The Past and Present of Croydon's London Road

Postponement of November 2019 article

15 November 2019

I’m waiting for a will to be delivered, and so I’m postponing my next article until that arrives, since I think the information in it is likely to be quite important. In the meantime, here’s a report on a food walk that a friend and I led along London Road last month.

A glass tumbler containing a pale green liquid with ice cubes and froth on top.
An oval flatbread topped with melted cheese, sliced into eight portions.  The edges of the bread are browned and puffed up.
Jah Rule juice from Snake & Mongoose and cheese naan from Shadi Bakery. Photos © Su-Lin, used by permission.

We started off at Snake & Mongoose, a juice bar and grill at 36 London Road. Most of us had fresh juices here, including the simple but delicious coconut-based Jah Rule and the extremely green Go, with ingredients including peas, avocado, kiwi fruit, green apple, kale, and lime.

Then we moved on to Shadi Bakery, a naan bakery at 79 London Road. This has two tandoor ovens at the front, turning out fresh naan and chapatis, while further back is a service counter where naans are topped and grilled to order. We had zahter naan, topped with a zingy herb and spice mix, along with a beautifully melty cheese naan.

A clear patterned plate piled with dark brown cubes of plantain and a handful of roasted peanuts.  Small wooden forks are stuck upright in the pile.
Kelewele from Timber Gardens. Photo © Su-Lin, used by permission.

Next was Timber Gardens, a Ghanaian restaurant which opened in February 2015 on the ground floor of Zodiac Court. It’s an unusual setting for a restaurant, as when the Zodiac Court complex was originally laid out in the 1960s this space was planned and constructed as a car showroom.

Here we had kelewele, a Ghanaian specialty of cubed plantain fried with ginger and other spices to a soft sweet stickiness and then served with crunchy peanuts for a textural contrast. Portions were generous, and several of us took some of it home with us.

A glass-fronted display counter with trays of samosas.  Behind are shelves lined with Indian sweets.
A soft, flexible flatbread rolled up and placed in a paper wrapping.
Sweets and savouries from Alees and dal puri from Mauritian Dal Puri Snack. Cropped from photos © Janet Smith, used by permission.

We followed this by popping in to Alees at 250 London Road, an Indian sweet shop where you can buy anything from a single gulab jamun to a kilo of barfi. They also do a few curries and savoury snacks, and some of our group opted for samosas instead of sweets.

Our next stop was Mauritian Dal Puri Snack at 288 London Road. This tiny stall sells the somewhat elusive dal puri, a soft flatbread made with a layer of split peas inside; here, it’s topped with home-made curry and optional chilli sauce, then folded up for eating on the go.

Masala tea from Chennai Dosa. Cropped from a photo © Janet Smith, used by permission.

It was time for a break from food at this point, so we stopped off at Chennai Dosa, a South Indian cafe/restaurant at 239–241 London Road, for cups of perfectly-spiced masala tea.

A small round onion-studded flatbread with a spoonful of red chilli chutney spread on top.
A piece of vadai held in a person’s hand.  Pieces of chana dal and dried chilli are visible.
Coconut roti with katta sambal from Sambal Express and paruppu vadai from Rotti Mama. Photos © Su-Lin, used by permission.

Sambal Express at 332 London Road is part of a well-regarded small chain of Sri Lankan takeaways, so there was quite some excitement when it opened in September 2018. We sampled their coconut roti topped with katta sambal, a wonderfully fresh-tasting combination of chillies and onions.

Rotti Mama at 341 London Road is also a Sri Lankan takeaway, though this one isn’t part of a chain and unlike Sambal Express also has a couple of tables for eating-in. From their “short eats” selection we chose vegetable rolls and paruppu vadai, with the latter being perhaps the more popular — savoury fritters made from chana dal and various spices.

Two plastic plates with large sausage rolls on, two of them topped with poppy seeds.
Vegan sausage rolls from Coughlans. Cropped from a photo © Janet Smith, used by permission.

Coughlans bakery at 502 London Road is part of a local family-owned chain founded in 1937 and still going strong today. This small shop is not only their oldest still-extant branch, but has been a bakery since at least the 1850s. Located on the corner of London Road and Mayday Road, it marks the transition between the Croydon (CR0) and Thornton Heath (CR7) postal districts.

Over the past few years, Coughlans have been introducing more and more vegan options in their shops, including three types of vegan sausage roll. We tried the wild mushroom and the sausage-and-leek varieties, both of which were very nicely savoury. Several of our group also bought cakes and biscuits to take home.

Styrofoam takeaway containers on a table.  One is filled with dark leafy greens cooked down with red chillies and onions, and the other with pink-tinged long-grain rice cooked with kidney beans.
A plate of thin oval fritters in the foreground, with another plate of mixed puffed rice, chickpeas, and cubed potatoes behind.  Small glass dishes on the side hold red and green sauces.
Callaloo and rice & peas at Taste Ah Jamaica, and Nairobi bhajia and bhel poori at Santok Maa’s. Photos © Su-Lin, used by permission.

Our penultimate stop was Taste Ah Jamaica at 3 Brigstock Parade, a Jamaican takeaway with a couple of eat-in tables. Here we had callaloo and rice & peas, livened up with a couple of bottled chilli sauces.

The walk ended at Santok Maa’s, a vegetarian Indian restaurant of long standing at 848 London Road. Along with more masala tea and fresh juices, we snacked on Nairobi bhajia — deep-fried battered potato slices served with chilli sauce — and bhel poori.

We’ll be doing the walk again in spring 2020, and if you’d like me to drop you a line when we have a date, email me at

Comments powered by Disqus.
« 185 London Road: Vistec House (part 3)
Built in the 1960s as offices for the Viscose Development Company, Vistec House fell vacant after the first decade of the 21st century. It’s now being converted into flats, with a new extension behind for a 90-room “Super HMO”.
206–272 London Road: Before Royal Parade: Broad Green Place »
Royal Parade, which spans from 206 to 272 London Road, was built in the early years of the 20th century on land which had previously been part of a large estate surrounding a house known as Broad Green Place. Later articles will discuss the individual properties in Royal Parade, but here I describe the history of Broad Green Place up to the point when the estate was sold off and Royal Parade — along with two hundred other houses — was built.