For New Cross residents, this is a monumental moment, a real turning point in the area’s history: New Cross finally has a cafe that – wait for it – serves delicious food!
Of course there’s the breakfast at the Amersham Arms, served at student-friendly hours, and yummy snacks to go with your coffee at Cafe Crema, and if you have a penchant for kebabs or mediocre Thai food then you are in gastro-heaven, but let’s face it, there’s always been a bit of a void in New Cross hasn’t there? A stomach-aching, palate-souring void.
You notice it at lunchtime, on a grey, rainy day. You’re melancholy, your partner has cheated on you, you’ve eaten your way through the ice-cream cabinet at Iceland (just me?), you need warmth, nourishment… solace. And the local Tom Yum just won’t do the trick.
‘Bowl food’ can be found at The London Particular – the name comes from a thick ham and pea soup recipe, so-called because of a type of dense London smog resembling pea soup (which came first, the soup or the smog? Wikipedia won’t say). If London Particular’s simple, hug-in-a-mug style comfort food doesn’t banish the dreariest of moods, then the chirpy duo who run it will.
They are Jen Gardner, 29 and Becky Davies, 30, and they are delightful. Becky used to live in Peckham and noticed an old kebab shop was for sale on New Cross Road, instead of idly walking by, she seized on the opportunity to set up her business, and 6 months later the cafe was born.
Becky trained at the Royal College of Music but turned to catering after taking a chef job with an excellent mentor. Later, Becky met Aussie girl Jen when they worked together at Lantana, an Australian-style cafe near Goodge Street. The Antipodean influence is here, too, in the ‘Banger Sanga’ (hot sausages) and flat white coffees, made from a special blend by HR Higgins on a large Nuova Simonelli machine that takes up a third of the space in their little open kitchen.
They’ve only been open for five weeks but word has spread quickly and the small, white space already spills onto the street at lunchtimes. They will build a terrace offering more seating once they start turning a profit, Becky says.
Today, the offerings included Merguez, (about £8) frittata (around £7), a courgette feta and dill salad with beetroot dip (£5.50 without chorizo and £6.50 with) and coffees (£1.80-£2.20), all simple and lightly satisfying. Becky gets up at 5am to bake the daily staple of brioche, which forms part of breakfast, cakey coffee-accompaniments and lunchtime pizzas. Like the girls, Particular is small, sweet and earthy.
So go, eat, clear the smog and meet lovely Becky and Jen (who is single by the way, if you feel ready to move on). It’s not big, and it’s not fancy, but London Particular might just be the pick-me-up that New Cross, and you, so desperately needed.
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London Particular 399 New Cross Road, New Cross, London SE14 6LA, 020 8692 6149