Catford is on the up. Could the new bars, pop-ups, restaurants and everything from film festivals and arts trails to vintage fairs make Catford London’s next hip hood?
Words: Nikki Spencer
Lead image: Little Nan’s Broadway Theatre Saloon
During June’s London Food Month – the capital’s biggest ever food festival organised by the Evening Standard and curated by Grace Dent and Tom Parker Bowles – alongside events from cutting-edge restaurants and Michelin star chefs, you’ll find a pop-up supper club on 15 June (‘Kati Rolls Into Catford’) from Raastawala, who are on a mission to bring delicious North East Indian street food to south east London.
‘When we heard about the festival we knew we wanted to be involved and put Catford on the street food map,’ explains Raastawala founder Rinku Dutt. ‘We have recently moved to the area and it’s a great way to introduce ourselves and what we do.’
The four course, £28 a head meal will include kati-rolls, which are skewered roasted kebabs wrapped in paratha bread, and will be served in a marquee on Catford Broadway. ‘We heard there was a popular supper club in a marquee on the Broadway a few years ago so we contacted the council to see if they could bring it back for the festival and they thought it was great idea,’ adds Dutt.
And they are not the only ones putting Catford on the map. Earlier this year multi-award winning, Deptford-based Little Nan’s opened at the Catford Broadway Theatre. The bar, which previously won Best Bar in the Time Out London Loves Local awards and features in The Guardian’s Top Ten Best Bars in London, is modelled on owner Tristan Scutt’s late Nan’s front room, and offers cocktails in teapots served up in a riot of velvet and gold lame. Little Nan’s also takes bookings for afternoon tea, with colourful cakes provided by local Cat Food Cakes, plus there’s live jazz every Thursday evening and a vintage market on Sundays.
‘When I was offered the chance to open in Catford, I jumped at it,’ says Scutt, who adds that the kitsch surroundings have already caught the attention of producers at ITV’s Lorraine show, who did a fashion shoot back in March.
When I was offered the chance to open a Little Nan’s Bar in Catford, I jumped at it
‘The theatre bar is such a wonderful space and there’s a great sense of community here and a lovely mix of old and new. It’s exciting that there are new things opening in Catford, but there are also some really good places that have been around for years such as Japanese restaurant Sapporo Ichiban and La Pizzeria Italiana.’
The Catford Bridge Tavern, next to the station, has recently re-opened to the delight of locals who were worried it might never happen. After a community campaign prevented it from being turned into a supermarket and flats, there was a major fire in 2015 during building work and it was boarded up for a long time.
Beer mats in the newly refurbished building say ‘Thank you’ to the Rushey Green councillors who helped save the pub, which now includes a restaurant and a terrace. From Friday 23 June-Sunday 25 June they are hosting the Catford Beer Festival, which is supported by the Campaign for Real Ale, and will feature live music and street food alongside over 40 beers, ales, ciders and perries.
Just a few minutes walk away, tucked away down an alleyway, is Catford Constitutional Club. Pub group Antic, who have a reputation for turning around troubled boozers and breathing new life into old buildings, has transformed the former conservative social club into something of a community hub, with regular quiz nights and monthly free film screenings, hosted by Catford Film.
While the town’s cinema is long gone, Catford Film are doing their best to make up for it. Alongside their hugely popular monthly screenings at Catford Constitutional Club, they have hosted open-air cinema events, most recently Hairspray on Culverley Green, and have plans for a pedal powered screening on the roof of the old multi-storey car park on 15 July.
Lewisham Council has bought the 1970s shopping centre in preparation for redeveloping the town centre and is encouraging innovative ways of using the space in the meantime. Although they have recently pledged that whatever their future plans, the much-loved and much-photographed giant fibreglass cat will stay put.
Catford Film have successfully crowdfunded to repeat last year’s first ever Catford Free Film Festival, which will be back from 8-16 September with eight days of free film screenings, workshops and industry Q&As. This year also sees the return of the Catford Arts Trail. The area has a large artistic community and last year thousands of visitors were able to see the work of 75 local artists and makers in their homes and studios over two weekends in September.
Catford is a good spot for vintage lovers. The huge So Last Century fair had people queuing out the doors at St Dunstan’s School earlier this year
Catford is also a good spot for vintage lovers. The huge So Last Century fair, featuring over 45 stallholders, had people queuing out the doors at St Dunstan’s School earlier this year, and the Beckenham-based organisers are planning more events for the autumn.
Two years ago on Channel 4’s property show, Location Location Location, a young househunter famously had a bit of an on screen meltdown and burst into tears when Kirstie Allsopp suggested she look at a rather lovely period flat in Catford. Chances are she may think differently now. As local blogger Jane Martin tweeted recently: ‘#Catford #PlaceToBe’.