Croydon restaurants, breakfasts, lunches, pubs, bars, cafés and more.
Croydon might not possess the enviable reputation of some of the other, more obviously foodie, London boroughs but there’s always been a lot of good stuff happening in food and drink. The addition of street food haven, Boxpark, in 2016 made a huge impact in the area's dining landscape, while the annual Croydon Food and Musical Festival continues to toast Croydon's high quality, international cuisine. Microbreweries, family-run restaurants and welcoming cafes give Croydonites plenty to scoff on, here's what should be on your radar.
Note: Croydon is one of the most populous and sprawling boroughs of London, and so to try and keep things simple we've stuck to establishments that are reasonably close to Croydon’s two biggest railway stations: West Croydon and East Croydon. Basically, stuff that's within the town of Croydon, not the extended area that constitutes the borough.
It may not open at the crack of dawn, but from 9.30am the Clocktower Café has a heartening selection of fairtrade teas and coffees, along with impressive surroundings full of art, books, live music and culture (it's connected to Croydon's Central Library). What's more, their all-day breakfasts cover stomach-lining fry ups, veggie-friendly plates and smoked salmon and egg options too. On London Road, Chennai Dosa (also listed in the restaurant section below) serves a great value breakfast buffet from 10.30am, meaning you can start your day with porridge-like upma, potato masala and crispy, filled dosas.
Once the domain of trendy east London, The Breakfast Club has wound its neon-filled way south of the river, offering early risers in Croydon breakfast burritos, avo-smash on toast, plus all-American fry ups and waffles from 8am every day of the week. Vegan, veggie and all-round crowd pleasing breakfasts can also be found at independent Smoothbean! located right by East Croydon station. Make sure to pick up a decent coffee and a ciabatta roll for lunch before you go.
Let's get Boxpark out the way. Having brought 80 new traders to Croydon, almost 50 of which are food and drink related, the impact that this food and retail park has made on the area is undeniable. Lunchtime sees workers and residents flock to this multi-level dining hall to get their fill of arancini, Taiwanese bao buns, barbecue ribs, tikka wraps, tapas, pittas, sushi... truly, the list goes on. Always bustling, you could come here for lunch every day and never get bored.
But it's by no means the only lunchtime market around. Surrey Street Market – which dates back to 1237 is more than deserving of your love too. In the main it's populated by fresh produce stalls but there are a fair few food-to-go options too. Council schemes in recent years have seen a decline in the number of stallholders able to trade here, but around 20 still remain and merit your support.
If it's old-fashioned fare you're after, a serving of hearty pie and mash at Cockney's of Croydon, or a generous helping of fish and chips (you know it's 'proper' when it comes with bread and butter) at McDermott's will see you right. Both are much-loved institutions that have been plying their trade for a collective 50 years. The cafés mentioned above, as well as Croydon’s array of well-priced Indian and Caribbean offerings are also good lunch shouts.
If you were to poll Croydon’s foodies about the ‘coolest’ place to head to, Matthew’s Yard would place on a lot of people's list. Located in a little alcove just off Surrey Street market, it’s a music space, coffee shop, bar, art gallery, flexible workspace and a whole load of other things, all combined into one ever-evolving destination. As for food, some of Croydon's finest burgers can be found here courtesy of resident restaurant, Brgr&Beer. Wash one of their heritage breed beef burgers (veggie and vegan options available too) down with a local craft beer and job's a good'un.
Croydon has plenty of very good Indian options too. London Road’s Chennai Dosa serves traditional south Indian food with a particular focus on the dosa — a type of south Indian pancake — and the selection is immense. Jalalis also deserves a special mention. It’s a bit of a trek from East Croydon station but the salmon tikka is truly the stuff of legend, and as its a takeaway, you don’t even have to bother getting there. Closer to home, Banana Leaf offers decent value, flavoursome south Indian cuisine but fair warning that the service can be hit and miss — especially if you decide to take away.
For European cuisine, try Brasserie Vacherin, a traditional brasserie in the French style led by chef Malcolm John, a name we hope and suspect we might be hearing more of in the near future. Elsewhere, Galicia is one of the best spots for tapas and Galician food that you’ll find anywhere in London — the kind of place that expats traverse the city to find. And Bagatti’s has been delighting Croydonites with cibo Italiano for as long as we can remember — 24 years and counting — and the spaghetti alla carbonara is magnificent. Finally, family run Cote D'Azur fuses Mauritian and French cooking with great success. Fish lovers won't be disappointed by the seafood-heavy menu and there's even all-you-can-eat mussels on a Thursday.
For an area laden with great pubs (see section below), Croydon city centre is rather behind on great gastropubs. One notable exception is the decidedly charming Treehouse. It boasts a fairy-lit space as well as a food selection that goes far beyond standard pub grub — think pan-fried sea bass with celeriac puree, and goose fat roast potatoes accompanying their delicious Sunday roasts.
It’s the aforementioned Matthew’s Yard and Smoothbean! which come top in terms of Croydon’s coffee credentials, although there is a new contender on the scene. Crushed Bean on the High Street is a lovely independent spot serving ginormous pastries and stonkingly good brews from Clifton Coffee.
Surrey Street’s Dog & Bull is a grade II listed pub with an excellent beer garden. It also boasts a mighty selection of beers and has a pizza oven, smoker and barbecue. The Green Dragon champions local beers, has high ceilings, dragon motifs and a slightly eccentric and inviting atmosphere. The cosy, family-friendly Oval Tavern is much beloved for its loyal community, lovely beer garden and live jazz on Sundays.
The venerable Royal Standard can be found hidden away under a flyover and adjacent to a rather large and rather grey car park. Don’t let the surroundings put you off — this is a charming pub with a great selection of drinks and an elegant interior. It also has a strategically-positioned beer garden on the opposite side of the road, which although a little strange looking, is wonderful in summer. Also deserving of a mention is the somewhat niche The Ship. Visit on weekends for loud hard rock or heavy metal-themed fun, economically priced drinks and the odd live performance (though this seems to be less common of late).
There's been a mass exodus of bars in Croydon of late, with the departure of Half and Half, Bar Txt and The Edge. Ponte Nuovo (under the flyover) is still holding the fort though, with its focus on Italian-style food in the restaurant, and vermouth and sparkling wine in the accompanying Lounge Bar. If neon bars and lurid cocktails are more your thing, head straight to South Beats Cocktail Bar on the High Street instead, where double the amount of salted caramel apple martinis can be downed during the bar's generous happy hours.
A must-do for beer lovers is Cronx Bar. A portmanteau of Croydon and Bronx (please don't be put off by the name), Cronx Brewery began life in 2012 by two Croydon guys who wanted to bring better beer to the area. The subsequent arrival of Boxpark saw the opportunity to set up shop in their first public facing bar and thus, Cronx Bar was born. Try some of their very own craft beer (its fantastic) or choose from some of their handpicked choices from around the country. Great selection, knowledgeable staff, no-frills seating.
Park Street’s Bad Apple, as the brainchild of the people behind the (now legendary and sadly defunct) Black Sheep Bar, fits into Croydon's late night scene rather nicely. Music heavy, and with a rather well stocked bar, the interior is full of the kind of furniture that looks like it was lifted from the set of an unreleased Alice in Wonderland remake.
You could very easily walk past the unassuming Soulful Cellar if not for the often large lines of would-be punters. It’s also open until 4am, with soul, jazz and funk making up the musical agenda. You need to be 25 or over, mind. Occupying the site of the old Overton’s brewery malt houses, The Granaries is another late night Croydon institution that focuses on R&B, soul and reggae music spaced out over what they describe as ‘three clubs in one’. Over 22s only, this place stays open until 4am on Fridays and 5am on Saturdays. Find a late night curry house for sustaining suppers.
Any more suggestions in the area? Want to request we do a certain area next? Leave a comment below or tweet us.
Based on original content by Jack Oughton and updated by Ruth Hargreaves.