North Cross Road Market, East Dulwich. Perhaps a slightly obscure choice for weekend shoppers. However, it's becoming something of a south London destination. True, it doesn't have the vibrancy of Brixton Market, the scale of Greenwich Market or the reputation of some of the north London major players, but it is something of a hidden gem and, due to the ongoing expansion plans by Southwark Council, may continue to grow in size and popularity.
“The council are keen to keep the ‘vintage’, ‘organic’ and ‘home-made’ feel of the market,” Kells, the owner of the Love Your Vintage clothing stall, tells us as he re-arranges some 1950s dresses. “There are enough markets like East Street Market [in Walworth] – people want something different.” His stall is a popular North Cross Road fixture, having grown from a smaller outlet in Dulwich Village. It sells clothes, shoes and belts. 1960s and 1970s clothing, apparently, is the most popular.
Across the street is Rye Books, the predecessor to a shop of the same name due to be opening on the street soon. The owner, Alastair, tells us of the restoration of the old Edwardian building, including the layers of wallpaper that show “a cross-section of time”. We pick up a guide to London from the 1960s, London Spy, seemingly the Londonist of its day, and try to resist the urge to smell some of the old books.
Further along is the North Cross Road Vintage Store – an Aladdin’s cave of bric-a-brac and many a household item remembered from childhood. It sells everything from antique tea sets to old telephones. “If we find it interesting, we sell it.” Among the most bizarre items are a pile of alpine sledges in the courtyard nestled in between the garden furniture and plastic windmills. “We have such a huge demand for them in the winter, we basically have to spend the entire summer collecting them,” explains Belinda, the owner. Now you know where to come when the snow falls....
Despite the range of stalls, food is the main attraction of the market. The combination of smells emanating from hog roast, Vietnamese báhn-mì sandwiches and home-made cakes is enough to make any mouth water, but there is one stall in particular that has the biggest buzz about it. The Dogfather is run by Cooper, the Elvis-alike creator of what are being hailed as the best hotdogs in town. No doubt recent exposure in The Independent and The Evening Standard has helped, but the real reason for his popularity is undoubtedly the ‘dogs themselves – 100% organic beef with toppings including chilli (the Mexican Elvis), bacon and BBQ sauce (The Snoop Dog) and saag aloo (The Slum Dog). “My vision is not to replicate New York or Chicago but to create something new and different,” says Cooper. When we ask him what’s next for the Dogfather, he says that eventually he would like to set up a diner “somewhere where people can sit down, order food and beers and have a good time.” Judging by the queue snaking around the block, it may not be far off.
Most of the traders are hoping that North Cross Road will continue to grow in size and accommodate a wider range of traders – most are optimistic that it will take off. With a list of over 40 traders waiting for a pitch, this could become a reality. South-East London’s best market? Perhaps one day.
Words and all photos by Gemma Gannon