year, or the year after for that matter. And quite frankly, in the case of a dog run, why should they?

According to our leasehold agreement, we must pay for the upkeep and repair of the building in which we live (fair enough, even if sometimes the charges NO WAY represent value for money, but that's for another day), and we must also pay for the MAINTENANCE of the estate on which we live. I understand that to mean cutting the grass, picking the litter, mending broken fences etc. Not building a community garden or a dog run.

Aside from anything else, to offer money for improvements and then ask leaseholders to pay towards it is a very divisive policy: tenants who want to see improvements will be pushing the schemes while leaseholders will be resisting them or resenting them. Not the best way to create and strengthen communities.

Despite being an out-and-out cynic, I suspect the failure to communicate this information properly is the result of a cock-up rather than a conspiracy. But it is shockingly lax of our freeholders to let this slip through - especially since they have scored very low on services to leaseholders in the past. It does suggest that they are not getting any better.

A campaign is being launched by leaseholders against this inappropriate levy; for more information contact me at the email address shown in the left hand column.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Deptford Station redevelopment - is the beginning in sight?

The saga of the proposed redevelopment of Deptford Station has been grinding on for several years now, but the latest planning permission application is due to come before Lewisham's planning committee this Thursday.

This application covers the demolition of the existing station building and the construction of a new one, incorporating the top part of the listed carriage ramp, as well as the refurbishment of the platforms and canopies. Instead of entering the station from the high street, the intention is that passengers will enter the new building at the junction of the carriage ramp and the train line (the carriage ramp in question was built to enable horse-drawn carriages to access the platform level of the station, and is the only one remaining out of three that were built in London. It can be seen from the west end of the London-bound platform or through the security gates to the left of the station building at ground level).

Originally the station redevelopment was tied in with the proposed construction of a new 8-storey building next to the carriage ramp, by developer Cathedral Group, and (from what I understand from the documents) the last time an application was submitted, in 2005, the planning committee recommended that permission be granted subject to the two being formally linked. In effect, the council wanted to ensure that the station redevelopment and the refurbishment of the remainder of the carriage ramp and the station yard would happen at the same time. But it seems Cathedral Group wasn't having any of it, and as the document coyly puts it, this agreement 'was not entered into'.

As we know, Cathedral Group is (was?) intending to launch an arts and crafts market in the station yard, but this has yet to materialise. As for the Octavia Street development (intended to create live/work units which will make use of the arches under the carriage ramp and create a new public plaza) a separate planning application may be forthcoming next year.

Overall I think it would be a good thing to have a new residential building next to the carriage ramp although I am slightly perturbed by the proposed height of it, which does not scale well with any of the surrounding buildings. It would have been good to have both projects progressing at the same time, but I feel it is more important to try and get the station redevelopment going if the apartments are going to lag behind, which seems even more inevitable in the current economic climate.

The station badly needs improvement; it is grotty and unattractive, difficult to access even for those of us with full mobility (ever been late for your train?!) and as well as being depressing for users, it gives a very poor impression of Deptford to anyone passing through. No wonder only 175 people on average use it in the peak period of 8am to 9am - one of the facts in the application documents - although going on the usual state of trains at this time, I would suggest that this is pretty much capacity or perhaps above!

**Incidentally, plans for the redevelopment of the area around Giffin Street are also going to be considered at the same meeting. Of which more later.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Cockpit Arts - pre-christmas open studios

Cockpit Arts will be having an open studios weekend on 5-7 December at the site in Creekside; you might also want to make a trip up to Holborn to see some of the other designer-makers in action at the other site on 28-30 November. Hot drinks and snacks supplied as usual by East Dulwich Deli (which to me always seems a bit mad since surely we have plenty of good caterers in Deptford and Greenwich?)

It's £3 admission at Deptford, or £5 for a ticket for both sites.

A great place to go if you are looking for a really special christmas present.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Feast your eyes: Laban cafe

A cold but sunny midweek lunchtime offered the perfect excuse to stroll over to the Laban Centre and have lunch at 'Feast your eyes', the cafe in the front of the building.

Apart from the banner on the front gate of the building, this cafe is not really very well advertised, and even when you get to the front door of the Laban Centre, you could be forgiven for thinking the cafe is just for students and staff of the centre. But if you persevere past the security desk and halfway down the corridor on the right, you find the door into the light and airy space with huge glass walls that forms the cafe seating area.

The menu is fairly similar to that in the Albany Cafe (so much so that I wonder if they are run by the same company) - in that there is always a soup of the day, a range of sandwiches, and a choice of two or three mains, at least one of them veggie, and a range of salads that also change daily.

Yesterday's soup, for example, was Spanish lentil, and the choice of mains was pasta with mushrooms, lemon and caper chicken, or three-bean enchillada, which was my choice. It was a huge wrap containing a tomato sauce with chick peas, kidney beans and rice (and presumably some other bean but it didn't stay on the plate long enough for me to find out) and smothered with a delicious cheesy sauce. It came with mixed leaves in a very tasty lemon and mustard dressing and cost just under a fiver (there are discounts for staff and students).

They also have a great range of drinks, including various organic juices (I had pear) and because they are served by the glass rather than in individual bottles, they are very reasonably priced. I haven't tried the cakes or biscuits, but they look quite tasty if you have room, and of course there are hot drinks, including a wide range of different types of tea.

I particularly like the fact that they do their best to discourage waste, charging for disposable cups or takeaway boxes (which makes me wonder - do students bring their own thermos cups or plastic boxes?! I can't imagine it happening somehow..!)

It's not usually a problem finding a seat in the large, airy room which has plenty of stylish white chairs and tables where you can sit and look through the glass cladding to the Quaggy, or to the landscaped grounds outside. It's a well-used facility, you will usually be sharing with groups of dance students or staff from the centre, and it gives the place a very pleasant buzz. My one slight criticism would be that whoever chose the chairs was thinking about them very much as a style statement, not in terms of practicality - they have those 'bucket' type seats, which means they cannot be pushed under the table out of the way when they are not being used, and you are limited as to how close you can sit to your food. This can be an important consideration if you are as clumsy as me!

The other thing that's slightly irksome is the fact that it's not totally clear which of the staff do what, and the cashier often ends up adding salad to plates, or fetching drinks for people. This isn't great if you are waiting to pay and your hot food is going cold.

All in all, though, worth walking a little bit further for (and hey, it's a nice walk anyway!). The food is excellent and the dining experience much more pleasant than the gloominess of the Albany's main room, or the back of the Bear Cafe.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Wavelengths pool opening hours and customer forum

If you have read my previous posts about Deptford's lovely new swimming pool, you will know that I am very happy with nearly all aspects of the facility - except for the opening hours.

Like the majority of the city's working population, my employment is based in central London and my work starts at 9am, which means leaving home at 8am at the very latest. I like to exercise before going to work, but having a swimming pool that doesn't open until 8am is of very little use to me. I only get to use it on my occasional days working at home (a luxury most people do not enjoy), or at the weekends. At least once a week I cycle to the Arches leisure centre in Greenwich, where the pool opens at 6.30am on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 7am on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Believe me, the pool can be very busy at that time in the morning.

When Parkwood Leisure carried out its consultation about the new pool at Wavelengths, I encouraged people to fill in the survey and ask for earlier opening hours. Whether no-one bothered, or whether Parkwood Leisure ignored the feedback (or whether people simply didn't even know about the consultation - several regular users have told me this) I don't know, but when the new pool opened for business, it was with the old opening hours. Without exception, everyone I have spoken to on my occasional visits to the new pool wants the hours extended so that they can swim more frequently.

On my first visit, I filled in a customer comment card and asked about earlier opening hours. I am pleased to see that the management has given a response to this request via its noticeboard just inside the entrance. Apparently they are consulting with Lewisham Council about the viability of earlier opening hours and will report back with any news in due course.

Meanwhile, they are also advertising a customer forum for THURSDAY 11 DECEMBER which will be held at the leisure centre from 6pm onwards.

Please, please, please if you are at all interested in this issue, or of course if you have any other comments or feedback about the leisure centre, put this date in your diary and make sure your voice gets heard. I am convinced that if there is enough pressure for a change in hours, it will be difficult for the management to ignore.

If you can't make it on that date, please fill in a feedback form and put it in the box at the leisure centre (you will have to write your comments on the bottom of the form, there is no question about opening hours, they just want to know if you think the place is clean (yes) and the staff helpful (yes, very - sometimes despite difficult circumstances!).

I will try to find out more about who will be at the forum, how long it will go on for (let's face it, 6pm is just as impossible for central London employees as 8am!) and what format it will take, and will report back with any news.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Albany Cafe

Not the lamb curry; potato & sweetcorn fritters from a couple of months back (forgot my camera today)

Behind an unprepossessing facade lies one of Deptford's best kept secrets - the Albany Cafe. From the busy market square outside there is very little to indicate the presence of an ace caff tucked away behind that rather ugly brick front. I've often thought they should consider putting a board out listing their daily specials, in order to tempt more punters in, but perhaps they don't need to.
Not that it was particularly busy when I went there today for my lunch, happy to take advantage of the autumn sunshine in the lovely garden behind the cafe.

What I like best about this place is that every time I go, the menu is different. They seem to change the menu daily - cooking just enough for that day so that if you are a bit late for lunch and something is popular, it will have sold out. Hence the food is fresh, and the options are varied, which is so important to get your customers to return regularly.

There is always a hot vegetarian dish, and usually one or two meaty dishes - today was a choice of lamb curry with rice, or honey & lime glazed chicken, or a roasted vegetable bolognese with spaghetti. There is always a homemade soup choice - chick pea today - and they also had some snacks on offer today, which were fishy or veggie fritters with sweet chilli sauce.

There are sandwiches, jacket potatoes and a range of homemade cakes as well as ice-creams, and the usual selection of hot and cold drinks, bottled beers, crisps and so on.

The portions are generous and the prices are very reasonable. Today I had a large plate of lamb curry with rice and salad, and a glass of orange juice, for just under £7. The service is always friendly and efficient, and it never seems to be so busy that it's difficult to find a seat.

When the weather is good, the garden at the back offers a lovely quiet place to sit and enjoy the sunshine - another well-kept secret among locals.

My only minor criticism is that the main room can be a bit noisy - especially if there are children running around which sometimes happens - and when the weather is overcast, it can be a bit gloomy too. Overall, though, a little gem of a place and one that will get me returning time and again to sample something different each time.

Good news for flume fiends

After several years of being out of action, the flumes at the Wavelengths pool in Deptford are apparently going to be open for use again on 1 November! Who knows, I might even sneak in there myself when it's quiet!

Monday, 20 October 2008

Welcome Se8ker!

The pool of local bloggers continues to expand rapidly, lending credibility to my theory that there is plenty of untapped talent in this neck of the woods!

Welcome to Deptford Se8ker who came on the scene last month and has just posted a very interesting item about other air-raid shelter signs in Deptford.

And while we're on the subject of signs of the past, I'd like to point you to two interesting posts about Victorian ventilation posts; Faded London writes about a selection of these 'stink-pipes' in west London, while Transpontine reports on the possible fate of a rather elaborate, listed version that currently resides on The Island in New Cross.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

More Deptford X

The Cost of Living at Deptford's new Arch Gallery. Great to have a new exhibition space; this show didn't really do it for me, although I enjoyed the surreal bone cutlery.

Deptford Marbles; Artmongers do the final touches to their mural, while Laban students provide the entertainment. There was also some symbolic planting and watering of flowers below the mural. Nice to see something happening in a rather unloved and underused part of Deptford.

Yinka Shonibare's White Flag at Half Mast (which as you can see, it was not - at half mast, that is - although the original on the South Bank was. I think this mast was a little too short.) I wondered what the flag was about, there being no interpretation, and I came to the conclusion that the idea was to mark the death of surrender or peace. Or perhaps that the white indicated purity. But according to something on the BBC Radio 4 website that I just read, it is all about rejecting the nationalistic connotations of flags, by proposing a white flag representing no particular country or boundaries. Why at half mast? I'm not sure.

Like the others who have blogged about this work, I felt that the significance of the art was overpowered by glorious views. Not only do you get a totally different view of Deptford from the top of the very narrow and steep stairs of the belltower, you also get a view into town that's as stunning as the one from Point Hill, coupled with a similarly breath-taking vision eastwards, extending down to the apartment blocks of Woolwich and the wind turbine at Dagenham.

A far more impressive and moving work was Matt Stokes' Cipher, and although I don't believe it was made specifically with the location in mind, it was given a powerful intensity from the fact that the film was shown in a narrow brick arch crypt below the church. The film - of organists playing what I'll loosely describe as damn spooky music in what was a rather spookily-lit church complete with silent, staring cherubs - would have been interesting to watch elsewhere, but would not have had me looking over my shoulder and feeling shivers down my spine as the vibrations of the music played out behind me. The space was so narrow and gloomy it had the air of some kind of air-raid shelter; the dark music added to this feeling, giving me the impression that the apocalypse was surely bearing down on the world as I sat there alone.

Another great film was Sarah Baker's Studs, which is showing at the Bearspace Gallery until next Saturday 25 October. It's a tribute to the Jackie Collins novel and with its split-screen format, glitz and cheesy interiors, is strongly reminiscent of shows like Dallas or Dynasty. Impossible not to be wooed by the Stud!

This lovely ceiling is part of the show by Joanna Sands at the Optician Gallery, which is also worth a look for its quirky wooden floor and views of St Pauls church.

Old shelter

One of the interesting things I learned from Ben Cummins' Pavement Sonnets (so far) was that this sign used to show the distance to the nearest air raid shelter. It's on the side of the Barclays Bank.

Considering the amount of bombing Deptford sustained in World War II, it was presumably very well-used.

Friday, 17 October 2008

The Hoy

Another day, another new venue to try!

The Dame stepped in for breakfast this sunny morning, on the way to Greenwich. Even at about 10am there were several people already enjoying the sunny and pleasant ambience, lounging on the big leather sofas or reading the paper at one of the tables.

The welcome was friendly and attentive, and as I waited to be served, I marvelled at how the woman behind the counter managed to be extremely patient and polite with a customer who was doing his best to patronise her. Yes, she explained, that WAS an Americano, it's just that the hot water came out with the coffee from the machine, it wasn't added later. Yes, that WAS cold milk she was using (and she brought it over to show him so that he could say exactly how much he wanted). You could tell he didn't think she knew what she was doing, and as I stood there wanting to say something sarcastic to him, I was reminded that that's why she works in a customer-facing environment and I don't! She even resisted the temptation to roll her eyes as he left the shop!

I was in the mood for a fried egg sandwich or something equally breakfasty, and although they couldn't offer me my fry-up choice (apparently bacon sandwiches are coming next week), between them the two members of staff gave me a few options until I settled on a panini with mozzarella, ham and pesto, and an Americano to drink, at the extremely reasonable price of £3 in total (coffees are around £1.60). The Americano was excellent and the panini, while made in a softer bread than is usually used, was tasty and fresh.

I sat in the window and watched the traffic go by; it was lovely and sunny and although I couldn't linger, it provided a pleasant stopover for a break. A nice one to return to, although unfortunately it won't be often until/unless they extend their opening hours to weekends or evenings.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

The Duke - drinks review

The Duke on Creek Road is now open for business, and so a couple of nights ago the Geezer and I dropped in on our way back from an evening out in Greenwich to sample the ambience and have a beer.

If you remember the previous incarnation of the Duke, you will know that it had a rather small, unfriendly bar at the front, albeit with plenty of light from the large windows. I'm not sure if there were any rooms at the back - I was never tempted to explore - but the new Duke's interior bears no resemblance to it former state, it could be a different place altogether. (In fact the website has some interesting before and after photos as well as lots of pictures of the building work).

It is now owned by the same company that owns The Dartmouth Arms in Forest Hill and the Dolphin in Sydenham, neither of which I am familiar with.

The route to the front door leads through a fenced outdoor area, overlooking the road and the oversize dancers that are currently adorning the hoardings of the Creekside-Village-to-be.

Inside, the first thing you notice is the cavernous size of the bar - the back area has been opened up into a huge dining room, providing plenty of space for enjoying the gastro aspect of the pub. The bar has been lengthened and moved by 90 degrees so that it is against the partition wall, and the stairwell has been left drifting in the middle of the room, with access upstairs to the toilets.

The decor ticks all the gastropub boxes; the slightly shabby and unmatched chairs and dining tables; the black, white and green colour scheme; the cast iron columns; the feature wall with quirky print wallpaper; not to mention the sofas in the corner (not enough comfy chairs in my opinion, a few more would be good).

We got a friendly welcome, and I was offered a menu to look at when I asked if they were serving food yet, even though I said I wasn't going to be eating tonight. As well as a variety of lagers, they were serving three real ales; I tried the London Pride, which was as good as it should be. I can't remember what the others were, but they were fairly standard offerings.

The place was fairly busy - the clientele mostly students plus a rather lairy group at the bar whom I suspect were regulars of the old Duke. As we sat and enjoyed our drinks, the lights were dimmed and the usual tea-lights brought round for the tables. It made for a rather pleasant ambience.

Although we didn't eat, we did browse the menu in preparation for a proper return visit. One thing I should point out is that the Duke might be on Deptford's side of the Creek, but it is very much respecting its location in Greenwich borough, particularly in terms of prices! Main courses ranged from about £9 up to £14 or so - an acceptable amount to pay if the food lives up to it. One of my main complaints about the pubs in Greenwich, particularly the Greenwich Inc brand, is that the quality of food rarely matches the expectation generated by its price-tag! As well as lunch and dinner offerings, the Duke is also planning a £10.95 Sunday lunch special.

I'll be back with a food review after the Geezer's payday; he has promised to treat me!

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

All change on Creek Road

After a tip-off by a commenter on the Greenwich Phantom's post about the Deptford Project, I popped down Creek Road on my bike this evening to check out the new incarnation of The Hoy.

What was once a modest and rather shabby little pub is due to reopen tomorrow as a cafe serving sandwiches, panini and pies, proper coffee and from the looks of the stand inside the door, LOADS of crisps! The interior is unrecognisable apart from the cast iron columns - all the walls painted white to make it light and airy, there is a counter and fridges in the front and tables in the back, and even the entrance has been moved to the corner to provide more room for outdoor seating area customers, albeit with a view of the traffic. The Dame will report back with a review in due course.

My one visit to the Hoy when it was a pub was fairly unremarkable; the main reason it didn't get a second visit was the lack of real ale on offer. It was friendly enough despite its shabby appearance, and even the customers who weren't particularly friendly erred more on the side of 'I'm resigned to my fate' rather than 'I've got a load of pent-up aggression that I'm desperate to vent on someone'.

Which segues nicely into the other formerly-shabby hostelry of Creek Road. Likewise the Duke merited only one visit from myself and the Geezer in its former incarnation. It too had no real ale on offer, but it was the pub's rather edgy atmosphere and unwelcoming interior that put us off returning.

Now I give you; The Duke - pub AND DINING ROOM!

Its interior has been extensively remodelled, and although the place is not open yet, it looks like it won't be long before we can sample its wares. Repainted in a black and white palette with fancy wallpaper inside, the reborn Duke has the appearance of your average wannabe gastro-pub. It also has a fenced-off outdoor seating area for the smokers, and a fancy new pub sign.

Well, plenty of new places to try out, all in the name of research, natch. It's a tough job, etc etc

*Still on the subject of Creek Road, by the way, Cycles UK is intending to open a shop in the new building between the Duke and the Hoy, although for several weeks now it has just been a banner over an empty shop. One Greenwich Cyclists member described Cycles UK as 'the Harrods of cycle shops'. I hope that doesn't mean that it sells vulgar tat at hugely inflated prices - or that it has a shrine to Diana & Dodi in one corner....

The Bear Cafe

You may remember that the Bear Cafe on Deptford High Street was closed over the summer, although initial rumours that it was gone for ever proved unfounded, and the Dame was informed by new manager Dale that it would reopen in September with some 'new, tasty delights' as well as the old favourites.

Well it has been back on the scene for a month now, but today was the first day I had chance to check it out for my lunch.

For those of you who loved the old Bear Cafe, there is excellent news; the only noticeable difference at the front is that there are new folks serving behind the counter. But if, like me, you are going in search of the new tasty delights, I'm not entirely sure you will find anything to satisfy you.

A full review will be forthcoming in due course - today I just couldn't whip up any enthusiasm for beetroot and feta salad so I went to the Deptford Project instead for my salad box. Their salads are still fairly run of the mill but they don't have loads of cheese in, and the dressings seem lighter. More importantly they seem to have resolved some of the issues with staffing which kept me away in the past when I was on my lunch break. They have more staff and they are working much more efficiently. No-one on a 1-hour lunchbreak wants to spend a quarter of that valuable time watching the amount of faffing that I have seen there in the past.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

First report

The start of Ben Cummins' fabulous audio tour Pavement Sonnets. I'm halfway through it, saving the rest for another day. And the golden ball hidden in the shrubbery on the left is one of many dotted around Deptford as part of the work by Fran Cottell.

Creekside Centre's open day today; one of the occasional days when the Thames Barrier is closed all day means the Creek has been at 'low tide' all day. If you missed the open day, you might be interested in getting involved with the Creek clean-up day which is happening next Sunday (details on the website).

Deptford X retrospective, and open studios, at the APT gallery.

Following the Pavement Sonnets: a couple more golden balls.

Katie Gilman's 10,597 in the middle of the roundabout outside the Bird's Nest pub.

Can you spot the balls on these (above and below)? You might need to click the pictures to make them bigger.

Memorial to the unknown shopper, by Patrick Semple. In one of the arches of the carriage ramp behind the Deptford Project.

Part of the exhibition 'Gaffs' which is also on show in the space behind the Deptford Project.

Don't forget that most of the shows and events continue for several weeks, so plenty of time to get down to the High Street and check them out!

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Deptford X

A quick reminder that Deptford X is now on, running for several weeks and including a huge programme of installations, events and shows all around the area.

The website has got loads of information on it about what is going on, there is a really excellent programme of stuff, and I hope to bring you pictures, news and reports from it over the next few weeks.

I'm delighted that it's running over a longer period and am looking forward to enjoying the buzz it creates.

Thursday, 11 September 2008


The very talented Howard Hardiman - sometime knitter, local garden-sharer and Brockley blogger - has published his first book!

Badger has been present on Howard's blog for some time, shuffling around in his rather melancholic way, but now he's made it into print, with the publication of this book. It's the story of a lonely badger living in a flat in South London - apparently inspired by Howard's former residence. I am happy to report that he (Howard that is) now lives in a much nicer-looking abode, with a soon-to-be-well-kept garden. I'm not sure about Badger. His demeanour reminds me of the old man I used to see in the building across the road from my old flat. He was in a pokey little kitchen below ground, and it had a strip of window at pavement level. Sometimes when it was hot, he would do his cooking in the nude. It was a weird, puzzling and rather sad sight and I used to worry he might splash himself with hot oil.

But I digress.

As befits the occasion, Howard will be having an official launch of Badger on 30 September upstairs at the Retro Bar, which is just off the Strand. He'll be there from 6pm onwards with books for sale, signed by the author if so desired.

Even if you can't make it, do browse Howard's new site at Cutebutsad where you can see more examples of his sad little creatures.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Ten years of Deptford X/Cockpit Arts open days

A date for the diary: Deptford X will run from 26 September to 19 October, and the local arts event will celebrate its 10th birthday this year!

The launch party will take place at the APT Gallery on Creekside, on Thursday 25 Sept from 6.30pm to 8.30pm. This includes the opening of the Deptford X retrospective exhibition and the presentation of the MacDonald Egan award. Apparently an audio walk and map will be available from the website, I suggest checking back nearer the time. There is a good line-up including artists such as Yinka Shonibare, whose work I am looking forward to seeing.

During the event, the Bearspace Gallery will be showing a video installation 'Studs' by Sarah Baker, inspired by the Jackie Collins novel of the same name. At the Bearspace website you can even read Sarah's blog about the process of making the film.

Naturally Cockpit Arts is joining in the fun, with open days on 20 and 21 September from 11 till 6 (this is actually intended to celebrate London Fashion Week, London Design Festival and Open House week) - see the huge range of fabulous designer/makers at work in their studios, all for free! They are having another open weekend at the beginning of December, so if you can't go in September, there's still time to buy christmas presents later in the year!

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Wavelengths Leisure Centre; new 25m pool

What better opportunity to try out the new pool than a rainy Sunday morning? So the Dame got her cossie and goggles and skipped off down to Wavelengths in a mood of eager anticipation.

The new pool ticks many of the right boxes for me as a keen swimmer, but it has a few major drawbacks which I hope are either teething problems, or which may change upon pressure from regular swimmers.

Firstly, the pool itself is a lovely size - it seemed even bigger with just four of us in there shortly after 9am. It's light and airy, very clean and smart as you would expect with a new facility, and a pleasure to use. As with the leisure pool, the lockers and showers are poolside, with male and female toilets leading off the pool area, and separate male and female changing areas.

But it's very hard to find! Even when you know roughly where it should be! There is a total lack of signs from the reception area - I assume this is just because they seem to have reopened in a hurry and haven't quite finished off yet. The changing rooms have signs saying 'group changing area' on the doors, with a small male or female sign below, which is much more confusing than it sounds (If you think I sound like I'm defending a blonde moment here, let me reiterate that EVERYONE was confused, not just me! I thought this was reserved for schools or something.) Get rid of the euphemisms and bring back 'men' and 'women' for crying out loud.

So, when you pass through the entry gate, turn immediately left along the corridor with the hairdryers in it. This is the 'grooming area' (which I think sounds incredibly dated, maybe even slightly sinister!). The male changing area is the first door on the right, the female is the second. There are cubicles along one wall and benches and hooks along the other - this is great, although the benches are along the same wall as the door into the unisex grooming area, leaving you rather exposed when anyone goes in or out of the door.

After changing, take your clothes and bags through into the poolside, where you will find a row of lovely big lockers with bright yellow key bracelets. You will need 50p, which is refundable - hallelujah!

There are shower cubicles as well as communal showers, which is excellent news. I hate showering in my costume - not only does it seem rather ineffectual as a washing process, but the hot water and soap accelerates the rotting process that the chlorine has on your swimming costume, which can have expensive consequences for regular swimmers. So it's great to be able to shower in private, then rinse your costume in the wash basins.

The showers stay on for ages at a time - this is excellent when you are trying to get the soap out of your hair and don't want to have to keep finding the button with your eyes shut, but might prove expensive on hot water. It's also a bit annoying when you have finished showering and want to put your towel round you and get out, but have to wait for the water to stop.

The pool is divided into three wide lanes - slow, medium and fast. The notices saying which is which, and showing the direction you should swim, are at the far end of the pool; a handicap for anyone who normally wears glasses. But I'm glad they went for plain english on this occasion - the Arches leisure centre in Greenwich prefers to divide us into 'plodders', 'joggers', and 'sprinters' as well as a 'front crawl only' lane. I have always thought this must be totally incomprehensible to anyone for whom English is not their first language and probably explains why people frequently use the wrong lane.

The water temperature is perfect for fitness swimming - on the cold side, which means you don't overheat when you are swimming at full pelt. I had been worried it might be too warm, as the leisure pool always seems tropical to me, although I know this is aimed as children so needs to be warmer.

So the facilities, overall, are excellent.

But - and this is a MAJOR but - the opening hours are still the same!!

You might recall my previous pleas about making the weekday opening hours of the new pool more sensible. You can see from this post that someone from Parkwood Leisure even commented and assured me that the message was received 'loud and clear'. I filled in the consultation form, sent it back with my comments and explanations, and hoped that something might change.

So when I bowled up this morning to ask what time the pool would open in the week, and was told it would be 8am - the same as before - I was gobsmacked. The receptionist's comment that 'you wouldn't get the staff to come in any earlier' was even more depressing.

It seems I am not alone. I mentioned my disappointment to the other swimmers I met, and three out of four of them said that they had wanted earlier hours too. I can only assume this pool is intended mainly for school use, with a few hours at the weekend for us locals. What is the point of opening a fitness pool at 8am on a weekday? Most people are on their way to work at this time. By contrast, the fitness pool at the Arches opens at 7am on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and 6.30am on Tuesday and Thursday. I usually go for the early swim, that way I can swim, change, get home for breakfast and then get to work in town for 9am. Another swimmer I know at the Arches travels from Brockley for her swim - she would love to use the pool at Deptford but, like me, can't fit it into her schedule.

So come on, Parkwood Leisure; now you've given us a lovely pool to use, give us the opportunity to use it regularly!

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Breaking news...

Apparently the new pool is now open! Thanks Barry, for the tip off. I'll be along to spoil your solitude as soon as I can. All in the name of research, natch.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Can you fix it or use it?

This unloved bit of land which runs parallel to Deptford High Street from the railway station is intended to be the next step in the revitalisation of the town centre. On the left you see the carriage ramp which is a protected structure, being the only one in the country. It was the original route by which carriages (as in horse and cart, not railway) gained access to the elevated platform of the station, and can still be seen from the London-bound platform if you walk towards the front of the platform and peer through the undergrowth. The plan is that the ramp and its arches will eventually form part of the Cathedral Group's redevelopment project, with the arches being refurbished to house commercial units and the square becoming a public area full of cafes, shops and a market.

Until this actually happens, however, the intention is to make the space suitable for use, and start using it to host events in collaboration with the Deptford Project cafe and local businesses.
At the heart is a 20m by 24m area which is intended to become Deptford's new home for creative events such as performances, music entertainment, puppet shows, poetry readings and film screenings. The Deptford Project is looking for local companies to tender for the project to improve this space through either seating, lighting, or weather protection, and there is funding available for each aspect of this work.
Once the space is fixed, local businesses, organisations or individuals will be invited to bid for the use of the space for events or activities that will attract visitors from outside the area, and promote the values of Deptford to a wider audience.

If you have ideas for how this space could be improved, or used, then you need to get working on them and submit your bid by 25th October 2008. For full details contact Rebecca

Saturday, 16 August 2008

I've got a garden!

Strictly speaking it's not my garden, it belongs to Howard and his partner, but through the mystical powers of the internet, we discovered that a bit of mutual cooperation will hopefully bring benefits to us all.

I do have a balcony - and it's actually considerably bigger than most balconies these days - readers might remember the tomato triumphs of last year. But this year has been difficult because of a temporary change to my domestic arrangements which meant that I can't rely on someone being here all the time to do the watering, especially since I travel quite a lot for work. Hence a garden share would be a great opportunity for me to develop my green fingers without worrying having to be there all the time.

I have been trying to find an allotment share, but this has proved almost as elusive as an allotment; now, via a post on Green Ladywell, myself and Howard are trialling our own garden share!

So far I've just spent a couple of hours there, pulling up a load of weeds and trying to work out what is growing underneath them. I reassured Howard that what he thought was a 'giant weed' was in fact a courgette plant, complete with courgettes - and we discovered that the peas had gone over and the carrots were struggling to get beyond the size of matchsticks. But we think of it as starting early for next year; plans are to get a compost bin started, cut back the monster lawn, and decide what to put in for next year!

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

What's going on?

Deptford's swimmers are eagerly awaiting the opening of the new swimming pool at Wavelengths (and in fact the reopening of the rest of the centre too, which has been closed for far too long due to overrunning of the construction work).

But I am reliably informed that it will all be in use by the end of August. This photo suggests that at the very least, the new pool will be full! (that's the new leisure centre in the background, the pipe runs all the way from the standpipe and disappears into the building itself!)

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

I remember when... was all fields around here. Apart from the mills, tanneries, gas works, wharfs, sewage works etc..

A fascinating insight into changing road names, land use, and particularly the revelation that there used to be a literary institute next to Deptford Station!

The map comes from Edward Stanford's 1862 map of London, which can be found online here. The idea was pinched from the Blackheath Bugle.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Apartment city SE8

You might think Deptford has plenty of apartments already, being caught in a pincer maneouvre between Millennium Quays, the Glasshouse, and OneSE8, not to mention the myriad of ex-council maisonettes available at very reasonable prices on Crossfields, Evelyn and Pepys estates.

But not a bit of it. We all know about the forthcoming Old Seager Distillery, which is currently being built at the moment and will offer 219 flats next to Deptford Bridge DLR station, most of them in a tower block.

And that's not the half of it. The Dame had a quick scoot round her demesne with a camera, followed by a surf on the world wide web to show you how you can expect the area to change in the next year or so.

Starting at the smaller end of the scale comes the Princess Louise Building, just off Deptford High Street, which is almost finished. According to the developer's website, there are a few remaining. So if you are not bothered about your privacy, or already own some large net curtains, pop on over there and snap one up. Joking aside, I think this is quite a nice development, it fits in well with the scale of the surrounding buildings and brings a splash of colour and modernity to the area.

Going up a bit in scale, comes the Drake Apartments; 80 studio, one and two bed apartments sandwiched between Evelyn St and Clyde St. This site has been hoarded and ready to go for several years, I was quite shocked to find it had advanced so far in a matter of months. Pretty mediocre-looking - nothing offensive but nothing too exciting either, although in comparison to its neighbours, it would probably be seen as pretty glamorous! Nice to see the land being used at last, and the development is at least in approximate scale to its surroundings.

Now we take something of a leap, both in terms of size of development and cost. Paynes & Borthwick Wharves have been torn down, all except the building facades, and currently look like this (from the back):

In due course, they will look like this (from the front):

The blurb on the site promises:
"257 apartments will be created in 8 blocks, a high proportion of which will have views across the River Thames. 1, 2 and 3 bedroom duplex apartments will be available with the benefit of private garden areas and 180 secure underground car parking spaces."

Not a particularly stunning development, although the retained facade certainly gives it an edge over most of the dismal apartment blocks on the opposite side of the river, but nothing particularly offensive by riverside standards.

The site goes on: "Commercial units will be available to creative industries in the area, a public arts programme will integrate artwork into the buildings and public spaces and, during the development, around 11,000 square feet of internal space will be available for events, shows, performances and presentation facilities for local and visiting arts organisations."

All sounds very pleasant, although of course cynics will ask whether there will be any grants to encourage use of the public spaces or to fund the events, shows and performances. The developers have got off to a good start though, by setting up the P&B cultural showcase, which is open to all local creatives and artists in Deptford, Greenwich & Lewisham. Upload your work and projects to the site before 27 September to meet the submission deadline.

And finally, the monster of them all.

This innocent-looking hole in the ground between the Laban Centre and Creek Road is set to become Creekside Village.

The Village (if you haven't seen this before, make sure you are sitting down before you open the link, possibly while taking a stiff drink. And not just because it's an incredibly annoying website design) is set to offer Deptford a further 801 residential units, along with some more commercial space to add to the empty commercial units we already have aplenty on Creek Road. And apparently the three 'dynamic triangular buildings wrap around the Creek signifying the Laban as a cultural landmark'. Quite how they do this is beyond me - to my (obviously untrained) eye it seems as though they overshadow and dominate the Laban.

So far, only the smaller of the blocks are under construction. The land for the triangular buildings is still covered in derelict buildings, huge buddleia bushes and colourful graffiti.

Get down there quick while you can still get a hint of the Creek's industrial past.

Of course I haven't even touched on the proposed redevelopment at Deptford Station (*yawn*), the eternally-postponed Convoys Wharf, the developments this side of Greenwich - either the riverside properties and the new blocks next to the rail station - or New Cross. All I can say is it's going to take more than a few extra carriages on the DLR to get us all to work!

Rumours greatly exaggerated

I'm delighted to be able to announce that the rumours of the Bear Cafe's demise have proved premature (even though they weren't exactly rumours!).

Dale has been in touch to say that the cafe will be reopening on 8 September, under his management, and will be continuing with a similar menu of soups, sandwiches and salads - "as well as some new tasty delights".

Apparently they are also going to be putting together a recipe book for some of the cafe's menu items (hopefully the spicey split pea soup will be in it).

I'm using this announcement to put in my suggestions for improvements to the menu: feel free to add your own in the comments box, I'm sure Dale will be happy to have the feedback!

1. less dressing on the salads please, and perhaps some lower-fat versions (eg mixing low fat yoghurt with mayo for your potato salad). Perhaps you could consider offering additional dressings in jugs for those customers who want more.

2. on a similar note, there used to be a time when nearly every salad had cheese in it, although this did seem to have changed in the past few months. Please don't resurrect it! It's fine to have a bit of cheese in one of the salads, but adding it to everything means salad is no longer a healthy option lunch!

Keep up the good work with the soups, I look forward to new recipes and old favourite alike!

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

More bad news for Deptford cafes

Deptford is going to be even shorter of decent cafes this summer, with the announcement that the Bear Cafe is closing on Friday 25th July, apparently due to 'unresolved financial, building and staffing issues'. But they are hoping to reopen in September, so it's not as final as the sad loss of Deptford Properly was. In fact I'm sure there have been short-term closures of the Bear Cafe in the past, so hopefully it will be back later in the year. In the meantime, if you get chance to go down there on Friday, they will be selling off all their unsold chocolate bars, packs of Fairtrade tea and coffee and so on.

I've had a bit of a love/hate relationship with the Bear Cafe over the years - at first I loved it because it was about the only place in Deptford doing decent coffee and tasty homemade salads and soups. It's got lots of seating space in the back for loafing around, not to mention the sheltered little garden that can be very pleasant in the sunshine. The presence of the gallery gives it that edge over just a regular cafe, and the exhibitions cover a broad spectrum of style and subject matter

But then there were the wilderness years - and not too long ago either! It seemed every time I visited, half the menu of sandwiches were unavailable, or they only had sliced bread. No humus, no ciabatta, no brie, etc. The Geezer and I used to joke that it would be quicker to ask what WAS available before ordering. Not to mention the fact that sometimes the big room at the back turned into a badly-run creche - children running round screaming while their parents sat chatting and ignoring the chaos.

I think that the arrival of the Deptford Project provided something of a kick up the backside. The past few months have seen earlier opening hours, consistent availability of menu items, and service that was much less haphazard.

I seriously hope that it will reopen later in the year - not just because of their divine sweet potato salad and the spicy split pea soup that I'm still trying to recreate at home, but for the sake of genuine competition and variety for the High St.

So while we're on the subject, don't forget some of our other great local (independent) cafes which I will try and review soon. One of the High St's hidden gems is the Albany cafe - plenty of room both inside and in the garden at the back, and a short but varied menu that changes every day. Usually one meat and one vegetarian dish, plus some fantastic home-made soups and some great cakes too. The good news is that the Albany cafe is planning to open Sunday afternoons from September onwards.

Also on the radar is the Laban Centre's cafe and bar which serves a range of wholesome meals, sandwiches and salads, not to mention a delicious range of soft drinks and teas. According to the website, it is open Thursday evenings for drinks and games, with special promotions on certain beers.

Let's hope that we don't lose any more of our local independents - the best way to keep them going is get down there and use them! I'd like to see more of them opening evenings or Sundays but I realise it's a bit of a chicken and egg situation because no-one really plans to eat out in Deptford in the evening since the options are so limited.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Creekside charrette

If you missed the Creekside Charrette last month, you might be interested in this article in Building magazine which was published last week.

The story is more about the charrette process itself rather than the outcome of the process, but makes quite an interesting read. Except that predictably, the journalist, Stephen Kennett, refers to Deptford as 'down-at-heel'.

I don't really know whether this process will have any influence on the style and quality of developments along Creekside - it will be interesting to see if anything filters through. The 'results' of the charrette are here, but be warned, this is a document of almost 30MB with lots of interesting pictures, some diagrams and thought-provoking maps, but very little by way of explanation.

And can I just add my own twopenneth?

No. Not on your Nellie. Absolutely not. Thanks for the offer, but really I'd rather you didn't.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Hello there!

Delighted to have discovered another Deptford blogger, currently putting me to shame with her regular posts. Pop over to Caroline's Miscellany for some entertaining musings on Deptford and its surrounds, as well as some interesting historical notes about our much-loved locale.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Twelve minutes?!

It's quite a splendid wheel to look at and I was interested in planning a ride...until I read that each ride lasts 12 minutes. And costs £7.

I think I will stick to looking at it from the ground, and enjoying the free views from the top of Point Hill!

Made in Deptford - a moan

Our lovely home-grown festival 'Made in Deptford' has traditionally suffered from an appalling lack of publicity. Last year wasn't too bad, since they tied it to the Tour de France coming through the borough, hence the dates were set well ahead of the usual schedule. This year, unfortunately, it seems to have surpassed itself. Today I found out that it is being held on 5/6 July (less than two weeks' time), but only by total chance!

Where are the posters in the shops, local cafes and on lamp posts? How the hell do they expect to attract people to events without advertising? I realise that the organisers are probably scraping around trying to find funding, but how much effort does it take to print a few hundred posters and flyers and take them down the high street?

I've already committed myself to something else on Saturday, so looks like I'm only going to get chance to get to the festival on the Sunday.

Incidentally, don't go to the website looking for a programme, as there is very little information there. However I did see a solitary poster yesterday lunchtime in the Deptford Project cafe, perhaps this is your best stop for information!

Monday, 16 June 2008

The Deptford Project

The Dame's first 'official' visit to the Deptford Project, Deptford's new 'jaw-achingly trendy new cafe-bar' (that's what Brockley Central said about it, not sure what it means but nice to know our neighbours are now a teeny bit jealous of us!) was a bit of a disappointment, so I held off reviewing it until I'd been back for a second visit. After all, every new place has teething problems, and it seemed only fair to give it a second chance. It lived up to, and beyond the challenge, I'm happy to say!

On reflection, my first visit for breakfast last Saturday morning was a tough ask, especially since the cafe had only been open a few days. Deptford is not blessed with as many greasy spoons as you might expect, but a couple of them reach a pretty high level by greasy spoon standards(and some of them are correspondingly poor, it's true to say). So to go to a trendy cafe for a fried egg sandwich was always going to be interesting.

The most notable difference was that my egg sandwich came with salad! I'm not talking about a plateful, it was more like salad garnish, but not really necessary accompaniment to such a dish. More problematic was the fact that my request for salt and pepper threw the staff into a bit of a tizz! In all seriousness, you can't have a fried egg sandwich without a touch of salt and some black pepper - table condiments please!

The sandwich was tasty (even without condiments) and the coffee was better than at my regular greasy spoon, but could have done with being a bit stronger. That being said, it was extremely pleasant to sit out on the decking in the sun, and enjoy my breakfast al fresco.

My second visit, for lunch today, was a much better experience, and the food exactly as I had hoped it would be. The baguette sandwiches looked nothing out of the ordinary, but the vegetarian quiche and fish pie that were on offer as lunchtime specials, and the three salads available were clearly homemade and proved very tasty.

I had the quiche (spinach and feta cheese with a pleasingly crunchy pastry base) along with two salads, one was nicoise-esque with green beans, tuna and boiled egg, the other was a lovely Moroccan-style salad with carrot, sweet potato and spices, and some leaves with a balsamic/soy sauce/olive oil dressing that finished it off wonderfully.

Along with a bottle of cranberry-flavoured soft drink, it came to £6.45 which seemed very reasonable for the quality of food.

The carriage is very brightly decorated, with one long table down the middle and the kitchen at the other end. I visited after the lunchtime rush, when it was quite quiet - it was pleasant to sit inside and read the magazines (Wallpaper and so on, imagine - in Deptford!) but I suspect it could be quite noisy if it was full. Or perhaps people speak louder when there is no-one right next to them - I was at the far end but still had to endure the full details of someone else's conversation.

Not much room for push-chairs or for children to run about (I mention that as a plus point - both the Albany and the Bear Cafe suffer too much from creche syndrome, attracting parents who think it acceptable to let your kids run riot when others are trying to enjoy a quiet lunch). Plenty of room for them to sit at the table or sleep in their buggies ;-)

All in all a fabulous addition to the area - my new lunchtime haunt, I'll be hoping to work from home a bit more often now!

Friday, 6 June 2008

Cafe news: good and bad

Well, the good news is that The Deptford Project will be opening next Monday. You can find out more about this colourful carriage cafe by visiting the website where you can see a cute video about how the train carriage was brought to the site, and learn that they will be opening SEVEN days a week, from 7.30am on a weekday (YAY for decent coffee on the way to the train station!). They will be open on Sundays too, which is great news for the high street - presumably because the new market will also be there on a Sunday.

They are promising home-made food using locally-sourced ingredients, and bespoke furniture. I'm looking forward to seeing the interior - I love the new exterior, it's colourful and witty without being pretentious, and apparently the interior is done by the same folks.

Unfortunately, I also have bad news to report. Our wonderful cafe down the other end of the street, Deptford Properly, has closed! I don't know the full details as yet - there have been rumours they had some flooding problems - but I will be off down there tomorrow to see if I can find out. It certainly can't be lack of trade, it was always busy when I went in there.

If it's gone for good, this will be a dreadful loss for Deptford. Their food, teas and cakes were of exceptionally high standard, and it was a wonderful place to relax and meet people.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Help! My butchers ate my cafe!

When we are both in Deptford on a Saturday morning, the first debate of the day is usually about where to eat our breakfast - yours or mine? We both have our favourite cafe - mine is the old retainer, Selecta Cafe (wins on its black pudding and poached eggs) while the Geezer's is the new pretender Kellie G's (doesn't even serve black pudding - shame!).

But this weekend he was in for a bit of a shock. After the first shock of me agreeing to eat breakfast in Kellie G's, we then tried to find it! Seems the brand new cafe with its gleaming tiles and shiny seats had been swallowed up without a trace by its neighbour!

For non-locals, the left hand side of this shop was formerly Kellie G's (opened no more than 6 months ago after a total refit).

Deptford High St is now back down to two greasy spoons - a disappointing scenario for a busy shopping street in Sarf East London. We don't count the one near the station cos it serves 'turkey rashers' rather than bacon, and lamb sausages. I don't know what, if anything, they offer in place of black pudding.

But never mind, what the street lacks in cafes, it makes up for in butchers and wet fish shops, of which more later.

Meanwhile, our new cafe is taking shape slowly but surely. There is now a high, sturdy-looking fence around the carriage (not the one shown here on the right, I'm talking about the one I'm taking the picture through!). It has new graffiti as shown.

And on the other side, a serving hatch, door, and large decking area which hopefully we'll be able to use when the sun decides to shine!

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Deptford farmers' market report

I eschewed my regular Sunday morning drive up the Big Hill to Blackheath station carpark this morning, in favour of a short cycle ride along the back streets to check out the fledgling farmers' market in Deptford Park. I didn't really need to buy anything, I'd got most of what I needed in Deptford yesterday because I had no idea what sort of, or how many stalls to expect.

I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised, I found the market to be small but (almost) perfectly formed! There were about 10 stalls in total, but they offered a good range of produce, and some were frighteningly local! I'm used to seeing farmers from quite far afield at the Blackheath market, but here there was a local producer from Eltham! Steve Page of Caregrow explained how he grows a large range of different types of chillis in two greenhouses in his back garden in Eltham, and he uses them to produce a fabulous range of relishes, dips/sauces and also jams, marmalades and mustards. Not sure how to use them? There are also some great recipes on the website, including one for Peppered Pineapple Icecream!

I had been expecting some element of repetition at the market, thinking that it might just be the same producers as the Blackheath market, but only one (the excellent goats cheese stall) was there.
Artisan Foods (a long-time stall holder at Borough Market) had a small selection of goods - cakes and quiches - so happily I was able to score one of their fabulous orange and almond cakes!

As for the rest of the stalls, they were as follows (not in any particular order);

- a reasonable range of fruit, veg and plants on one stall (six cox apples for £1, a bag of salad potatoes for £1, and a bunch of purple sprouting and a bunch of rhubarb for 60p each). I liked the fact that most of the items were marked per bag or per item, which I thought might appeal to local visitors on low incomes - so that they would know how much it was going to cost before paying. He also had a good selection of eggs, both hen and duck eggs.

Core Juice had a nice range of apple and pear juices - three or four different types of apple juice, a pear juice which I chose, and an apple and ginger juice. Only the fact that I was on my bike and had only brought one pannier prevented me from buying one of each!

Meat choice was restricted to two stalls, one selling wild rabbit and venison, and the other selling pork products. The rabbit was jointed and sold in vacuum packs, I bought half a rabbit to put in a casserole later in the week.

The other stall was the Giggly Pig Company, which is based in Romford and has outdoor rare breed British Saddleback pigs, which are made into a huge range of different sausage types. I chose 'hop' sausages (which have hop flowers in them) as I thought this had a nice local ring to it, and also took home a couple of faggots to try. The range of sausage flavours was quite interesting, including 'welsh dragon' (pork and leek with chilli) and stilton and asparagus sausages.

There was a small range of bread available, but I didn't examine it closely as my bag was getting rather full by this stage.

Finally there was a stall selling pies, both meat and fruit - all of which looked delicious, but likewise I was getting a bit laden down with produce and it seemed wise to stop buying! There were treacle tarts, rhubarb crumbles, and meat pies such as chicken and ham, lamb, and so on. Next time I will make it my first stop!

Definitely recommended if you get chance to visit the next one... I just hope I manage to find out the date of the next one before it is past! There were plenty of signs all around the park at every entrance, but that's no good to anyone who doesn't pass it regularly. Just one plea to the organisers - wider publicity please!!

***Update*** I just got my copy of Lewisham Life, and according to the listings, the next market is 25 May.