Croydon Foodie City: What can be done to save West Croydon? (Part 1)


By - Monday 1st June, 2015

Jonny Rose recommends rebranding West Croydon to appeal to food lovers


Could West Croydon have the vibe of Brick Lane one day?
Photo by eGuide Travel, used under Creative Commons licence.

West Croydon often gets the short straw in Croydon life. It was the first to be affected by the Croydon riots and the last to receive investment from the mayor’s regeneration fund. A council Masterplan is coming, but for many it’s too little, too late.

Every area must have a unique selling-point. In and amongst the lurid Afro-Caribbean hairshops and imposing Lidl, are a trove of shops selling ackee, plantain, yam, green banana and a caravansary of imported goods from around the world. West Croydon is home to Greeks, Persians, Chinese, Polish, and more: the restaurants that line London Road are reflective of this multicultural melting pot, and are every bit as good as the eateries in South Croydon’s ‘Restaurant Quarter’.

West Croydon’s USP is the wonderful ethnic open-front markets, butchers and restaurants that line the stretch from West Croydon Station to Broad Green: it’s here that its fortunes lie if residents wish to make sure that they are not left behind by the machinations of progress occurring in nearby Central Croydon.

Making West Croydon into a foodie haven

There are many benefits to pursuing this idea of turning West Croydon into a haven for foodies:

Firstly, it will change the perception of West Croydon. Croydon has always had an “identity problem”, how much moreso West Croydon which has never had the luxury of being a retail centre (like Central), a young professional’s commuter enclave (like East) or a tranquil suburban sprawl (like South).

Secondly, it will give those residents who are keen to start something but not sure what a clear, realisable, attractive vision to pursue. There’s no shortage of talented people in West Croydon. Unfortunately, it’s yet to turn into any kind of discernible, material action.

Thirdly, it will make West Croydon a destination rather than a place to briskly walk through to get to more desirable parts of the borough. How cool would it be if people spoke of West Croydon in the same way as they do Borough Market?

Fourthly, it will champion local retailers and business owners, putting money into their pockets; many of whom are at the mercy of the whims of the unpredictable footfall of Saturday shoppers and commuters rushing to West Croydon Station.

Finally, community action begats corporate investment. The brutal truth is that there are finite resources and noone is going to put money in a place if there are no discernible returns. If locals can create value and prove demand for more investment in the area, it makes it more likely that investment will be forthcoming. Making West Croydon a foodie haven would likely have an agglomeration effect: more companies and cultures would move to the area to creating job opportunities and increased improvement to the public realm.

Sure, we’ve got the world-famous Surrey Street market, but Croydon is surely big enough to have two celebrated market areas.

Croydon Foodie City: the next steps

So, practically, how can West Croydonians start to build on this idea?

  • Mobilise and meet: the first step is to meet with like-minded people in the area who are committed to seeing West Croydon flourish, and see merit in pursuing its food proposition. As with Croydon Tech City, you only need to find two or three persons who are organised and hardworking, to get something like this off the ground.

  • Create a West Croydon food website: It doesn’t have to be complex or flashy. A simply couple of pages that explains what the group is trying to do, an email capture form to build a mailing list and some flattering pictures of the area.

  • Organise food tours: I’ve been hugely impressed by the annual informal food tours that Kake Pugh does with friends (check #croydonfunweekend) around West Croydon, sampling cooked foods or buying food from local shops and cooking at home. How about more people in the area organising similar efforts for out-of-town friends and colleagues?

  • Croydon Eats Out is an exciting, interactive and social food based events brand in Croydon. There are over six hundred members, and there are both regular and one-off events. Get them to start using restaurants in West Croydon.

  • A West Croydon cookery book: With self-publishing making it easier than ever to get something off the ground and into print – why not commit to making an iconic recipe book with food just from West Croydon shops?

  • Lobby the council: The council is in charge of much of how Croydon is perceived and where monies are spent. Once any West Croydon Food Committee is formed, consider how you can engage the council to support your vision.

  • Marketing: No one will come to West Croydon to try all its market foods if they don’t know about it. There’s so much you can on a shoestring budget – both on and offline.

Everybody loves and eats food. It’s one of the great equalisers that transcends class, religion and income. Croydon needs to make more of its nascent food scene – I can think of no better place to start than West Croydon.

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose is a committed Christian who has lived in the Croydon area for nearly twenty years. He is an active participant in his local community, serving at Grace Vineyard Church and organising Purley Breakfast Club, and was ranked "Croydon's 37th most powerful person" by the Croydon Advertiser (much to his amusement). He is the Head of Content at marketing technology company Idio, the founder of the Croydon Tech City movement, a LinkedIn coach, and creator of Croydon's first fashion label, Croydon Vs The World. Working on Instagram training. Views are his own, but it would be best for all concerned if you shared them. Please send your fanmail to: jonnyrose1 (at) gmail (dot) com

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  • David Callam

    Jonny
    I believe you would incease the chances of success for this exciting idea if you pushed, from the outset, for closure of London Road from Broad Green to Station Road to all traffic, creating a pedestrianised area to complement North End. Two similar but hugely contrasting promenades that together would help to restore Croydon’s long-lost reputation as south London’s preeminent shopping destination.

    • Anne Giles

      Where is the traffic supposed to go then?

      • David Callam

        That’s a matter for Croydon Council and Transport for London to resolve. I have no doubt they are more than capable, if they put their minds to it, but first it needs to be on the agenda, which is why I suggest the campaigners add the proposal early in the discussions, rather than making it an add on later.

        • Paaji

          Problem with this is that at the moment from West Croydon, it is easy access to the Central Croydon Shops via bus(from Streatham, Norbury, Brixton and Thornton Heath), which a lot of commuters use. Also people use buses due to the fact that they can save money instead of entering the dreaded Zone 5. Having a pedestrianised road in that section would mean that fat boys in Hammerson Westfield would lose trade which would never be considered.

          • David Callam

            The idea that buses from Streatham and north Croydon would no longer serve central Croydon is unthinkable. They will simply need to be rerouted.

          • http://www.croydontransitiontown.org.uk Andrew Kennedy

            Here, here

          • Paaji

            Maybe a tram extension to the north of the borough?

          • David Callam

            Now that really is a good idea.
            Maybe we should take it as far north as central Brixton, where it would interchange with the Victoria Line and another connection with the rest of the capital.

  • http://www.loafapp.co.uk Han-Son Lee

    Nice write up. We could definitely help promote the idea of West Croydon recipes, without people even needing to self publish, and use LOAF APP to connect those to Home Cooks worldwide. We could even link back to those individual businesses in the recipes. Feel free to email me at if interested.

  • Croydon Street Eats

    Great idea. Food is the centre of all cultures. The diversity of such cultures and foods in Croydon should be celebrated. Food is a great leveler, we all need it, enjoy it and want to share it with others; either eating it or telling the world what a wonderful new dish or food that we’ve found. If Street Eats can be of any help drop an email to

  • Khusro

    This is a really well written article, Jonny, you’ve really touched on many of the core reasons people avoid West Croydon as well as to what areas need improvement. I pretty much agree with every single thing you’ve said here, it’s spot on!

    I will be happy to support any West Croydon themed initiative. I have my own Croydon based meetup group, ‘Croydon EatUp’ and I will be happy to create a West Croydon themed event. The idea behind my meetup group is quite simple: everyone who attends needs to cook one dish, come along and socialise, that’s it.

    So I can organise a meetup where all the ingredients should be purchased from West Croydon, and eaten somewhere in West Croydon. I could also require that everything be ‘cooked’ in West Croydon, but I think that maybe harder for people to do.

    More details on my meetup group below, everyone is welcome to join!
    http://www.meetup.com/CroydonEatUp/

  • Serena Alam

    I’m always keen to get people writing Croydon-themed books, and to generally get Croydon folk involved with the publishing scene.

    Things are still pretty hectic with CronxBooks atm, but if anyone does have any West Croydon-related book ideas such as the one Jonny suggested, please do feel free to get in touch (Tw: @Cronxbks; E: cronxbksinfoatgmail.com). Will try my best to help/give suggestions etc.

    • Serena Alam

      Also, I’m definitely happy to dedicate a large chunk of the “A-Z of Croydon”, I’m currently working on… to West Croydon. One of the many great areas in Croydon that you can never know enough about.

  • Bernadette Fallon

    Great idea Jonny – food is the perfect way to bring people together and it could be a great focal point in West Croydon. Also suggest a West Croydon food blog as a way of marketing and reaching a wider audience – with recipes, news, info etc

  • lizsheppardjourno

    Delighted to read such a positive thread. As a Broad Green Villager since 2011 (having previously been an Old Townite) I enjoy living there (although it’s too frequently rubbish-strewn, something for which some residents clearly bear responsibility: however, I do not see where the many small businesses along London Road, open long hours as they are, are meant to dispose of trade waste).

    The amazing array of fresh produce on sale from before dawn until midnight testifies to some seriously healthy and skilful cooking taking place on a regular basis and there are some very good – as well as very economical – places to eat out. Beydagi, the Turkish food centre, 83-85 London Road, is terrific and well worth a visit for olives, bread, pastries and more.

    London Road’s facelift at its southern end is starting to look good too, restoring this attractive late Victorian high street to the way it must have looked before it was run-down, neglected and poor. I’m hoping the new look will go some way to restoring pride in London Road and encouraging more visitors to come and spend time and money here.

    Some great ideas in this thread – I hope they are acted on. Why not submit them to , for publication in the Citizen’s ‘I Would Make Croydon Better By’ series? We’re planning to submit these to the council in due course, so this is a real way to make your voices and suggestions heard by decision-makers.

  • Wesley Jordan Anthony Baker

    Great article, love the idea. I’d be more than happy to capture and publish pics as CDN is kind of thin on content from North Croydon.