Whilst the Influencer crowd might give the impression that no dinner is complete without a beach backdrop (and Croydon’s proximity to Gatwick airport certainly makes packing it all in to join the jet set temptingly possible) the reality of hopping on a plane for your evening meal is, well, let’s face it, pretty unrealistic.
Luckily, Croydon is full of international restaurants that serve up delicious cuisine that you don’t need to book a flight for.
So, if a packet of Thai Sweet Chilli crisps was the most exotic thing you ate this week, head to one of the below for some culinary inspiration from the pros.
Located on the high street, in a somewhat underwhelming concrete box, the contrast of Atesh’s interior might surprise inhabitants of the surrounding new build flats (more familiar with Ottoman beds than empires).
Glitzy chandeliers, traditional mosaics, wrought iron window designs, and wall art depicting battling chariots – pared back minimalism this is not.
On the menu, Atesh (meaning fire) embraces its namesake, serving up smoky and succulent kebabs and stews. Kebab shop Kings and Queens might play it safe with a chicken shish but if you’re ready for an upgrade, opt for the Hünkar Beğendi (Sultan’s Delight) – a sauteed lamb dish, served on a bed of roasted aubergine with béchamel sauce.
235-241 High St, Croydon, CR0 1QR
Whilst the UK’s undeniable love for Italian food might be unrequited by the Mediterranean, the passion continues to burn bright.
In 2023, a report showed there are more Italian restaurants springing up in the UK than any other cuisine. Whether that means officially takes the title of the nation’s favourite food can be debated (ideally with characteristic hand gestures) but Bagatti’s longstanding popularity certainly suggests South Londoners aren’t looking to stray.
The restaurant’s story began in Bardi, a beautiful medieval village in Northern Italy. Known for its outstanding local cuisine, it was also home to the Bagatti family before they ventured to London and set up a restaurant. Thirty-four years later, Bagatti’s is still overseen by the family and continues to feature original, authentic recipes on the menu.
The Quadris starter platter is a great way to kick things off – with a mix of cheese, ham, fish and bread. All the pizza and pasta classics (including a homemade ravioli) are available, alongside a solid main menu featuring much loved meat and fish dishes.
Although what Bardi’s Nonnas would have made of the Vegan menu and gluten free pasta is anyone’s guess….
56-58 S End, Croydon, CR0 1DP
Promising #BeachVibes on Croydon High Street is a bold statement. Almost as bold as an Instagram bio with a “best Sri Lankan restaurant in London” declaration.
But fortune favours the bold, and with outposts now both north and south of the River and ongoing rave reviews, it seems lessons learnt from previous hospitality ventures are definitely paying off.
What Machan lacks in sand and sea, it more than makes up for in spice. By sourcing authentic spices from Sri Lanka, then hand-roasting and grinding them weekly, the team ensure a mouthwatering menu, with flavours that will transport you to the Pearl of the Indian Ocean.
With a recommendation to get 2-3 dishes each, you’ll soon get a decent feel for the menu and the staff are brilliantly well informed at talking through the options. For those not in know, Hoppers (pancakes) are a must-try delicacy while Isso Wade (prawn fritters) have gained international popularity.
If the cocktails don’t finish you off, order a Watalappam (a super sweet dessert that has been cherished for generations).
48-50 S End, Croydon, CR0 1DP
When considering culinary destinations around the world, Romania isn’t likely to spring to mind. Better known for its vampires and castles, it’s a shame Dracula never got into his home country’s food.
Although with most traditional dishes being meat based, perhaps he did have a role in shaping the nation’s meals?
Well, this took a dark turn…For the record, Mahala’s food is as warm and comforting as the welcome offered by the team. Start with a Bortsch (soup) before taking on one of the hearty mains.
Romanian food has Hungarian, Germanic and Slavic influences, and is ideal in winter. There’s plenty of schnitzel and stews to choose from and (whilst we’re wary of bringing up that Dracula reference again) the fried lamb neck cubes are a speciality.
Groups of diners might opt for the hot platters – which have enough meat to keep iron levels in check for the rest of the year. Dracula will be pleased.
83 Church St, Croydon, CR0 1RN
Having embraced the casual dining revolution, Boxpark is the go-to place for expanding food horizons when on a budget.
With a huge array of vendors under one roof, the commercialisation of street food continues to draw a massive crowd. It’s also ideal for big group dinners, as everyone can come together around a communal table but choose a cuisine best suited to their personal preference.
From Argentina to Vietnam via Jamaica, you can travel the world from the comfort of a Boxpark bench.
Whether you head to Spoon & Rice for Filipino Adobo or Bao Bao for Taiwanese buns, a trip to this shipping container mall will tickle all tastebuds.
99 George St, Croydon, CR0 1LD