Changing Croydon: Restaurants

By - Tuesday 7th May, 2013

Anne Giles continues her crusade to show us that things weren’t necessarily better in the old days. This time, she takes us through the ever-improving array of restaurants in Croydon

Unlike its shops and public transport, Croydon’s restaurants have always been good. But it’s my experience that they’ve got better and better over the years. My memories of dining out in Croydon when I lived here in the ‘70s with my first husband are rather vague. We lived in Thornton Heath, and later near Selhurst station. There was an Indian restaurant close by which we frequented quite a bit, as well as a Polish one. For special occasions we used to go to “Eric & Joy’s Kitchen” near Thornton Heath Pond. The food was excellent. Unfortunately, they eventually decided to make the portions smaller (something to do with nouvelle cuisine, apparently), and lost us as customers. The other restaurant I dined at for special occasions was the “Edelweiss” at the bottom of Selsdon Road. They had a wonderful sweet trolley – trifles, baked Alaska, profiteroles, gateaux, and extra cream to put on top!

In the mid-1980s, Spanish “tapas” restaurants started to open up, firstly in Clapham and Waterloo, and later in Croydon. “El Patio” opened up in George Street and I used to take my students there, but they would never allow us all to sit at one long table, so we discontinued going. In 1996 “Galicia” opened up and every year I took all my classes there for Christmas and end of term “tapas”. It is in Croydon High Street, close to South End, Croydon’s restaurant quarter. We tried “Las Fuentes” in Purley, but the food was not as fresh and, bizarrely, they didn’t allow reservations.

I could live on fish, as long as it is not fried in batter!

In the High Street area, my husband and I have tried The Khyber, an Indian restaurant serving stylish curry for connoisseurs and local foodies, which is very good. Also in that area is Il Ponte, an Italian restaurant, which I would recommend. The Argentine Buenos Aires restaurant in the High Street is not one I would go to a second time. It is small and when we went with a group from the Croydon Dinner Club some of the steaks were too salty.

I had never heard of Croydon’s Restaurant Quarter until the South End Food Festival took place in April 2012. We attended and were amazed to find such a large group of restaurants in that area. We decided to try some of them. The first was Malcolm John’s widely acclaimed “Fish & Grill”, which is fairly expensive, but the menu consists of many different types of fish, which I love. I could live on fish, as long as it is not fried in batter! With the group from the Croydon Dinner Club we also went to “Albert’s Table” – another expensive one, but the food is simply out of this world and the manager took great care to look after my dietary requirements. “Bagatti’s” has been serving fine Italian food since 1990. The food was good, but we found the restaurant rather noisy. We were very impressed with the “Aqua Mediterranean Meze Bar & Grill” – excellent food and service. Because of this, we decided to book for Christmas Day. Again, the food was good, but the clientele on that day were awful – shouting and swearing until we decided to forego the coffee and go home. I would not particularly recommend the “Beijing Cottage”, as the waiting staff were not interested in asking each customer what their requirements were. As we were in a group, they had already made up their minds that we would all eat what they had decided. We were ignored on the whole and I would not go there again.

I would also suggest trying the other “Buenos Aires Restaurant” which is in Purley. There is a lot of room there, the service is excellent and the Argentine steaks are simply out of this world, as is the Argentine Malbec and their special dessert – “flan con dulce leche” (crème caramel with caramel spread).

Other restaurants which we have enjoyed so much that we have booked for a Christmas Day luncheon are the Indian “Planet Spice” in Forestdale and “India Dining” in Warlingham. Turkey with a few Indian spices is delicious. Another good Indian one is the “Royal Tandoori” in Selsdon, which is owned by one of the borough’s Conservative councillors, who also owns a restaurant in Whyteleafe.

Dotted around the borough are a few others we have tried. “The Glamorgan” in Cherry Orchard Road is a pub run by South Africans and their food is mainly South African. I suggest trying the Boerwors (their sausage). The Royal Garden Chinese restaurant in Addington Hills is very special. It is quite expensive, but it is the place to go for more upmarket Chinese food. In Lower Addiscombe Road there is a good Indian restaurant called “The Banana Leaf”, where we once attended a very pleasant 25th anniversary dinner.

The “Little Bay” restaurant in South Croydon is well-known for its opera nights on Monday and Wednesday. We were fortunate to go on a Tuesday

Hotels also do good food. I have not been to the Selsdon Park Hotel for some time, but their meals were good. The best one is the Croydon Park Hotel. We had Christmas Day lunch there on a couple of occasions, when Father Christmas would come round with presents for the children. There was an incredible amount of food and one could just keep going back for more. The “Little Bay” restaurant in South Croydon is well known for its opera nights on Monday and Wednesday. We were fortunate to go on a Tuesday, when it was quiet. (I am not an opera fan) The food was very good and the décor is quite unusual.

A good Italian restaurant is the “Bella Vitta” in Wickham Road, Shirley. There was a branch in Selsdon, but it closed down. I did find the tables were too close to one another and there was no privacy. Selsdon is also well known for its excellent “Thai Express”. We don’t tend to go right into the Town Centre to eat, but did try “Tiger, Tiger”. I was not impressed. The service was appalling and we were ignored most of the time.

The next two I wish to try are the South Vietnamese one at 56 Lower Addiscombe Road and I have been told about a Nigerian one, but I cannot find it, so perhaps it is due to open at some point.

I think Croydon has always been great for food, we had some great places in the 1970s when I first lived here, but I think it has kept on improving and is now better than ever. We have restaurants of almost every nationality – one is really spoiled for choice.

Now – who’s hungry?

Anne Giles

Anne Giles

I grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the daughter of an Anglo-Argentine mother and English father. I went to an English school and worked for a British company out there before coming to live in the U.K. I spent many years teaching Spanish in adult education in various centres in Croydon Borough and have got to know so many different areas – North and South. We have been living in Selsdon since 1989 and I love it. I feel passionately about Croydon and have spent many years writing blogs – firstly for the Croydon Advertiser, then the Croydon Guardian, and eventually my own blog entitled “The Good Life in Croydon”. I am very much involved in the community, attending regular meetings with the Croydon Community Police Consultative Group and am also a member of the British Transport Police PACT (Police & Community Together) Team.

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  • Felonious Newt

    The Vietnamese in Lower Addiscombe road is the Thahn. My nearest restaurant and I can heartily recommend it. BYO keeps the price down and seeing a short simple menu is refreshing. Good for veggies and especially for coeliac / gluten free diets.

  • Felonious Newt

    Banana Leaf is, of course, after 25 years still one of the best places in Croydon. Royal Garden has good food and service and a nice setting but lacks intimacy.

  • Kake

    Nice selection, thanks, Anne!

    The Royal Garden has a few intriguing-looking dishes on its menu. Cantonese isn’t my favourite Chinese cuisine, but I’ll definitely be giving it a go.

    Osushi on South End is worth a visit for those who like Japanese food.

    The Nigerian restaurant is the Victoria Island on St George’s Walk. There’s also a Ghanaian place on Station Road, West Croydon: Finger Licking.

    Evaluating Croydon’s restaurants in a London-wide context, I’m not sure I would say many of them are worth a a specific journey (there are exceptions, including Albert’s Table, Spiceland, and Mazi [the latter two on London Road]), but from a local perspective I’m pretty happy with what we have. As you say, the diversity of our restaurant scene is one of its strengths. The main thing I miss is non-Cantonese Chinese.

    • Anne Giles

      Thanks. I have absolutely no idea what non-Cantonese Chinese food is like. I might ask my oriental neighbours across the road.

    • Anne Giles

      Apparently, Sichuan food is non-Cantonese and there is the Sichuan Garden in Coulsdon.

      • Kake

        Yes, Sichuan is one of the other regional styles of Chinese food! Unfortunately the term is often used for marketing by Chinese restaurants in the UK, with no real meaning behind it. I found some photos of the menu at Sichuan Garden (1, 2) and it’s clear that almost all of their food is just the standard Anglicised Cantonese you get in generic Chinese restaurants here. There are a handful of dishes that look promising (e.g. the double-cooked pork), but overall, that isn’t a Sichuan menu.

        Here’s an overview of Sichuan food I wrote a while ago, here are some photos of Sichuan food, and here are some restaurants serving Sichuan food in London.

        Other regional Chinese cuisines I’ve enjoyed in London are Hunan food, Dongbei (north-east Chinese) food, and Fujian food. The one I’ve not tried that intrigues me the most is Yunnan food, which I’m told makes strong use of edible flowers and wild mushrooms — I don’t know of anywhere doing this in the UK at the moment, though.

        I do prefer proper Cantonese to the Anglicised stuff in general, it’s just that overall I like other styles better!

        • Anne Giles

          Gosh. That is very interesting. In the same way, a lot of Indian restaurants don’t serve the authentic thing either.

        • Anne Giles

          I have just spoken to my oriental neighbours. They told me that the Sichuan restaurants often do not serve authentic Sichuan food. They only use two: The Royal Garden in Shirley and Taitung, in the Wing Yip Centre in Purley Way. They are pretty sure that if you ring them and tell them what type of food you would like (i.e. non-Cantonese) they should be able to help you. The number for the Royal Garden is 020-8654-6491.

          • Kake

            Royal Garden and Tai Tung both do Cantonese. I go to Tai Tung for dim sum every so often but haven’t tried the evening food yet. I hadn’t heard of Royal Garden before your post but I’m definitely going to try it.

            I wouldn’t ask a Cantonese chef to do me Sichuan food any more than I’d ask a Spanish chef to do me German food… the cuisines, techniques, ingredients are very different. For someone in Croydon looking to get non-Cantonese Chinese food, I’d recommend Royal Palace in Surrey Quays — half an hour on the East London Line, and the restaurant is just a few doors down from Surrey Quays Station.

            (Edit: oh, or have I misunderstood you? I thought you meant I should ask those restaurants to make me some non-Cantonese food, but perhaps you meant I should ask them to recommend other restaurants?)

          • Anne Giles

            My neighbours seemed to think that they would cook something not on the menu if you asked them – like non-Cantonese food. They may well be wrong.

  • Philip George Harfleet

    In the late 1950s we used to love having a meal in Le Chalet Swiss (or Suisse) in South Croydon. Favourite dish: Sole bonne Femme, so lovingly prepared by the chef. I have no idea as to the exact address of this quite intimate little place but I have permanently strong memories of the superb food there.

    • Anne Giles

      Ah. I am pretty sure that is the one which was at the bottom of Selsdon Road, opposite the Edelweiss and I did go there. Loved the food.

      • Philip George Harfleet

        Yes Anne, that’s definitely the place. Thanks.