Muddy eats: Boxpark, Croydon
Apparently, Croydon is more hipster than Shoreditch and Dalston. Or so I keep hearing. I’m yet to be convinced – but there’s no doubting that Croydon has it’s own brand of cool. And it’s certainly on the up.
While CR0 has yet to be overrun by big beards and man buns, it has recently seen the arrival of Boxpark the pop-up drinking and dining hub based on the one that was set up in Shoreditch in 2011. And a brand spanking new Westfield, whilst a little further away, is also on the horizon.
But back to Boxpark. The Croydon Boxpark has been built on a derelict site next to East Croydon station. It’s made entirely out of refitted shipping containers – 80 in total – creating affordable space for independent restaurants and cafes.
There more than 40 food outlets, including popular venues such as MEATliquor, The Breakfast Club, Bukowski Grill, Mamalan, Fish, Wings and Tings and Chilango as well as other start-ups. This is all about the independents. You won’t find any high street chains here.
The cuisine is varied, but think international street food. Taiwanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Greek, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Caribbean, Indian, Sri Lankan and Chinese street food sit beside cakes and doughnuts as well as wine, juices, cocktails, coffee and beer. Oh, and there’s also ice cream and frozen yoghurt.
Most of the outlets are set around a covered central courtyard with timber canteen style tables and chairs and outdoor heaters. I went on Sunday with Mr Muddy and the two Surrey Mudlets, and despite the arctic weather, it was pretty toasty. We ate in the central hub, with each of us choosing a different cuisine, but if you prefer you could eat at the tables within one of the ‘containers’.
Mr Muddy and I went for Vietnamese street food from Bang Bang, which describes itself as the more mature yet promiscuous older brother of Bang Bang Canteein in Fitzrovia. They had me at promiscuous! We ordered a salted squid to share between the four of us – it being a family favourite, as well as a pho prawns and a bun hue tofu, both with noodles in a broth. Prices were around £9. Not particularly cheap, but then not particularly expensive either.
The soon-to-be-a-teen Mudster went for Indian street food from Indigo, choosing a chicken tikka wrap. It must have been good because he downed it before I had a chance to really notice it was there to begin with. Miss Mudster went for a chicken burger from Coqfighter Chicken and Beer, established by a couple of brothers and their friend from Melbourne who were amazed to find that freid chicken was everywhere, but life-changing fried chicken was nowhere. It was a fairly hefty burger, but Miss 10 ate the lot despite a spicy mayo sauce which she said was rich and creamy with a bit of zing.
We had to try out the Chill Box frozen yoghurts and ice-cream. And after working out that you pay by weight, we were all set. One child sampling the frozen yogurt and the other going for the ice-cream, but both piling on the melted chocolate, Oreo cookies, Smarties, and hundreds and thousands, and chocoate balls. I had a little taste of each and can confirm that both are, indeed, a very good.
The approach is more funky food court than sit-down fancy restaurant, but it’s relaxed and unhurried. And while it’s a venue that’s largely about the food, there is also a Boxbar – the closest thing to a nightclub – and schedule that promises 200 events a year.
It’s a huge space, with a capacity of more than 2,000. And whilst it didn’t come close to that number on Sunday, the Muddy scouts who checked it out on Saturday night tell me it was heaving. Saturday = lots going on and a cool vibe. Sunday = a more relaxed vibe, therefore better for families.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Foodies for Sunday lunch, friends and family relaxed get-togethers. Or those looking for a happening place to eat with plenty of options for goodfood.
Not for: Anyone looking for a fancy silver service or a quiet intimate nice out.
£££: There’s pretty much something for everyone here, and from what I could see most main servings were between £7 and £10.
Boxpark Croydon, 99 George Street, Croydon, CR0 1LD. boxpark.co.uk