Croydon is a diverse, sprawling borough connected by a network of acid green trams. It’s the birthplace of Amy Winehouse, Kate Moss, Ronnie Corbett, Ian Wright and the author of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It’s also where Dubstep first started and where Henry VIII courted his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Oh and it has an IKEA.
Croydon is bucolic enough in parts to feel suburban but at its core, it’s urban. You never feel you’re missing out on the big city lights with all that’s going on here, and that’s before we’ve even mentioned Croydon’s restaurants.
Between wood-fired pizzas in Boxpark and moules marinière in a gilded theatre, there’s plenty of great restaurants in Croydon where you can enjoy excellent burgers, knock-out Indian, good coffee, and fine wines all within a tram-ride radius.
If Matthews Yard were a person, they’d be the multi-hyphenate type, armed with a little black book of contacts and a top score on Wordle. Run as a non-profit community and cultural hub, it houses workspace, regular exhibitions by local artists, an events space, The Lounge cocktail bar aaand one of the best vegan-friendly restaurants in Croydon.
Here, you can feast on burgers and fishless finger baps, crispy BBQ cauliflower and huge platters of pan-Asian vegan treats, including gyoza, wonton and crispy vegan duck pancakes. There’s also a neat drinks list featuring locally distilled gin from Signal Brewery and Cronx Brewery Lager.
Details: 166 N End, Croydon CR0 1UF | Book here
Big Mike’s Calypso Kitchen
After one bite of Big Mike’s Curry Goat with Rice and Peas, there will be no doubt in your mind that this is a hot contender in the spice stakes. Here, Big Mike (aka award-winning chef Michael Springer) doles out steaming bowls of Bajan-influenced curries and sticky-edged jerk wings. There’s also plantain and sweet Jamaican festival dumplings, ideal for dipping into puddles of leftover curry or Big Mike’s very own Jerk & Twerk sauce. After so much spice, cool your taste buds with a deceptively strong rum slushie.
Details: Unit 34 & 35, Boxpark, 99 George St, Croydon CR0 1LD | Find out more here
If you’re after single-stem flowers in dainty glass vases and gingham tablecloths, look elsewhere. MEATLiquor doesn’t do half measures; it’s fully amped up, flowing with Jägermeister and all about meat. From the outside, the Croydon restaurant might look modest, but inside, it’s vast, street art-smothered emporium of meat with an island bar, a pool table, a darts board, table football and a photobooth. But if meat really isn’t your thing, there are also Impossible™ Chicken Nuggets and the Garlic ‘Shroom burger with Cheese and Garlic Crack.
Details: Units 58-62, Boxpark, 99 George St, Croydon CR0 1LD | Book here
Coqfighter Chicken and Beer
Coqfighter Chicken & Beer first hatched at Boxpark in early 2015. It opened with the promise of serving up life-changing fried chicken, inspired by Melbourne’s Korean food scene and fuelled by friends Troy, Tristan and Deacon. Safe to say, the boys continue to deliver on their promise with a menu of fried chicken burgers, bao and really good sides. Not to be missed is the wafer-thin, sesame batter that coats the K-Wings, giving unbelievable crunch, tang and chew all in one mouthful. There’s also a vegan fried chick’n burger with all the trimmings. Team your deep-fried delight with a can or two of Coqfighter Lager, or a glass of natural wine curated by Top Cuvée. Winner winner, chicken dinner.
Details: Unit 19, Boxpark, 99 George St, Croydon CR0 1LD | Book here
Starting your day with a Belgian waffle with 72 hour marinated crispy chicken, chilli sauce and shallot sour cream, just because you can, is one of life’s greatest thrills. At The Store you’ll find a short but souped-up brunch menu – more waffles, French toast and a crab-topped crumpet – served in a space that feels like a Cuban bar in the 1950s with an industrial edge. On weekdays they have hot-desking spaces with £5 bottomless coffee and wildly efficient Wifi, and on the weekends, bottomless brunches. And it’s just as good come the evening, when they switch to steak frites and chicken kievs.
Details: 73 S End, Croydon CR0 1BF | Book here
Tindli by Chef Karnavar
London’s spice route is a well trodden path, taking you on a veritable tour of the subcontinent across five tube zones. Not to be overlooked in this part of town is Tindli, where chef Manoj Kanavar puts his skill and cultivated palate into every dish. Expect classics such as tandoori chicken and lamb biryani as well as fusion twists like the Spicy Chicken Burger and Gunpowder Fries.
Details: 5-7 St James’s Road, Croydon CR0 2SB | Find out more here
Since 2005, the appetite for breakfast foods at all hours of the day has ballooned – and so too, not entirely coincidentally, has The Breakfast Club’s empire. At their Croydon restaurant – a “70s Christmas chic” shipping container in Boxpark – you’ll find all the TBC classics, from the Club Burrito and Madame French Toast to the syrup-drenched Mc’Lovin pancakes and Nashville Fried Chicken Benedict. Is this not the type of food you dream about while dragging yourself out of bed for a run? There’s also great coffee, carb-centric sides and merch.
Details: Unit 48-52, Boxpark, 99 George St, Croydon CR0 1LD | Book here
Tucked down a road in South End Village, Little Bay looks more like a Swiss chalet from the outside than a restaurant. And it’s not particularly restauranty on the inside, either. It’s more like a mini theatre that throws heavy shades of Moulin Rouge, all red velvet drapes and gold detailing – it’s basically Croydon’s answer to Sarastro. The seating is in boxes, so you can feel like a member of the royal family at the last night of the proms. Order a round of Kir Royales then sit back and enjoy the show – there’s live opera and folk music on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings.
Details: 32 Selsdon Rd, South Croydon CR2 6PB | Book here
Have you heard what’s opening up the road in Bromley? Have a peep at Dorothy & Marshall…