With neighbourhood restaurants on the rise, The Resident team flocks to the new Sparrow in Lewisham to see why Zone 1 and great restaurants seem to be parting ways… 

With the recent launch of Duck & Waffle Local, and The Ivy Cafes popping up all over town, it is now official – the neighbourhood restaurant is IN. They’ve been on the rise for a while. Probably because London just keeps growing, Zones 3, 4 and 5 keep on gentrifying, and we all work too hard to traipse into town come the weekend.

Here in south east London, where a trip into central London involves a train ride or sitting in traffic, we’re probably ahead of the curve on this phenomenon, with places like Chapters in Blackheath, Franklins in East Dulwich, Babur in Forest Hill, and more recent additions like Upstairs at The Guildford Arms and Pedler in Peckham. And now we have Sparrow in Lewisham.

The place is great. It’s the first restaurant of New Cross husband and wife team Terry Blake and Yohini Nandakumar, who were thinking of opening in Soho but were savvy enough to see Lewisham’s upward trajectory.

The name Sparrow refers to the fleeting, flitting manor of the menu, which ranges from classic Italian dishes to punchy Malay-style salads, making the best of whatever is in season. You’re encouraged to order a few small plates and a couple of big dishes to share, tapas style.

Everything comes with a flurry of fantastic flavour, from the roast pork belly served with fiery harissa, to the bang bang beef rib served with anchovy-miso laced aubergine. Even the little bruschetta appetisers – mushroom and courgette trifolati – come with a powerful punch of oily garlic.

As well as the above, the two of us also shared fried chicken tulips with a superlative satay sauce and a brown shrimp and kohlrabi salad. I say shared, but my friend has the palate of a toddler, so I only managed a bite of that fabulous bread-crumbed chicken. But the kohlrabi salad was all mine, as were the hunks of aubergine with the beef dish, so his gourmet reticence does have its perks.

But even he was bowled over by the end of it all. Friendly staff, simple, contemporary décor, craft cider, good wines and only a short stumble home up the hill to Blackheath.

The Knowledge

Three courses for two around £50 (excluding drinks)

Good for…
Full-flavoured sharing dishes in laid-back surroundings

What to eat…
The pork belly with harissa

What to know…
The menu isn’t divided into starters and mains, just mix and match as you please

2 Rennell Street, Lewisham SE13 7HD;