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Enclave Lucy in the sky with Deptford

South London never really stood a chance when the hordes from Dalston and Hackney started gravitating to the other side of the Thames. First Brixton got chewed up and spat back out as an upmarket parody of its formally hardcore self (Champagne + Fromage? Errrr, what!?). Next it was Peckham that found itself tumbling down the gullets of the gentrifiers. Where, then, pray tell, are you supposed to go ‘daaan saaaff’ these days without tripping over a macadamia nut and soy milk cafe latte?

We’d suggest taking a punt at Deptford, or more specifically Enclave: An artist run gallery cum project space complex on Resolution Way. The gallery side of things hosts funky and often experimental exhibitions — more often than not a colorful affair — across a range of media, by a mixture of guest artists and those who are tenants. The seven project spaces meanwhile play home to other artists and those working independently in publishing or food circles, with each space hosting their own autonomous public programmes.

Sure, we admit it, the place does exhibit some of the traits that we were stubbornly poking our pitchfork at above, coffee bar and monthly speakeasy amongst, but it’s not as black-and-white as that. These bits carry the same vibe as the rest of the place. They aren’t smarmy and they’re not contrived; they just serve good coffee and host the occasional monster party — no exposed brickwork or deconstructed negronis in sight.

The Old Police Station 'ello, 'ello, 'ello

There’s always been a defiant element to urban renewal: Reclaiming spaces abandoned by the powers that be, and repackaging them for the enrichment of the local community. It’s contemporary cultural Robin Hoodism is what it is — just with the nice, green trees of Sherwood forest replaced by crumbling masonry.

Down in deepest, darkest Deptford this sentiment certainly rings true, where an old police station on Amersham Vale has been coerced out of retirement to serve a new purpose as an artistic hub. Imaginatively rechristened The Old Police Station, the former clink is now home to a bunch of artist studios, project spaces, radio stations, recording studios and social spaces. Running on a ‘do-it-yourself’ kind of basis, anyone is free to to rent out one of the spaces for as long as they like and fill it with whatever they like.

This makes for an eclectic program, meaning on any given day you might come across a heady blend of art installations (which tend to lean to the funky, experimental side of things), gigs, supper clubs, and so forth. They also hold exhibitions in the prison cells too, so you can flirt with life behind bars — only you’ll have interesting stuff to look at as you wile away your incarceration, not just a toilet.

White Lyan Cocktail nerdistry

Nomadic bartending extraordinaire Ryan Chetiyawardana has made a hell of a name for himself throwing curveballs at the cocktail rulebook in recent years. White Lyan, formerly the White Horse pub, now a stripped-down, paint-it-black enclave of experimentation, is the mound that he’s currently pitching from.

Perishables (translation: Ice and fruit) and branded products find no home here. Everything in those elegant, stoppered glass bottles (mixers, bitters and even the pre-made spirit mixes) are produced, painstakingly, in-house. You’ll understand why when they’ve been imaginatively blended to form a drink like nothing you’ve ever come across before.

Case in point, the Moby Dick Sazerac: Rye whisky, Peychaud’s bitters, absinthe-soaked rice paper and ambergris. Yup, ambergris—because it adds body, obviously. If such liquid wizardry is lost on you, there’s a wine of each colour and a czech lager to tide you over. To opt for one of the three is to miss the point though. This place does cocktails, and you won’t find the like of what they mix anywhere else.

Topolski Out of the bunker

Formerly the bunker-cum-studio of expressionist painter and illustrator Feliks Topolksi, this under-the-arches spot on the South Bank is making sure the Polish-born artist’s legacy in the area lives on. Works by the man himself loom large all around, held aloft by a network of metal supports that extend overhead—framing a rust-red, circular sculpture at the cavernous space’s depths.

There’s an Eastern European slant to the menu (both food and drink) with pickles, cured meat and fish, as well as house infused vodkas at its core. For the persistently Anglocentric, the lengthy wood-panelled bar also carries a who’s who of craft local beers including Camden Hell’s lager, Portobello London pilsner and Kernel pale ale.

Come sundown there’s a curated programme of cultural events too, where music flows, cabaret kicks and artists exhibit to keep the spirit of Topolski’s former tenant alive.

Shimmy London Leave your inhibitions at the door

Daring eccentricity rules supreme at this late-night den of decadence. Optical illusions and Victorian trinkets are dotted about the secretive, candle-lit space—complete with exposed-brick alcoves and a wardrobe-cum-staircase in the corner. Behind the scrabble-tiled bar meanwhile, the staff, dressed in Gatsby-esque getup, mix and blend cocktails with a healthy twist. Amongst them is the ‘Smoking Gun’—a Glenmorangie, Laphroaig, honey water, ginger syrup, lemon Juice and soda concoction that’s sure to put your mind in sync with Shimmy’s surrounds. Prudes, beware—there’s a chance you’ll catch an eyeful through the peepholes in the toilets.

Sager + Wilde Bacchus hits Hackney Road

After a successful pop-up stint in Shoreditch back in 2012, husband and wife team Michael and Charlotte Sager-Wilde ventured further east in search of a more permanent spot for their eponymous wine bar. An old pub on a barren stretch of Hackney Road, they decided, was the place for them. Out went the old interior and in came Edwardian parquet flooring, exposed brickwork, some ‘20s German station lights and one mother of a metallic wine rack. Sager + Wilde had set down its roots.

Now well and truly open for business, it’s bringing some serious grape culture into a neighbourhood of high-rises and chicken joints. Premium and rare wines (over 30 of them) are available by the glass, to be sipped or slugged as you please—including a sherry-esque white rioja and a fruit bomb of a Californian cabernet sauvignon. For the less vine-inclined there are bottles of Hackney Downs’ Five Points beer. Meanwhile, artisan cheeses and a wealth of Italian charcuterie rule the snacking roost—as they should in any self-respecting, high-grade wine den.

The Saltyard Tapas as tapas should be featured

Everyone seems to have tried their hand at ‘tapas’ these days — pubs, Indian restaurants and expletive-spouting celebrity chefs alike. Stepping up to put the sub-standard pretenders in their place is The Saltyard — a true tapas (note the absence of inverted commas) joint with authentic Spanish pedigree and some serious skills when it comes to crafting inventive small plated eats that are second to none in the city.

Spread out over two intimate and tastefully decorated floors — with red-lacquered bars, grained wood floorboards and dark wood furnishings — this yard thrives on flexibility. Wine, sherry and cocktails can be enjoyed alongside charcuterie and cheese boards upstairs, while downstairs you can either pull up a stool at the bar (Catalan style) or take a seat at a table and make your way through the menu of mini-plates.

Dishes range from the classic to the more unusual, with tortillas, chargrilled chorizo and jamon croquettes offset by offerings such as soft duck egg with potato purée, artichoke pesto and hop shoots, or the diver scallop with fennel purée, girolles, purslane and chorizo oil. In short, top class tapas, as it should be.

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