Tuesday 14 February 2017

New Deptford eateries: Dirty Apron

Despite my initial objection to the name, over the few months that Dirty Apron has been open in Deptford Market Yard I've come to love this small but almost perfectly-formed little cafe.

I've visited a few times now, eaten brunch, lunch and dinner, and even dropped in for a takeaway sandwich. The food has never disappointed. 

There's only a few tables so it can be very cosy at times, and although they do their best to address the occasional unexplained draughtiness with fan heaters, it does sometimes suffer from unpredictability in terms of the ambient temperature. 

The evening menu changes on a very regular - perhaps even daily? - basis, which I find pleasing as it means you can go back frequently and always be surprised by something different. There are options for both meat eaters and veggies, and if there's nothing vegan listed, they are happy to whip something up on demand.

They serve a staunch range of breakfasts and brunches including the good old bacon or egg bap, alongside fancier breakfast bap options that add things like avocado, parmesan omelette and chilli jam. There's varieties on the 'full English', not to mention a mean-looking kedgeree, and quite a few fruity/porridge/toast options for those wanting something a bit lighter.

Prices are reasonable for the quality of the food on offer. Some of the specials I've taken advantage of include £5 for coffee and a breakfast bap/ £5 for soup and sandwich. They have already hosted quite a few themed evenings including a vegan night and a Burns Night Supper, with Mussel Mondays (moules frites and a beer for £12) looking set to be a regular thing once a month.

Beer from Deptford's own local Villages Brewery is on sale, and there's a suitably short but varied wine list too. 

With such a tiny kitchen it can sometimes take a while for food to be served, especially if you are unlucky enough to pitch up right behind a large group. But it's great food and it's freshly prepared, so give yourself enough time to be able to enjoy it, is my tip. 

Friday 10 February 2017

Smart benches in Deptford

The good news; you can now charge your phone for free!

The bad news; you have to sit right next to the traffic while you do so.

Lewisham is one of two boroughs chosen to pilot 'smart benches' which are intended to offer free phone charging, free wifi and the opportunity to find out about local air quality as well as somewhere to sit.

One of the new benches has landed on Brookmill Road, right next to Broadway Fields, so being a nosey bugger, I went along to have a look. 

First impression - not somewhere I'd naturally chose to sit for an extended time while charging my phone, especially at rush hour when traffic backs right up to this point from the lights on the A2. 

That being said, it is right next to a bus stop so might be handy when you've got a long wait.

The panel on the bench offers two ready-installed charging leads which while not particularly flimsy are bound to be a target for vandalism. One has an Apple-type charger plug but my phone did not recognise the device so I wasn't able to use it (not a massive surprise if I'm honest). 

However if you happen to be carrying a USB charging lead with you (I wasn't) there are USB ports on the panel that you can plug straight into, and they also offer wireless charging.

The power comes from solar panels on the totem and according to the bench manufacturer, Strawberry Energy, the design includes batteries so that energy can be stored for days when there is no sunshine (most of the last few!) and at night. 

Wifi access requires creation of an account etc, which would be ok if you were planning to use the free wifi regularly but for a one-off I decided to pass.  

There's also a Strawberry App that allows you to access the information about air quality, noise, temperature which is gathered by sensors in the bench. 

It was obviously as a result of a bit of lateral thinking that the manufacturers came up with the idea that you would be able to donate to Cancer Research via the benches (ah I see now from the press release that it was all about launching in time for World Cancer Day on 4 Feb).

Apparently you can do so by 'simply' tapping your contactless payment card on the bench. I didn't see any kind of hardware on the bench that would enable you to authorise such a payment, so I'm a bit confused about how that is supposed to work. Probably best not to have your wallet in your back pocket when you sit down. 

According to the website there's also some of the benches on Lewisham High Street and one on New Cross Road at the top of Clifton Rise. 

It's something of a double-edged sword. From the point of view of collecting air quality data I can see the logic of putting these benches right next to busy roads, but I'm not sure how attractive that will make them to people wanting to sit for a more than a few minutes to charge their phones. 

Thursday 2 February 2017

Improvements to Deptford High Street

Lewisham Council has got some funding from Transport for London to pay for improvements to the north end of Deptford High Street and the six-month programme of construction work is set to start next week.

Improvements to the south end of the high street were carried out a few years ago with money from the Mayor of London's Outer London fund, and because this fund had a wider scope, the bid also included money for other improvements such as the shopfronts that were jazzed up, and to support the development of the 'food market' which was such a painful flop.

There's none of that fluffy stuff with the TFL funding that's being used for the north end - it's all got to be tangible stuff that makes the street a more pleasant, and safer place for pedestrians and cyclists in particular. But it's not all about getting rid of trip hazards and putting some seats in - there will be some kind of arty lighting installation under the railway bridge designed by light artist Peter Freeman. There's also going to be a few new trees, although not very many, and some new paving with words carved in it on the approach to St Paul's church.

(click to see a bigger version)

I wrote about the consultation for the plans last year; there's been some changes to the original plans, mostly for the better as far as I'm concerned. They have steered away from blunt (and most likely ineffectual) one-way restriction that was suggested for the section of street between Edward Street and the junction with Evelyn Street, and instead gone for some rather more subtle and probably more effective controls.

There will be a ban on right turns out of the high street into Evelyn Street, and into the high street by Greenwich-bound traffic on Evelyn Street; there will be no left turn out of Frankham Street into Giffin Street to prevent traffic rat-running through before the lights; there will be a ban on lorries of more than 7.5t turning into Giffin Street from Deptford Church Street, and there will be a new chicane on Giffin Street outside the former HSBC Bank with priority to eastbound vehicles.

Footways will be widened with parking bays set into them; consequently the highway will be much narrower which should in theory slow traffic down. If you've lived here any length of time you'll be aware that theory doesn't always apply in Deptford, especially when it comes to the highway code. Let's hope that in this case it might.

The main aims of the work are:
  • Improved wider footways  
  • Connection with future proposed crossing improvements at the junction with Evelyn Street to provide a safe, attractive and direct route between the river and the High Street. 
  • Trees and seating to the Evelyn Street junction. 
  • Creation of a pedestrian and cycle friendly environment that caters for the expected increase in people using the street. 
  • Traffic calming measures. 
  • Improvements to parking provision and improvements for Blue Badge holders. 
  • Introduction of a new taxi rank below the railway bridge to serve the High Street and Deptford Station. 
  • Artistic lighting under the railway bridge. 
  • Enhanced design retention of heritage elements at the St Paul’s and Crossfield St junction.

You can download the details from the council's website here or there are plans on show in the Deptford Lounge at the moment - although I'm not sure how long for.

Wednesday 1 February 2017

Smashfest 2017 coming soon!

Deptford's annual family science festival Smashfest UK is back at the Albany this month with a world record-breaking attempt!

This year, things are going to go with a bang!

Unbeknownst to Deptford a supervolcano is bubbling under Lewisham and things are going to get hot! The tectonic plates are shifting, the lava is bubbling, how do we survive?

The team will be building a 5m high cryo-volcano at The Albany Theatre which will erupt, spewing liquid nitrogen at -196℃ all over SE8, and World Record officials will be there to confirm it’s the biggest one the world has ever seen!

Taking place over February half term, Smashfest UK is a BIG adventure for all the family; comedy, music, performance, arts, crafts, science, hands-on engineering, games, activities, experiments…and more!

The aim of the festival is to widen participation in science, technology, engineering and maths through the arts and design, with a special focus on under-served audiences.

And it's free!

Want to know the scientific secrets of Dr Who?

Listen to BBC presenter and author Jon Chase rapping about science?

Or find out all about volcanos?

At the Deptford Lounge 13th-17th February and at the Albany Theatre, Deptford 16th & 17th February

For full listings see http://www.thealbany.org.uk/whatson