Top 10 Things To Do In The Borough Of Lewisham

Lewisham in all its glory by Mike King in the Londonist Flickr pool.

Following on from our recent guide to Barnet, Hayley Dunlop takes us round the south-eastern borough of Lewisham.

Author’s note: I’ve lived in Hither Green for two and a half years and am still exploring all the different parts of the borough, so if you have any other recommendations I’d be very much up for hearing about them in the comments below…

1. Best restaurant: Villa Moura, Blackheath/Lee
Villa Moura somehow manages to ooze Mediterranean hospitality even before you step through the door. OK, so its al fresco dining area is perhaps a tad optimistic, but the authentic Portuguese vibe indoors is fantastic, and the service is homely and ever-so-slightly cheeky, in the best possible way. Make yourself comfortable, order copious amounts of ‘Green Wine’ and be prepared to feast on some of the yummiest seafood you’re ever likely to sample.

Reader suggestions: Bengal Brasserie (Springbank Road), Cinnamon (Upper Brockley Road), The Darjeeling (Lee High Road), Everest Inn (New Cross Road), Hong Kong City (New Cross Road), La Pizzeria Italiana (Brownhill Road), Le Querce (Brockley Rise), Levante (Lewis Grove), Le Wei Xiang (Lee High Road), Madras (Lewisham High Street), Maggies (Lewisham Road), Masons (Ladywell Road), Matahari (Springbank Road), Meze Mangal (Lewisham Way), Panas (Lee High Road), Panda, Panda (Deptford High Street), Sapporo Ichiban (Catford Broadway), Spice of Life (Lee High Road)

2. Best museum: Horniman Museum, Forest Hill
Set in attractive gardens, the Horniman Museum has something for everyone, and is a great alternative to the Natural History Museum if you want to avoid the throngs of tourists. Music lovers will enjoy their permanent exhibition of musical instruments, and there’s also a neat little aquarium, where entry is a rather bargainous two quid (£1 for children). Up yours, South Bank!

3. Best venue: Dirty South, Lewisham
The clue is in the name, so although the Dirty South is a bit rough and ready, it certainly attracts some great bands and is one of the only drinking haunts in the Lewisham area with a late license (as far as I’m aware). In the past year I’ve seen the classic 90’s band Dodgy play a spine-tingling (seriously!) acoustic set, and have been thrown around in a sweaty mosh pit at a secret Babyshambles gig. Even Pete Doherty graced us with his presence!

Reader suggestion: Fox and Firkin (Lewisham High Street), The Station (Staplehurst Road)

4. Best pub: The Dacre Arms, Lee
This is one of those pubs that you’d never, ever stumble across. And, because you have to seek the Dacre Arms out in the residential back streets of Lee, it’s a rare gem in London. If you’re looking for urban hip, comedy nights or pub quizzes then search elsewhere, but if you’re looking for a cosy, friendly pub with a selection of guest ales on tap (Doom Bar, Bombadier, London Glory, Greene King IPA and a few Courage beers on during our last visit), and a lovely beer garden where you can happily wile away a Sunday afternoon, then the Dacre Arms is the place to go.

Reader suggestions: Blythe Hill Tavern (Stanstead Road), Dog & Bell (Prince Street), Jam Circus (Brockley Road), Marquis of Granby (New Cross Road), Montague Arms (Queens Road), The Talbot (Tyrwhitt Road)

5. Best coffee shop: Cafe of Good Hope, Hither Green
The Dacre Arms aside, decent pubs are sadly lacking in and around Hither Green, but decent coffee shops and cafes most certainly are not, with at least three or four new ones springing up in the past few months alone. Although You Don’t Bring Me Flowers next to Hither Green train station is without doubt the prettiest, my personal favourite is the Cafe of Good Hope on Hither Green Lane. There’s a great selection of drinks and hearty soups, and — best of all — the profits go towards the Jimmy Mizen foundation, which was set up in memory of the 16-year-old who who was tragically murdered in the area in 2008.
Reader suggestions: Degustation (Coulgate Street), El’s Kitchen (Ladywell Road), Goldsmiths Cafe (Lewisham Way)

6. Best random activity: The Green mini golf , Hither Green
When I heard the crazy rumour that a mini golf course was being built in Hither Green I guffawed. But, lo and behold, the course opened in January 2010 and has proved to be a big hit amongst the UK’s thriving and enthusiastic mini golf community, with tournaments regularly held there thanks to the fact that it is…drum roll please…the UK’s one and only indoor Swedish Felt mini golf course. If you’re not quite at international level yet, you can turn up without a booking and play a round on the surprisingly challenging course for a very reasonable fiver (or £3 for under 16s).

7. Best shop: Gennaro Delicatessan, Lewisham
This is as authentic an Italian deli as you’re ever likely to find in London. Cheese, charcuterie, pasta, coffee, bread, olive oil — it’s all here in one fantastic family-run shop, headed up by Antonio.

8. Best takeaway: Babur, Crofton Park
Babur is a stylish Indian restaurant not far from Honor Oak Park train station. But just down the road, towards Crofton Park, is their little takeaway branch. Babur has a strong reputation — not only in the borough — and deservedly so. But if you’re up for a night in, get them to deliver their tasty treats instead, and choose from a selection which is definitely a notch above your standard curry fare.

Reader suggestions: Nouvelle Spice (New Cross Road), Uncle Wrinkle (New Cross Road)

9. Best park: Mountsfield Park, Catford
There are loads of great parks in the borough, but I’m going to give a shout out to an underdog. Mountsfield Park may not have an ornamental garden, a lake or a nature reserve, but it’s a smashing family-friendly open space, with views across south London. It’s also  home to the the annual Lewisham People’s Day. The park also boasts Stainton Tea Rooms — a cheerful cafe that sells drinks, home-made ice cream, and a good selection of food.

Reader suggestions: Hilly Fields, One Tree Hill

10. Best library: Manor House library, Lee
When I moved to the area, the beautiful grand property in Manor House Gardens was being renovated into what I presumed to be flats. My delight when I discovered that it was actually being converted into a library was probably over the top, but as a keen bookworm, having this library down the road, with its helpful staff and immaculate selection of books — all housed within stunning listed architecture — is incredibly handy. Thankfully the library has escaped the recent cutbacks, but many others in the borough haven’t been so lucky.

By Hayley Dunlop. Follow Hayley on Twitter, read her blog, or her pun blog.

Please leave a comment below if you have other recommendations for the borough. If you’re interested in putting together a guide to your own borough, drop us an email to hello – at – londonist.com.

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  • Rob

    If you love szechuan/dong bei food then Le Wei Xiang aka Happy Smell (!) on Lee High Road is well worth a visit. It doesn’t look much from the outside but the food is delicious, it’s probably London’s best kept secret! I’d recommend the seabass stew, pigs trotters in chilli oil, ox tendons in soy sauce, you really can’t go wrong.

    Menu: http://hungryhouse.co.uk/happy-smell

    http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4114/4775384759_da3c2ea82f.jpg

  • http://twitter.com/iOverlord Scott Vine

    Good list and pretty much agree. Spice of Life and Bengal Brasserie also worth a mention in the best takeaway/curryhouse front.

    On pub front, you’re also correct decent pubs are sadly lacking not only in and around Hither Green (where I also live) but in ‘Sham as a whole. Jam Circus in Brockley pretty decent though. Let’s hope the peeps who own that (Antic) gives us a place to look forward to in the soon to be overhauled Coach and Horses.

    Venue wise, it is worth mentioning The Station in Hither Green. Think about to change hands again so hopefully it will improve again as a pub – used to be worth recommending about 7 years ago – but even now it has live music on Thurs and Fri and it’s well worth the effort to attend: – One World Club (folk and poetry and stuff) and Icarus Club (also acoustic based music).

  • Scott Wood

    Brilliant Sri Lankan and south Indian from Madras, Lewisham High Street, brilliant pide from Levant, Lewis Grove. New Indian from Cinnamon, Upper Brockley Road.

    Actual Best Park: Hilly Fields with it’s stone circle. One Tree Hill in Honor Oak is also an eerie, haunted place.

    Other bestest pubs: Dog & Bell Deptford, Montague Arms, New Cross Gate and a part of my heart will always belong to the Marquis of Granby in New Cross.

    • Anonymous

      Love One Tree Hill. It really does have that ‘ancient place’ feel to it.

    • http://twitter.com/biff_bifferson biff bifferson

      have you been following me round? agree on all them, ah the marquis. standing firm for normality in the face of multi-haircut wearing meeja students

  • Scott Wood

    Bestest take-away, also, Uncle Wrinke chinese in New Cross. Always fresh, tasty and smiley!

  • http://twitter.com/hayjane Hayley Dunlop

    Brilliant recommendations, thanks all! Yes, Happy Smell has also been recommended to me and is on my list of places to try. Shall also pay a visit to Hilly Fields and One Tree Hill very soon. Hmm, sadly my experiences of The Station pub have never been positive, but then again I’ve never been to one of their music nights…

    I have indeed sampled the curry delights of both Bengal Brasserie and Spice of Life and can wholly vouch for both (though Spice of Life doesn’t deliver).

  • Rob

    Following on from my earlier post, I found a couple of reviews for Happy Smell

    http://www.meemalee.com/2010/03/le-wei-xiang-lewisham.html

    http://www.timeout.com/london/restaurants/venue/2:27130/le-wei-xiang

    As you can probably tell, I’m quite evangelical about this place….I want them to stay in business!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=579821320 Ray Gardner

    Hong Kong City and Everest Inn are both good as restaurants or slightly pricey take-aways. Both on New Cross Road at the ‘Southwark Borders’ end

  • SomonefromSomewhere

    Best venue: The Fox & Firkin.
    It what the Dirty South tries to be.
    How you could’ve lived in Lewisham and never been there is beyond me.
    316, Lewisham High street.

  • http://www.facebook.com/paintersradioshow Seymour

    Fox and Firkin on Lewisham High Street is not only the best venue/pub in Lewisham, but pretty much the best small venue in London and, as far as I’m concerned, the best pub in the whole World. In fact, it’s the reason I moved to Lewisham. Their big problem is that they don’t promote themselves violently enough to make people from outside the Borough want to go there – madness when it’s a 10 minute bus ride from Goldsmiths, and it’s effortlessly managed to be everything The Amersham Arms was trying so hard to be a couple of years back.

    The Dirty South is owned by the same people who run Jamm in Brixton and much as I’ve tried to love it, allowing their promoters to run dodgy “pay to play” schemes which prey on the optimism and naievety of young bands was enough to make me vow never to set foot through their doors again.

    • http://twitter.com/darryl1974 darryl1974

      Thirded on the Fox & Firkin – great venue, good boozer.

      • http://twitter.com/davidgarlick David Garlick

        4th’ed

  • http://twitter.com/biff_bifferson biff bifferson

    agree on a lot of this. but if you’ve not been to the darjeeling on lee high road (further towards the town centre than dirty south) you’re missing out. cant be doing with dirty south and its plazzy cups though.
    point of order, the dacre isn’t in lee is it? i’d have said it’s about the cut off point for claiming blackheath residence, so lewisham border. absolutely spot on about the service in villa moura though.
    further along lewisham way, meze mengel is a MUST VISIT turkish grub palace. buenos aries cafe in blackheath (is that greenwich?) is great for steaks but expensive. and until 16th april, there’s #meateasy http://bit.ly/h9HDhU

    • Lewisham Lass

      Most of Blackheath Village is actually in Lewisham Borough and The Dacre Arms is SE13!

      • http://twitter.com/biff_bifferson biff bifferson

        yes but if i lived near the dacre, as opposed to the other side of LHR, i’d be claiming blackheath residence. in a desperate attempt to impress women, obviously.

  • http://twitter.com/biff_bifferson biff bifferson

    oh aye, panda panda on deptford broadway is well worth a go too. reviewed on this site i think. ace sarnies for crushing a hangover

  • purple dave

    again….Fox and Firkin?how can dirty south come anywhere even close?Fox is an amazing local venue, which has its own festival every year, Foxfest, late license, famous pub quiz!!
    and how can you forget Maggies?!

  • purple dave

    again….Fox and Firkin?how can dirty south come anywhere even close?Fox is an amazing local venue, which has its own festival every year, Foxfest, late license, famous pub quiz!!
    and how can you forget Maggies?!

  • http://twitter.com/hayjane Hayley Dunlop

    Looks like I need to pay a visit to the Fox and Firkin then… (though it doesn’t seem to have a website?). Like I said, still exploring the area, and this list is by no means definitive! :)

  • http://twitter.com/biff_bifferson biff bifferson

    also goldsmiths cafe is excellent. and my dirty shame is the trampy fried chicken next door. the chippy by brockley cross is really good, as is the one up lee high road just over from the garage with the marskses shop. they make the fish from fresh there, it takes a bit longer but well worth it. have to ask for the chips well done though cos they tend to be aneamic. which i cant spell. anaemic. got it.

  • SomonefromSomewhere
  • Jessiclees

    In terms of Delis, you should also try El’s Kitchen in Ladywell and Degustation in Brockley, both French rather than Italian.

    Pubs, you should try Jam Circus in Crofton Park, it does great real ales, food and has live music/comedy. The Talbot in Brockley is also great.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for all the comments. I’ve added new suggestions beneath each entry.

  • Hannah

    ladywell swimming baths!

  • Hannah

    ladywell swimming baths!

  • MP

    Wot no Maggie’s??

  • Dave H

    I love mini golf. Hither Green is obviously on the up.

  • http://twitter.com/clogsilk Clare Griffiths

    Got to give a shout out to Sapporo in lowly Catford for restaurants. And I’m a fan of the Matahari on Springbank Road in Hither Green too.

  • JoC

    You have to try the Sapporo in Catford for a bento box, bowl of noodles or some sushi at very reasonable prices. I think they were recommended in Time Out cheap eats a year or so ago.
    There is also a really nice Italian under Eros house in Catford, can’t remember it’s name as you can’t see the frontage as it’s behind some stairs (a real hidden gem!)

  • http://twitter.com/shanerichmond Shane Richmond

    Le Querce in on Honor Oak is my favourite Lewisham restaurant. They also have a branch in Blackheath but I haven’t been.

    I disagree with your recommendation of Babur as best takeaway. We’ve used them a couple of times and the quality is nowhere near as good as the Babur restaurant up the hill – in fact, it’s the worst Indian food I’ve had from a Lewisham takeaway. The Babur restaurant does deliver and the food is fantastic but it’s a lot more expensive than a typical takeaway.

    • http://twitter.com/hayjane Hayley Dunlop

      Yes, Le Querce is already on my list of other places to try – didn’t realise there was a branch in Blackheath

  • elcapitan

    Another takeaway/restaurant I’d really recommend is Panas on Lee High Road (formally Fewa but now under new management). It’s the best Indian I’ve had in Lewisham (previously tried Bengal Brasserie, Spice of Life and Chillies) and their house dishes are really nice. Service in there is always excellent.

    • http://twitter.com/hayjane Hayley Dunlop

      I liked Fewa! Though I never dined in. Have had takeaway from Panas and it was fine, but would like to try out the restaurant soon.

  • Christine Crowther

    A nice selection of ideas here! Glad that Lewisham is getting some attention. One suggestion I would make is the Deptford Project, in Deptford (obviously), which just falls into Lewisham and is a train come cafe come art space! You can find out more info here: http://www.thedeptfordproject.com/

  • http://profiles.google.com/tabitha.iddon Tabitha Iddon

    Nice to see Lewisham mentioned in a positive way but I think this post should really be renamed ‘Top 10 things to do where I live in Hither Green/Lee – perhaps Blackheath but most of that is actually in Greenwich borough so perhaps not’… Lewisham as a borough includes Brockley and Crofton Park (a hotbed of excellent coffee shops, bars and good local restaraunts and the Brockley Jack Theatre), New Cross (many, many bars and pubs and music venues – the majority of whom have late licences), Telegraph Hill (excellent park with amazing views, great irish/thai pub), Deptford (Massive market, the Albany Theatre and lots of ahem, local character) and hundreds of other places!!
    So, thanks Hayley for the props for Lewisham but I hope this encourages you to get out your oyster card and have a wander around the borough!

    • http://twitter.com/hayjane Hayley Dunlop

      It totally does, I can assure you! Loads of great recommendations, thanks. As I said at the top of the post, I’ve lived in the area for a couple of years and am still exploring, so I hope having all of these tips on this one post from people who live in all corners of the borough will be a good resource for all who stumble across it :)

    • http://twitter.com/hayjane Hayley Dunlop

      It totally does, I can assure you! Loads of great recommendations, thanks. As I said at the top of the post, I’ve lived in the area for a couple of years and am still exploring, so I hope having all of these tips on this one post from people who live in all corners of the borough will be a good resource for all who stumble across it :)

  • fran

    The pizza place at Eros House is superb – think it’s called Pizza Italiano. They’re more than happy for you to collect, and they make it up on the spot while you wait.
    Masons in Ladywell is nice, and the best Indian takeaway we’ve found is Nouvelle Spice in New Cross – they deliver, but it’s also good to go there, as you get TONS of food, and can take your own wine.

  • Andy

    Good list – especially pleased with Mountsfield Park getting a shout, spent large chunks of my childhood and adolescence there and Horniman museum, brilliant place.

    Fox & Firkin definitely a much better venue than Dirty South. Although the DS has pulled in some big name acts, the Fox is far friendlier, more welcoming, and also has a consistently good programme of gigs, special events and nights (the Monday night quiz is well worth a visit)

    Also worth a big shout – Matahari malaysian restaurant on Springbank Rd nr Hither Green station, super friendly and lovely food; Blythe Hill Tavern for friendlyness of staff, decent beer and Thursday night Irish music jam

  • Andy

    Good list – especially pleased with Mountsfield Park getting a shout, spent large chunks of my childhood and adolescence there and Horniman museum, brilliant place.

    Fox & Firkin definitely a much better venue than Dirty South. Although the DS has pulled in some big name acts, the Fox is far friendlier, more welcoming, and also has a consistently good programme of gigs, special events and nights (the Monday night quiz is well worth a visit)

    Also worth a big shout – Matahari malaysian restaurant on Springbank Rd nr Hither Green station, super friendly and lovely food; Blythe Hill Tavern for friendlyness of staff, decent beer and Thursday night Irish music jam

  • Chris

    Trattoria Raffaele in Sydenham gets my vote for one of the best restaurants in Lewisham, excellent food & hospitality, a genuine slice of Italy in London.

    • http://twitter.com/biff_bifferson biff bifferson

      if thats the one im thinking of, with a keyboard in there and a bloke singing, people were ringing up to book a slice of baileys cheesecake when i was there. so i had some – they done right. sensational. as was the place generally

  • mk

    What about Telegraph Hill? Fantastic views over London and a good boozer in the Telegraph at the Earl of Derby just round the corner.

    • http://twitter.com/biff_bifferson biff bifferson

      telegraph hill park is great. nice up there NYE (which i generally hate) as well.

  • Noopacity

    Feeling a bit sorry for Forest Hill here. Is it really such a dead zone (minus Horniman)? The Dartmouth Arms should get an honourable mention at the very least.

  • http://twitter.com/westendmusicals Westend Musicals

    Thanks for the recommendations, I really want to check out the musical instruments in the Horniman museum. 

  • Sofia

    Royal Tandoor on Brockley Road, near Crofton Park station is by far the best curry I have had!

  • Garry

    Lewisham also has the largest role playing club in London, which runs every Wednesday inside Lewisham Hospital grounds. I’ve found them to be really friendly and great night out. I now look forward to Wednesdays!

    http://www.rphaven.co.uk/