The Silverton

Little Nan’s moves to a bigger and better location in Deptford

Owner and granson, Tristan Scutt talks about opening 2.0, Flat Butcher and Aunties Ballroom

Image show Aunties Ballroom at Little Nan's 2.0 with a comedy gig in full swing under a disco ball in the shape of an anchor
Little Nan’s new space includes Aunties Ballroom, seen here in full swing

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Tristan Scutt is surrounded by his brain at Little Nan’s 2.0 and he’s all the happier for it.

He first opened Little Nan’s Bar 11 years ago as a pop-up tribute to his late Little Nan Jojo.

Using her furniture and crockery for the decor, he took over a pop-up space behind The Bunker Club in Deptford Broadway.

Success blossomed as customers fell for cocktails in teapots, a wealth of knick knacks and Tristan’s genuine passion for ’80s and ’90s memorabilia.

Then, after several locations, he found Little Nan’s a home at Deptford Market Yard.

Three it’s spent the last eight years occupying as many as four richly decorated railway arches.

Now, however, a fresh chapter has started.

Having endured three years of precarious leases and a reduction in space, following the arrival of new managing agents, Tristan has taken the decision to move on – well, actually just up the road.

Head along the railway line from the existing bar down Resolution Way and, just beyond Villages Brewery, a new wonderland has been created.

Under much larger arches, Tristan has created essentially four venues in one. 

Image shows Little Nan's owner and grandson Tristan Scutt, a man with a pierced chin in a dark blue shirt decorated with playing cards
Little Nan’s creator Tristan Scutt

four venues in one

“First of all there’s Little Nan’s 2.0, which has Flat Butcher above it – a space that can be hired, inspired by Pat Butcher from EastEnders,” said Tristan.

“Then there’s the Grown Grandkids Play Den with air hockey, table football and arcade games.

“Aunties Ballroom is on two levels with a custom-made glittering anchor to celebrate Deptford.”

If that sounds a lot, it’s because it is.

Four times bigger than the Deptford Market Yard space (and with four extra toilets), Tristan has one setting when it comes to interior design and that’s just to go for it.

Everywhere there are display cabinets packed with things.

Fabrics and colours clash amid a riot of leopard print, neon and fake ivy.  

Image shows entry to a brightly lit bar with animal print rugs and neon signs inside
The entrance to Little Nan’s 2.0 in Resolution Way, Deptford

extreme maximalist kitsch at Little Nan’s

“It’s an expression of extreme maximalist kitsch,” said the founder and grandson who has an MA in fine art from Goldsmiths.

“Our decor is nostalgic – there are a lot of nods to Deptford history including the anchor plus cabinets filled with memorabilia and toys. 

“It’s a reference to Deptford Vintage Market, where many of the items were sourced.

“It’s also a celebration of local stores from back in the day like Abstracticus, the Second Time Round shop in Lewisham Way and Aladdin’s Cave.

“I hope it’s somewhere people will feel at home.

“They’ll have seen what we can do over the road and here we can do even more of it and on a longer term basis.

“Anything too empty scares me.

“Our AirBnB holiday home is like this in Weymouth and my flat is like this in Deptford – this is really how I live.

“When I look back at photos of the original pop-up I think it was a little simpler – perhaps I was worried 11 years ago how people would feel.

“Now it’s just: ‘Go for it’.

“I love stuff, I’m a massive EastEnders fan and I’m addicted to Deptford Market, so this is a great reason for me to trawl all the local shops and the stalls to fill the venue.”

Image shows a room at Little Nan's 2.0 filled with ornaments, toys and vintage furniture
Little Nan’s 2.0 is packed with toys, vintage furniture and memorabilia

pleasing the customers at Little Nan’s

“Our cabinets are obviously full of things I like, but I’m also always looking at and listening to what our customers are into,” added Tristan.

“Initially all our cocktails were named after members of the Royal Family.

“Then I realised not everyone was quite as big a fan of the Windsors as I was, so we changed things.

“We have got rid of our Prince Andrew, although we still have a Prince Harry, which dates from before the whole book thing.

“It feels nice to have created these new venues. It’s been a mad couple of months and we’ve had some great guys doing the build.

“My mate, Matt Sargent, has made all the fabrics and then I’m responsible for the rest of the decor.

“Weirdly, it’s been a calming process. 

“I think after what has been a stressful couple of years this has wound up being such a great move for us.

“You always have to turn stuff into positives and, perhaps, this was the kick we needed to find a better space.

“That’s why it feels great. We’d never have been able to do what we’ve done here in our original units.”

Image shows actor Pam St Clement who played Pat Butcher in EastEnders visiting the venue
When Pam St Clement (Pat Butcher) visited Little Nan’s

Little Nan’s 2.0 is up and running

Excited to welcome guests, Tristan has been slowly opening sections of the new venue while the build has been going on.

This is partly, I suspect, because he can’t resist sharing the new spaces.

Extended facilities go deeper than the bathrooms and entertainment areas.

2.0 will have room for a proper kitchen and there are plans to invite chefs in for pop-up collaborations in due course. 

While Aunties Ballroom can be set out as extra hospitality space, it also lends itself to performances beneath the rich satins, silks and quilts that coat its walls. 

“We’ve now had our first event there – a comedy night called Your Friend And Mine hosted by poet and comedian Jack Scullion, which went really well,” said Tristan.

“We especially want the ballroom to be multi-purpose.

“There’s no static furniture so we can have it set up in so many different ways. It can be used for performances or decked out with tables and chairs.”

Image shows a lit cabinet filled with playing cards, toys, records and a bust of Pat Butcher in the style of Queen Victoria
Little Nan’s 2.0 is filled with nostalgic items including a bust of Pat Butcher as Queen Victoria

whole venue hire

“Here, all of our spaces can be opened up and used as one or sectioned off,” said Tristan.

“People can hire the whole thing or, for example, we might have Little Nan’s open and a workshop up in Flat Butcher. 

“I’m excited to see how people use the space over the summer and how it evolves. 

“It’s the start of a new chapter and I think we’re really ready for it. It’s 11 years since Little Nan’s started and it feels good to be doing this in Deptford.

“We’d been looking for a new space for a while. It’s been an opportunity to really think about what we’re doing after 11 years of Little Nan’s.

“Before the eight years in Deptford Market Yard, we’d done the pop-ups.

“Our new location is a nod to everything we’ve done before.

“It’s all that we have learnt about how to put on really good events for customers’ birthdays, hen-dos and other celebrations.

“That’s what we’ve done under these two huge arches.

“With the move, we wanted to have somewhere we could really spread our wings and express what we want to do and that’s what we’ve done.

“We know our customers love our outdoor space and we have that here as well, but we have so much more inside too.

“I’m really excited to see people come in.”

With things in a fluid state as the venue gets fully up and running, the best place for updates is Little Nan’s Instagram feed, which can be found @littlenansbar.

Stay tuned for news of opening hours and future events.

Image shows a richly decorated space with different coloured fabrics and cabinets of 80s and 90s objects
Aunties Ballroom is on two levels and can be configured in many different ways as there is no fixed furniture

key details

Little Nan’s 2.0 is located in Deptford’s Resolution Way.

Hours are subject to change as things get under way, but the venue is currently open Fridays and Saturdays from 5pm-12.30am.

Find out more about the new site here

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Deptford: How Taca Tacos mixes flavours of Mexico and California in Deptford

Restaurant owner Thorne Addyman talks juggling looking after a newborn with opening his first site

Thorne Addyman, owner of Taca Tacos in Deptford – image Matt Grayson

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BY LAURA ENFIELD

When we chat, Thorne Addyman is rumpled, tired and a little distracted.

Pretty standard for someone who has launched their first restaurant – Taca Tacos – during an economic crisis.

But his disarray is also due to the Deptford resident recently becoming a father.

If you think it sounds bonkers to bring new life into the world at the same time as launching a Mexican restaurant, I agree.

But Thorne said opening in Deptford Market Yard a few weeks before his daughter was born felt just right.

“I’ve been interested in the arches for a while but it’s a big commitment,” said Thorne, who has spent years cooking at pop-ups and markets. 

“A year ago, I did go and view one, but didn’t feel ready.

“Then, it was still available in June, so I asked to have another look and it felt like the right decision to go for it.

“Deptford feels more alive this year and it seems like people who don’t live here are taking it more seriously and saying it is really coming up. 

“I only live four minutes away and was having a baby, so that made it all very manageable.”

Reality is hitting a bit differently now he has to get up in the night for nappy changes and feeds.

But Thorne does seem to be managing the juggle admirably, roping in family to help with babysitting while he preps ingredients.

The restaurant serves up six varieties of tacos, inspired by Thorne’s trips round the food truck scenes in California and Mexico – where he had his eyes opened to the amazing variations of the dish.

Food at Taca Tacos in Deptford Market Yard – image Matt Grayson

His menu includes the bestselling beef birria, which takes six-hours to slow-cook in a broth flavoured with four different chillies that’s then served on the side for dipping.

There is also the green chile pork served with avocado, pink onions, jalapeno salsa and coriander; the chicken pibil, baja fish, pulled ‘shrooms quesataco and a black bean taco.

“There are no rules for tacos,” said Thorne. “There are combinations of flavours that work better, but it is just about carrying food to your mouth.

“Going on those trips really helped me understand how amazing Mexican food can be and how that’s missing in this country.

“It’s mind-boggling that everywhere you go they have their own styles.

“In Mexico City I had an Argentinian fusion taco with smoked cheese and rib-eye steak.

“I’m interpreting different areas and bringing a different collection of flavours and styles to London.

“The Mexican wave is very early on and I’m hopefully catching it at the right time.”

Formerly an east Londoner, Thorne and his wife moved to Deptford in 2018 attracted by its “cool vibe”.

“It felt like there was a strong community here and such an array of food and drinks and shops as well,” he said.

“Walking down the high street, it almost felt like you could be in a different country with the smells, colours and fabrics.”

As we talk I can sense Thorne is in that new baby haze, where parents are prone to streams of consciousness.

“It is still in the phase where it’s all very new and we’re like: ‘What is this thing? How do we keep it alive?’,” he said.

The restaurant blends Mexican and Californian flavours – image Matt Grayson

My request for some career background is met with a 20-minute rundown of his life from age 14, when he started as a pot washer in his home town of Hay On Wye in Wales.

He talks about learning the importance of little things such as caramelizing onions for flavour, his move to London to work at Jamie Oliver’s steak restaurant Barbecoa in St Paul’s, and his two-year hiatus at a food and drink PR agency in Shoreditch.

The pull between kitchen and office continued, with a stint doing savoury waffle pop-ups in east London followed by a job for St Austell brewery in sales. 

“I didn’t love it or hate it,” said Thorne. “But fast forward two-and-a-half years and I got that itch again to do something with food. 

“My mum’s family are American and we were very lucky as kids that we were able to go to California near enough every year, where there’s lots of Mexican food.

“So my wife and I went on a road trip there and spent a lot of time eating tacos to really soak up some of the Mexican food that was about.

“When we came back, I started recipe testing and finding authentic suppliers in London.”

In June 2019 Thorne started with a four-week taco pop-up at The Greenhouse in New Cross Road (since closed), which sold out every night.

A three-month stint at a tequila bar in Dalston was juggled around his job, but just as momentum was building, Covid hit.

Furloughed from work, Thorne sold taco meal kits and a partnership with Plateaway saw his numbers jump from batches of  20 that he hand-delivered in south-east London to selling 200 a week nationwide.

“We got lots of good reviews, lots of bloggers wanted to try them but, as lockdown began to ease, we had to stop,” he said.

“All the way back in 2018, I’d put in a proposal for Brockley market, which is notoriously difficult to get into, but then the guy who runs it contacted me the day before we got married last August, and asked if I could do tacos there.

“It was a big moment as it’s established – some of the traders have been there for 10 years and it was a gateway to something a bit more serious.

“I could buy some equipment and it wouldn’t just be a pop-up.

Thorne cooks beef for six hours for his beef birria tacos – image Matt Grayson

“We did that every Saturday and built up a customer base and got lots of good feedback.  

“It was the first time I was able to interact with customers and having them come up and tell you they’ve enjoyed it makes it all worthwhile.”

Events with Kerb and wedding catering followed and then Thorne decided to up his game with a trip to Mexico.

“I hadn’t ever been before, which I didn’t feel was great given I was selling tacos,” he said.

“I went to Mexico, southern California and Austin, Texas – I read lots of books and blogs and ate tacos and burritos all day.

“The food trucks of LA  became a big inspiration for our business.

“It’s a pretty good way of bringing it over to London because they are Mexican families but they cater for western buyers.

“Going there, seeing it, eating it, tasting it was so important. Knowing my food was up to scratch compared to those who have cooked it from recipes that have been in families for generations.

“When I came back, I felt fully inspired.”

He had taken on Deptford local Tung Van Phan as head chef in November who encouraged him to go for it, when the Market Yard space came back on the table.

“Tung has completely thrown himself in and I could not have done this without his help,” said Thorne. “He is such a big part of the story and the journey. “

The duo spent time building the menu and the venue, with handmade tables, authentic Mexican ingredients and finishing touches Thorne said made all the difference.

“We spend three hours making a salsa because the ones you buy aren’t fresh,” he said. 

“They don’t really give you that hit of deliciousness and umami, where you taste all of the different levels.

“We spend a lot of time recipe testing and speaking to butchers and suppliers about what they’ve got. 

“I think the tortillas I use are the best in the UK because they are made fresh by two Mexican guys and delivered the next day.”

So how is he managing to juggle childrearing and restaurant running?

“It’s been a crazy couple of months really,” he said.

“We’ve got family based in Deptford so yesterday my auntie picked our daughter up and one of her cousins was playing with her all day.

“I was able to do prep and my wife was able to sleep.

“Being a parent is a completely new area of life that you never knew existed until you’re in it. It’s definitely been interesting doing both.”

Thorne visited California and Mexico for inspiration – image Matt Grayson

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Deptford: Why Bluethroat in Deptford Market Yard wants to make a name for itself

Bar and restaurant run by brothers Ari and Landi Mucaj is keeping its focus on quality drinks

Landi, left, and Ari Mucaj of Bluethroat
Landi, left, and Ari Mucaj of Bluethroat – image James Perrin

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Deptford Market Yard’s arches are typically filled with magic. It might be the ramshackle ephemera of Little Nan’s, the slick seafood of Sharkbait ‘N’ Swim or the wholesome cafe cuisine of Dirty Apron.

All of theses businesses pulse and buzz with the passions of the people behind them. It’s why the area draws ever increasing numbers of people seeking independent places to hang out.

It’s also why Bluethroat’s owners thought their idea could work.

Brothers Landi and Ari Mucaj had been talking about starting a business together since 2013.

“I’ve lived in Deptford since 1997 and I’ve worked in many central London bars,” said Ari.

“I started working as a kitchen porter and then got a job as a chef, which I did for about three years.

“I’d finish work about 10.30pm and then go behind the bar and wash glasses for fun. I fell in love with being behind the bar and that’s what I’ve done ever since.

“I’ve worked mostly in central London in places like the Cuckoo Club and Chinawhite and I ran the bar at Maddox for about six years.

“Every time Landi would come to see me in central London he would always say: ‘We should do this ourselves’.

“That was really my plan all along, at least for the last 10 years, trying to save up and do it.”

In 2018 Ari quit his job and teamed up with Landi, who had been in Deptford himself since 2001, to look for premises.

Guests at Bluethroat in Deptford Market Yard
Guests at Bluethroat in Deptford Market Yard

“We were searching and then we thought, what better place than Deptford?” said Landi.

“We’d seen a lot of changes in the area over the years, so when we saw an opportunity here, we thought it would be the best place to build something.”

The brothers took one of the larger brick arches at Deptford Market Yard, more or less next to the train station itself, and set about doing just that.

“Instead of doing it somewhere else, we thought it’s just around the corner, we can walk home and it’s the perfect place,” said Ari.

“We found this fantastic space here – it was a shell when we got it and we’ve built it from scratch.

“It took about a year to build it – we didn’t know anything about doing that so the fact we have this location and that we’ve created it from scratch is crazy, but it feels amazing.”

Landi added: “I fell in love with it really – the whole experience of setting up a business. It’s had its ups and downs and it probably took us longer to open than most other places, but we learned a lot in the process.”

Landi Mucaj pours a drink
Landi Mucaj pours a drink – image James Perrin

Unfortunately things didn’t go quite to plan. Just days after Bluethroat opened its doors, the first national lockdown came into force and they slammed shut.

Like many hospitality businesses, the brothers have since been riding a rollercoaster of uncertainty, most recently closing at Christmas as the responsible thing to do, despite the lack of official government direction to do so.

With restrictions lifted, however, both Ari and Landi can’t wait to run their cocktail-focused establishment unfettered. 

“This is the first chance we’ve had to run in a normal market, there’s been a lot of opening and closing,” said Landi.

“Our plan remains very much the same and it’s about refining our formula.

“Firstly, we’re really passionate about our drinks, delivered with great service. We’re also a very good restaurant.

“We are a place where people can come and chill out and have some really good cocktails.”

Bluethroat also serves food
Bluethroat also serves food

Walk into Bluethroat  and that focus is unmistakeable. The bar’s shelves are laden with spirits, ready to be whipped into a multitude of alcoholic concoctions.

“This is where my brother’s experience comes in,” said Landi. “We have about 11 drinks on our menu, all of which we’ve created for Bluethroat.

“There are boozy ones and lighter drinks, some that are bitter, fruity, bitter, sweet and sour – something for every taste.

“We are constantly working on the list and evolving it, but we really enjoy asking customers what they like and then building something for them.”

Bluethroat – named for a small member of the thrush family with a distinctive blue collar and a powerful song – also develops seasonal drinks, with two of its four spring specials already in hand.

“Customers will always find something new,” said Landi. “We’re getting ready to launch one made with Haku Vodka from Japan. 

“We just love the taste of this spirit, made completely from rice, and we mix that with a bergamot liqueur and blackcurrant to make a sweet drink with a hint of spiciness. We think people are really going to like it.

“The second cocktail we’ve created for our spring menu is based on whisky with a fig liqueur and mulberry syrup. 

“We make pretty much all our own syrups in the bar using a range of techniques such as sous vide and hot and cold infusion.

“The drink has a creamy taste and we also infuse the whisky with violet leaf to give it a beautiful aroma when you’re drinking it.”

Ari added: “When we opened, I gave Landi a crash course and now he’s a genius behind the bar. One of our challenges since opening has been finding bartenders with experience.

“But I think local bars are taking over in terms of quality – you can find cocktails that are as good here or in places like Hackney, as you will get in Mayfair.

“I worked in central London for 20 years and the quality here is no different. 

“You are seeing people who are going out locally to get this, instead of making the journey in.”

Bluethroat is locate in Deptford Market Yard
Bluethroat is locate in Deptford Market Yard

While its extensive collection of bottles, rich brown hues and speakeasy vibe mark Bluethroat out as a haven for drinkers, the brothers hope that its food offering will be a welcome surprise for those ordering.

“We change the dishes all the time, but we serve Mediterranean and modern European food,” said Landi.

“There’s always something new, but we love seafood. There are a lot of Italian influences because our chefs are from Italy.”

Ari added: “We serve a lot of fish – black cod, king prawns and salmon – and we do specials every week.

“I think people are a bit shocked that the food is as good as it is because of the way the bar looks.

“We started off serving smaller plates, but we’ve extended the menu because people wanted more food.” 

The primary focus remains the liquid though, and, having worked widely on the city’s bar scene, Ari is keen to build the bar’s reputation in the capital.

He said: “Ultimately we want to be known as one of the best cocktail bars in London. That’s our ambition. 

“We’re taking things slowly and we haven’t really promoted ourselves yet. We wanted to grow organically and for people to find out about us that way.”

Bluethroat is open Weds-Sun. Cocktails typically cost between £10 and £11. Small plates are £6-£11 and bigger dishes around £14. 

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Deptford: How Dirty Apron went from student dinners to supper clubs and a cafe

Deptford Market Yard venue puts community at the heart of its menu

Suzie Pennington of Dirty Apron
Suzie Pennington of Dirty Apron – image Matt Grayson

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BY LAURA ENFIELD

Croissant crumbs surround Suzie Pennington. But, when you run a cafe called Dirty Apron, a bit of mess and chaos is part of the fun.

“There was a show on at The Albany, so we’ve had loads of kids descending on us,” she said as we sit down to chat about her operation.

The 18-seater venue has been part of the Deptford Market Yard community since November 2016 – more or less when the arches first started opening up – and Its customers are very much at the heart of what the business does.

“A lot of the other vendors that opened with us were from food trucks, so were one-dish orientated,” said Suzie.

“But we’re more like a classic cafe with specials, a soup of the day and a brunch that changes as tastes change.”

Dishes draw inspiration from the season, feedback from regulars and what the local greengrocer has on offer.

“We like classics with a twist, “ said the 38-year-old.

“Not just British but European and Asian and we try to keep all our mains under £10 to make sure the cafe is affordable for the length and breadth of Deptford folk.

“We’re not faddy but, if there is a trend that looks interesting, and our customers ask for it, we will make it because we like to have a two-way relationship.

“We plan the menu around what our customers’ favourites are and speak to the regulars and see if they want anything revisited.”

The Anglo-Indian said her love of cooking started during her childhood in Essex.

“My mum cooked loads of Indian food growing up and I learned how to make lots of dishes quite young,” said Suzie.

“I was about eight when she first told me to make what I wanted from the fridge.

“She also ran a nursing home and I would hang out in the kitchen and learn how to do a lasagne or a roast.

“So I have always been around food and professional kitchens and got the interest and love from there.

“She’s really proud of me. One of the good things about having a cafe is everyone knows I run one so all my friend’s parents talk to me about it.

“Everyone is always interested and I love talking about food and Deptford and I really think everyone secretly wants to open a cafe.”

Dirty Apron is located in Deptford Market Yard
Dirty Apron is located in Deptford Market Yard – image Matt Grayson

The seeds of her own venture were planted when Suzie met co-founder Holly Williams at Bournemouth University.

“I studied sports science and Holly was doing animation. We met on the ladies football team. I think I tackled her and that’s how we became friends. 

“We both just had a love of food and, when we weren’t in lectures, we would go to the local supermarket and try and do student dishes on a budget for the team and make them as exciting as possible.

“We would do big extravagant roasts and lasagne. It was a chance to cater for numbers and was really fun and this working relationship kicked off naturally.”

After graduating they both moved to London and, when the supper club wave hit, they decided to jump on board.

“We would meet up at the pub and organise these themed events over a bottle of wine,” said Suzie. 

“It picked up some traction and it was when we did an Orange Is The New Black-themed event and 200 people came to this church hall in Limehouse that we knew we were on to something.”

The cafe's interior
The cafe’s interior – image Matt Grayson

Next came a six-week stint at Brick Lane Market where they cooked “way too much food” and it was a “bit of a slog”.

But rather than taking a breather, they Googled small festivals and booked every available pitch at events in the south under £100. 

“Every weekend for one summer we were somewhere different, “ said Suzie. “It was exhausting but by the end, we decided we were up for the challenge.”

That meant getting proper kitchen experience, so Suzie ditched her job in public health and spent two years at Riley Rocket on the Kingston Road, working her way up to become manager.

When Holly saw the arches in Deptford were being developed and rented, the duo decided it was time to take the plunge.

Suzie said the name Dirty Apron summed up their humour and was a nod to classic greasy spoon cafes. 

Over the years they have built up a family of loyal regulars, one of whom has even written a poem in tribute to the £5 coffee and bap deal.

Holly, who now lives in Brighton, manages the business side of things and New Cross resident Suzie takes charge of the cooking and supplies, which come from Tony’s Daily on the High Street, Bread Bread Bakery in Brixton, Ruby’s Of London in Greenwich and Alchemy Coffee Roastery in Wimbledon.

Food at Dirty Apron
Food at Dirty Apron – image Matt Grayson

Suzie said: “Our main food is hearty brunches and we always have a vegan special, meat special and a soup of the day.

“We do a curried cauliflower, spinach and sauteed halloumi wrap served with fresh mint yoghurt and a really good tofu scramble with heavily spiced peppers and onions and lovely sourdough and salad and homemade relish.”

In winter, they serve up meat and vegan pies but, now the warmer weather is finally appearing, warm salads with ingredients such as quinoa, roasted broccoli, salsa verde and beetroot will be appearing on the menu.

“I love going out for food and cafe culture to get inspiration,” said Suzie. 

“I go to all of the places around here and we are all really good friends, that’s one of the nice things about Deptford.”

The area’s social calendar is also a pivotal part of her planning.

“When the London Marathon goes past we know that we’ll need six people a day to cope with the demand and when Amal the doll came through recently I have never seen anything like it,” she said. 

“There were tens of thousands of people. So you have to look at the schedule for what’s going on in Deptford and tailor the rota for the occasion.”

Dishes are developed with customers in mind
Dishes are developed with customers in mind – image Matt Grayson

Suzie loves to bring people together and has collaborated with Villages Brewery, creating a 150cm sausage roll for their harvest festival, with plans to hold events for the New Cross and Deptford Free Film Festival and for Lewisham London Borough of Culture 2022.

“When summer hits, capacity at the cafe will double because of the outdoor seating. 

“We are very lucky because it’s very rare in London to get such a large off-road space,” said Suzie. 

“It means we don’t have to hurry people. Food can take a while because sometimes we can be a 40-seater restaurant, but people can sit in the sun, have a coffee and enjoy themselves.

“Because it is one room and an open kitchen I’m good at spotting if someone needs someone and everyone does the same – there is lots of communication and chat and customers can basically talk to us from their table. There’s that real dynamic vibe.

“A lot of our customers are regulars so they get to know each other. 

“I’ll often be having a conversation with someone on table six and someone from table five will chime in and then they end up talking to each other and then someone else will come and join in.

“Before you know it the whole place is involved in the same conversation, which I think is just the best thing about working here.”

Dirty Apron is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9.30am-4pm.

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Deptford: Why seafood restaurant Sharkbait ‘N’ Swim is a dream come true

Chef Steve McClarty is one to watch under the yellow brick arches of Deptford Market Yard

Steve McClarty, owner of Sharkbait 'N' Swim
Steve McClarty, owner of Sharkbait ‘N’ Swim – image Matt Grayson

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Steve McClarty – remember that name. Growing up in Croydon, he left school with no GCSEs. A turbulent home life led to him becoming homeless at 17.

A diet of McDonald’s and Subway left him craving nourishment. Living in hostels, he started to cook for friends and fellow residents. 

“At 19 I was at a stage in my life where I decided to move out of London for a bit to get my head in gear and sort my life out,” he said.

“So I moved to Margate on my own – left all my mates behind. It was either a shared house in Croydon for £500 a month or a one-bed flat overlooking the sea with a balcony for £350. 

“But I also knew Thanet College was just down the road in Broadstairs and it was really good for catering. I spent two years studying to be a chef and really found my calling.

“My passion for food came into its own – I found there was something I was good at, that I loved doing and that I wanted to pursue as a career.

“I was fully immersed in it, obsessed – winning distinctions and getting loads of opportunities.

“Then I went into my first restaurant and that’s where the real learning started.”

Steve cooking in Sharkbait’s kitchen – image Matt Grayson

Steve said he found a sense of comradeship he’d never experienced before working in kitchens and winning promotion to the level of sous chef. 

Having gained extensive experience in seafood, cooking in Michelin-starred establishments, he applied for and was cast in BBC2’s The Chefs’ Brigade, travelling across Europe under the guidance of chef Jason Atherton.

“It all happened very quickly, from Italy to Norway, Spain and then the final in Paris. 

“At the end of it all, Jason gave me this bible of all of his recipes, congratulated me on the telly and offered me a job at his flagship restaurant, Pollen Street Social in Mayfair. But I knew I always wanted to do what I’m doing now and so I decided to decline it. 

“Instead I got a job as an events chef at Google, which was a completely different style of cooking. I was running the operation between five buildings – making sure all the produce and chefs were in the right place. 

“There was a lot of logistics involved and I really enjoyed seeing a different side of the industry.”

Prawns cooking ready to join mussels and orzo
Prawns cooking ready to join mussels and orzo – image Matt Grayson

It would also prove invaluable experience for the realisation of his long-term dream – to open his own restaurant.

A brick arch in Deptford Market Yard is where we pick the story up, with a sandwich board outside, a lobster pot resting casually against it and a pink and blue neon sign that wouldn’t look out of place in 1980s Las Vegas.

Sharkbait ‘N’ Swim first launched over lockdown. It went a little something like this: 

Restrictions arrive and Steve’s girlfriend Maria Leach joins him in a shared house in Brixton. The couple decide to escape by buying a narrowboat named Roz to live on. They dislike the name and plan to rechristen her Damp Squirrel at the earliest opportunity.

On the day she sets sail, Steve proposes. Now engaged, the couple sail around southern England, still both working from home for Google and eventually pitch up in Guildford. 

The restaurant's punch neon sign
The restaurant’s punch neon sign – image Matt Grayson

Once there, Steve opens up the duck-feeding hatch and starts selling seafood orzo to passers-by with Maria taking payments via a card reader in the bow of their boat. Following this success, Steve secures a pop-up in Lewisham and storms Model Market.

“Four weeks ago we got the keys to this space at Deptford Market Yard and we’ve done a complete kit-out in three weeks,” said Steve. “We’ve just opened and we’ve been sold out every night.

“Sharkbait ‘N’ Swim is my baby. This is my dream, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. It’s an intimate, small sharing plates restaurant serving fresh oysters, really fresh seafood, some vegan options and a couple of meat options too – something for everyone.

“I wanted an environment where people could sit together, share the food and get talking about it. There are four of us – me, another chef and we’ve just taken on an extra person front of house.

“Maria is the operations manager/absolute legend. She’s been so supportive of my dream and she sees my vision – I’ve got big plans, to make a name for myself here and then expand to multiple sites.”

A selection of Steve's small plates, costing up to £9.50
A selection of Steve’s small plates, costing up to £9.50 – image Matt Grayson

I could try to convey Steve’s passion for the food he creates and cooks in print, but printed words could never do it justice.

He fizzes with excitement as he runs through lists of ingredients, foraging trips and inspiration – driven, focused, inventive. 

Fortunately Sharkbait ‘N’ Swim has an open kitchen so he can interact with diners while making plates of smoked salmon croquetas, skate wing with cod roe in a caper beurre blanc or Goan curry mussels with a fresh naan bread puffed up on the barbecue. 

Deeply rooted in sustainability, the name of his restaurant reflects his view that nobody should be eating an apex predator (or tuna), accompanied by the ripples in the water his and Maria’s home makes as it moves around.

“I want to take people on a journey to all the places I’ve been and cooked in – I want to put my personality on the plate,” said Steve. “This is a fun, sociable restaurant serving sick food, mate.”

That says it all. Having sampled some of Steve’s menu, I’ll be back for the rest and, frankly, just to have his vegan vanilla poached pear with a chocolate mousse made from tofu and maple syrup again. Go now.

Sharkbait's vegan vanilla poached pear with chocolate mousse
Sharkbait’s vegan vanilla poached pear with chocolate mousse – image Matt Grayson

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