I'm a freelance writer and meditation teacher living in Frome, Somerset
Published September 3rd 2021
The best High Street in London?
Nunhead High Street, or Evelina Road to give it its proper name, is a small but vibrant hub of independent stores offering everything you could want in one community-friendly stretch.
There is a combination of traditional staples dating back over 100 years in some cases and up and coming businesses serving the younger more hip modern community that is building around here and neighbouring Peckham and Telegraph Hill. It makes for an exciting mix. The Green Community Centre
In the corner at the far end of the patch of grass and swings that is Nunhead Green on the way to Peckham sits The Green Community centre. This invaluable resource is run by a lovely couple who are integrating the community providing an opportunity for people to gather and take classes. We shared some yoga and sound events here but they have everything from dance, pilates, self-defence and 50 Plus chair based fitness. On the way is a community cafe and a renovation of the garden space.
Salvation Army The local Sally Army has a popular cafe as well as a charity shop and food bank.
BYO x2 BYO has two stores on the high street and both of them focus on no-packaging eco products. One is food and the other is household so you can stock up on nuts, grains, lentils and chocolate covered almonds as well as oils and milk in the food shop and get your naked soaps, washing up liquid and other household cleaner refills in the other.
Napura This unpretentious, family-run Portuguese place does delicious traditional dishes - cooked like your mama would (if she was Portuguese). Their Aubergine stew is particularly yummy.
Good Cup Every good high street needs a hipster coffee joint and this is the one here. It is a clear indicator of the balance between the hipster and the traditional on this stretch and the youngsters seem to be thriving as there is always a long queue out the door.
Nisa This is no ordinary corner shop. Although part of the Nisa chain, this convenience store seems to have really recognised the market in this area and provides a wealth of organic items, whole grains and alternative milks along with the usual range of household staples. They have fresh fruit and veg out the front as well which isn't necessarily as organic or good quality as Beaumonts up the road but they do have a different range and cover some more exotic stuff. They are always good for a cut watermelon in the summer as well.
I carried a watermelon!
Ayres The local bakery has a very traditional feel, dating back to 1955 and serving the community with fresh loaves, pastries and cakes as well as lunchtime sandwiches and pasties, smoothies and a range of cheese, excellent olives and other staples
HA Smith the Butcher also dates back to 1955 and has good quality meat at reasonable prices as well as offering pie, mash and liquor for a traditional twist.
Sopers Fishmonger has been serving residents of Nunhead since 1897 with freshly caught fish from Devon, Cornwall and Norfolk straight off the boat. They are a friendly bunch and will give you a recommendation if you're not quite sure what you want.
In pride of place in the middle of the high street, the large frontage of the Post Office gives an insight into the many treats and delights that are held within. A multi-faceted domain, this shop also houses a pharmacy, a range of household cleaning and maintenance items from brooms to cleaning liquid, clothes pegs to recycling bags. It also has knick-knacks and decorations, the blingy buddhas in the window being an indication of the style and the range is impressive. They also have holistic items like neem oil, African tonics and candles. It's a treasure trove and while the quality of some of the goods may be slightly suspect there are some real gems in here.
The local greengrocer became probably my most regular visit on the high street. Getting their organic produce direct from Borough Market means that they have quality, seasonal fruit and veg and it is remarkably good value. I enjoyed the experience of picking out my items and then getting them weighed up and occasionally having a dodgy apple replaced by the helpful assistants. After they totted up the cost, I was often amazed by how little a big bag of goodness had come to.
The local sourdough pizza parlour and craft beer emporium. Firmly sitting in the hipster wing of Nunhead establishments this place was a treat.
They have a passion for fermentation and the name comes from an Aztec legend where the goddess of alcohol got it on with the god who discovered ferments and they had 400 rabbit children who lived a fine life of partying and mischief.
Their Rhubarb pizza was a real discovery for me, I didn't really know what to expect but instead of chunks of rhubarb as I first imagined it is topped with a tangy pink sauce which makes this a mouth-watering choice. Kerry-Ann preferred the Feta one with no tomato on the base making it fresh and green with pine nuts and chimichurri.
They have a splendid woodfired pizza oven that dominates the inside space and means that the fresh pizza comes out perfectly done in no time.
Nunhead has its own Elvis impersonator Aaron "The King of SE15" Arthur who can often be found with his portable speaker along the high street serenading shoppers. During lockdown, in 2020, he raised a significant amount of money for charity by doing gigs all over Nunhead.
At the far end of the high street, beyond most of the shops and before you get to the car wash underneath the railway bridge, is a café straight out of the 1980s. Crossways is a greasy spoon that does all the standards you can imagine, most of them served with peas. I spotted this car parked outside several times, so it either belongs to the owner or a big fan of the place.
Flash Car outside Crossways Cafe"
Nunhead stretches further, up towards the station and famous cemetery and in the other direction bordering Telegraph Hill.
Two Sisters Tandoori
This unassuming Indian restaurant was on the end of our street when we lived in the area. They connected with the community in such a nice way it was a place we used often. We were coming back from a visit one evening when we saw gazebos outside along with seats and a stove. It turned out they were doing a "curry naming ceremony" along with a cooking demo and chai for all. Mohammed was in full flow, introducing his chefs and explaining the different dishes they had on offer. It turns out they have quite a lot of regular customers who order things not exactly on the menu and the chef is able to accommodate. There was a spicy chicken dish as well as a pumpkin curry and each of the locals who had helped create them got a certificate and their names associated with the new menu.
Just around the corner and opposite the train station the Nunhead Gardener is worth a mention as one of the most beautiful (and hipster-friendly) plant shops you are likely to find. Focussing primarily on indoor plants, or plants that could be looked after in small outdoor spaces - catering to the predominant market around the area - their small outdoor courtyard and tunnels under the railway arches have a terrific range of beautiful succulents, leafy spider plants and a full collection of ceramic pots and containers to make a beautiful space come to life.