The 15 Best Restaurants In Elephant And CastleWhere to eat in this patch of south London.
For a while Elephant and Castle was best known for its notoriously hazardous junction (once dubbed ‘Tour De Danger’ by London’s cyclists) but, these days, this area of south London should be best regarded for its excellent eating options.
It's a part of the city that has undergone huge change in the last few years, most notably the demolition of the Elephant and Castle shopping centre and much-reported displacement of traders. But there's still much to be celebrated, with some spots relocated to Elephant Park and Castle Square. There are also homely South American restaurants that dole out some of London’s finest lunchtime deals from the railway arches, a peerless Guyanese spot that’s a lesson in both flavour and hospitality, crowd-pleasing Neapolitan pizzas, and the best bún bò huế in town.
Like lots of restaurants in Elephant and Castle, you’ll find Costa Azul under a railway bridge. Once inside the Ecuadorian spot, you’ll find a low-lit and a DJ Dash-soundtracked (Salsa Sensual, Vol 1) room full of steaming hot bowls of parihuela. Said seafood stew is a generous thing—rings of squid, prawns, moist and flaky tilapia—all in a salty, nourishing broth. At just over £20, it’s a hearty portion for one. The lunchtime crowd is a happy mix of South American locals, delivery drivers in need of recharging, and gluttonous singletons but it’s worth coming by on the weekend too when Costa Azul’s specials (including ceviche) are on the menu.
Murger Han is a place where you won’t be judged for a carb overload. It’s got the kind of unfussy shopping centre look—polished floors, simple seating—that means you can go incognito as you eat. Its namesake and signature dish is the most comforting food ever—meat between bread. In this case, a tasty pulled pork murger where the meat has been slow-cooked in a spicy soup and pressed between crisp flatbread. Order one alongside a bowl of spinach noodles, slippery with fiery chilli oil and spring onion. The murger usually arrives at the table first, so view it as a hefty starter you can snack on while you wait for your noodles.
Beza Ethiopian Food is where we want to be every weekday lunchtime, doomscrolling and eating slightly sour, spongy injera. Let yourself be restored by the comforting cooking at this Ethiopian spot while missing your mouth as you try to zoom in, one-handed, on your frenemy’s recent Formentera Instagram photos. Ordering from the menu is easy—get the lot. Creamy kik wot, warmly spiced miser wot, string beans cooked in turmeric—just specify if it’s for one, two, or four. Portions are generous, service is friendly but fuss-free, and the atmosphere is giving safe space.
There’s a reassuring, maternal homeliness about El Guambra. The minuscule Ecuadorian spot is all plastic tablecloths, warm smiles, and meaty servings. Hornados, hunks of crispy skinned pork that can be torn away like Cheesestring, is joined by strip steak or a seasoning of tingling chorizo slices. Llapingacho (potato patties) and rice are staple carby features, though comforting, sloppier things like menestra (Ecuadorian bean stew) or caldo de manguera (a pork, tripe, and black pudding stew) are on the menu too. It’s a little home away from home to hunker down in when you need some TLC.
The Original Caribbean Spice, a Castle Square Caribbean takeaway spot—if you don’t count the two tiny tables—is run by two sisters. And it feels like a proper homely affair, where the radio plays loudly, regulars spend time here just reading the paper, and forgotten orders are shouted through the kitchen like you’re late for dinner. They’ll also happily recommend you something off the blackboard menu before asking about your day, and gently remind you not to spill the coleslaw they’ve added to your takeaway bag. Over-ordering is inevitable when dishes are this tasty—slightly spicy mac and cheese, goat curry that’s rich and falling off the bone, and lamb patties stuffed right to the edges with crumbly meat.
The Guyanese restaurant on the second floor of Castle Square is an essential visit not just in SE17 but across the whole of London’s restaurant scene. Chef and owner Faye Gomes specialises in a comforting style of cooking and hospitality that makes the plastic chairs and tables of this little canteen and takeaway feel like thrones in a palace. Meltingly good pepper pot and moreish fried chicken work similar wonders but, if you aren’t sure what to go for, let her lead. In fact, leave it to her and you’ll leave with plenty for tomorrow as well.
This queer-owned Latin American bar and restaurant is the place to go if you’re looking for a lively weekend atmosphere topped up by a round of pisco sours. The walls are covered with knickknacks, the staff emit a happy glow that you’ll want to absorb via osmosis, and the drinks flow inside the restaurant and their hush-hush courtyard. There’s all sorts on the menu—ceviche, tostadas, and purple corn churros with melted chocolate—but the gloriously tender cochinita pibil is the thing to ensure is on your table.
90% takeaway and 10% restaurant—four fold-out chairs, a small table, and a counter are doing some heavy lifting at Hoa Phuong. But the flavours coming out of the kitchen of this tiny Vietnamese spot speak for themselves. Every order—be it bún salads with sizzling lemongrass-infused meats or slurping portions of bún bò huế—is taken, prepared, and cooked by Hoa Phuong’s sole owner and chef. Patience is of the utmost importance in this little cash-only space and, once you taste that bún bò huế, you’ll understand why the people quietly waiting inside are so reverential.
Every area in London should have a go-to pizza restaurant and Theo’s is just that, and more. The excellent Neapolitan pizzas coming out of this south east favourite are sloppy, crispy, and no more than £13 each. This a winner for everyone. Friends, family, dates, and dogs all pile into their cool, industrial chic space for spicy sausage and cavolo nero pies and negronis that come in at under a tenner.
Under the arches off Walworth Road you’ll find La Barra, a basement Colombian spot that’s best known for a plate of fried chicken that has Colonel Sanders looking for the nearest job centre. The pica pollo is made up of crunching pieces of chicken (drumsticks, thighs, wings—the lot) that only need a drizzle of lemon and a dip of homemade chilli sauce, if you’re that way inclined. Breakfasts of rice, fried egg, pork belly, and chorizo are served from 9am and, given it's open daily, there’s plenty of time to work through La Barra’s extensive menu.
Restaurants like Sabor Peruano are very easy to settle into. The Peruvian spot opposite St. Mary’s Churchyard has an old-school white tablecloth aesthetic and a familial atmosphere where every table is sharing anticuchos and stabbing at ceviche mixto. Both of these dishes are delicious. The beef heart skewers are tender and gently spiced and the ceviche is as enlivening a plate of food as you’ll eat anywhere. It’s open for lunch but just know that dinner service finishes at 9pm, latest, on weekends. It’s a family affair, after all.
Diogenes The Dog is a quaint corner wine bar that, whisper it, could be mistaken for somewhere Elephant and Castle-looking in Paris if you squint your eyes and get to work on that second bottle of malbec. This is a one to four person type of drinking place that leans more for your core group than anything crazy. It specialises in smaller producers, and the staff can tell you as much or as little as you want to know. Also, the snacks—from terrine of the week to burratina—are both excellent and pretty reasonably priced.
CheeMc is a straightforward Korean restaurant that rivals anything the Colonel's doing. The casual spot is stripped back, with simple black tables draped with Korean and British flags and the kind of seating that'll leave you numb and re-thinking padded underwear. But that's fine, because you don't need faux flowers and tasselled cushions when you're nose deep in fried chicken, or when you're glugging water after a mouthful of ferocious kimchi fried rice. The fried chicken alone is worth coming here for—the batter shatters and reveals tender meat, and our favourite coating is the honey chilli which is equal parts sweet and spicy.
La Fogata is part restaurant, part portal to Colombia. You might step in from a street in Elephant and Castle, but suddenly you’re visiting the Rosario Islands’ otherworldly beaches. Yes, those are just the tourist board-style images plastered over the narrow, small restaurant. But it’s convincingly immersive when paired with shouts of Spanish coming from the kitchen, the sound of regulars chatting away over big plates of bandeja paisa, and the hiss of plantain being fried. Big portions of meat are served with slabs of cornbread, jammy plantain, and disks of arepa. The Colombian food is hearty stuff, but the biggest appeal is the laid-back, family feel, and transportive atmosphere.
Chez Louis is a brilliant sandwich spot tucked in a corner inside labyrinthine food hall Mercato Metropolitano. A sandwich maestro sizzles broccoli to order, whips goats' cheese mousse, and smears satay mayonnaise. These sandwiches make your regular ham and cheese look like child’s play. The ciabatta is the perfect crisp on the outside, soft in the middle vessel for the delicious fillings—chermoula and marinated lamb, pork lechon kawali. During peak times expect a bit of a wait, but you’re right next to German Kraft Beer so you can always grab a Bavarian pilsner to kill the time.