Hipsterdom is alive and thriving at £8 per pint in Surrey Street

The backbone of hipsterdom in Croydon. Apparently

Go on a pub crawl, said the editor. Find the dark heart of hipster wankerdom in Croydon, where beer is overpriced and the sandwiches chewy and taste odd, he said. Play ping pong, or shuffleboard, came the brief.
As you can imagine, KEN TOWL needed no second invitation

While Shoreditch has been achingly cool for some years, Croydon seems always to be on the cusp of trendiness, always about to be the place to be.

There is a Boxpark in Shoreditch. There is a Boxpark in Croydon. But there the similarity ends. Or does it?

Last Sunday, I took to the mean streets of the town centre to search for beards, overpriced craft ales, irony, gentrification and locally sourced organic vegan snacks.

Dear reader, I found all of these things.

The first stop was Art & Craft Croydon, a branch of a mini-chain that stretches north as far as Streatham, via West Norwood.

‘Purveyors of lovely stuff’. Seriously. Photo: Simon Bentley

It is a micro-pub half way up Surrey Street, itself the spinal column of hipster Croydon.

It has reassuringly distressed surfaces and exposed plumbing highlighting the hipster qualities of industrial re-use and ironic gentrification. If you drink a pint here, you are in part of what was once the print hall of the Croydon Advertiser, back from the time when there was an actual newspaper written, edited and printed in the borough. You can just about make out the wording above the windows.

Alternatively, you could sit outside behind the ironically gentrified “Beer Here” road sign, under the ironically coloured air-conditioning units gathering unironic pigeon shit on the wall of the building behind the pub.

The beer is reassuringly expensive. It is worth checking out the price of a pint before you buy. You are unlikely to find anything for less than a fiver, but some beers are considerably more – and while the beer list offers tasting notes and ABV notes, it does not disclose prices. Some come at £8 a pint. The craft beer is fine, if you like that sort of thing.

Across the street and down Matthew’s Yard is… Matthews Yard, a stripped back ex-industrial venue that is too cool even for an apostrophe.

Here, tattooed men in shorts beetle away on laptops as they drink craft beers (at less than £5/pint!) while others play a self-aware game of table tennis.

David Bowie, hidden away in Matthew’s Yard. Photo: Simon Bentley

An exhibition inside is interesting, a collection of ceramic heads of all the different iterations of David Bowie – a Ziggy here, a Thin White Duke there, a Man Who Fell To Earth round the corner.

They are actually quite arresting and strange, and curiously hard to find, tucked away in an alcove at the back.

The food appeared to be entirely vegan – a common hipster trope – apart from the bacon sandwich and cup of tea £5 deal, and “available every day 11am until 12pm”.

I asked about this apparent carnivorous anomaly and the very helpful barperson, making the bunny ears gesture with two fingers of each hand, explained that the bacon was “bacon”. It was, she claimed, made of carrot but it tasted the same as real bacon. I chose not to test her claim; I leave that to you, intrepid reader.

Outside, I eavesdropped on a couple of bestubbled customers as they chatted over artfully iced coffees in pint glasses:

“So, I wanted to go into product design, so yeah, then I realised that street food is product design – it’s food you design – but with a really low start up cost. So yeah…”

Apparently, with craft beer, it is fine and hip to serve it cloudy. Photo: Simon Bentley

Down Surrey Street next, and into Mr Fox, yet another stripped back post-industrial bar with craft beers and an ironic game, this time shuffleboard. Here, pints of beer are £5, and even a (small) bowl of fries is £4. So yeah…

Prices to use the shuffleboard table are eccentric, another hipster trope. It’s free on Mondays and Tuesdays, £5 per hour on Wednesdays and £10 per hour the rest of the week.

On this Sunday, no one was playing. In part of the cavernous interior, a church group was celebrating something while dressed in Sunday Best around a big white cake. Not very hipsterish at all, or very hipsterish indeed.

Round the corner on Middle Street is a rather unobtrusive doorway. It used to be the entrance to Beano’s, the much-lamented biggest-second-hand-record-shop-in-Europe that took up three floors of the site. In its place is Project B, is a rather cool venue-for-hire which self-describes as “industrial-luxe”.

The people running it seem nice. You could probably make it a hipster joint if you hired it and invited enough guests with beards. See here for details of how to book

Reassuringly post-industrial, Project B. Photo: Simon Bentley

Hipstered out, I crossed Surrey Street for a last pint in the Dog and Bull, a traditional enough Youngs pub with a cosy if unremarkable interior, as well as a huge and somewhat stylised beer garden, all booths in pastel colours, tropical plants and a burger shack, all managing to imbue the space with a sunny, holiday vibe, despite being surrounded by the Croydon grime of such alleys as Fellmongers Yard and Overton’s Yard.

It is typical of most Young’s pubs these days, the upgrade paid for with the proceeds from them selling their brewery at Wandsworth, where the Wandle reaches the Thames.

Last stop, a proper pub

Here, too, pints were less than £5 per pint – Croydon prices, rather than central London bar prices.

The Dog and Bull’s beer garden is probably the best one in Croydon. If you know better, please please let us know.

So there you have it – Croydon is, if not as hip as Shoreditch, at least hipsterish in a strip along Surrey Street, the site on six days a week, of course, of a decidedly unhip market that has been there since the 12th Century, despite the best efforts of the council to replace its family-friendly pound-a-bowl value with artisan luxe.

If you can get craft beer for £8/pint, bacon made out of carrots and play a game of shuffleboard for a range of prices, then fully-blown hipsterism is probably not too far away.

So yeah, as we hipsters say…

* Updated July 4, 2019: This article was amended to correct the price of a pint of ale at Mr Fox, which was mis-stated due to an editing error. We apologise for the error.

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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6 Responses to Hipsterdom is alive and thriving at £8 per pint in Surrey Street

  1. derekthrower says:

    No wonder these Craft Bars are card-only for purchasers. You need to have a large credit limit to just a buy a round in there.

  2. Lewis White says:

    Surrey Street/ South End of Croydon is still quite well-off full of beer-selling pubs, in spite of closures of many located a bit further out. Wetherspoons and others — pub-co owned and a few indies– purvey a huge variety of well-priced and beers.

    I have no problem with hipsterdom and more expensive beers. Surely we need Croydon to offer a variety of different pubs and bars, catering for a range of tastes. Better to have premises that are occupied and thriving than empty shops? The main thing Croydon needs above all in my view are people of all backgrounds and ages–and incomes.

    Whilst I too am reluctant to pay central London prices (even in central London) I went in the very establishment featured above, and was pleased to be able to buy on draught a number of London brews. Can’t remember if it included Cronx beers. Probably drank halves slowly, to restrict the wallet damage, and enjoy sampling a range of good beers.

    The loss of pubs in pubs in general is clearly a sad fact , the result of varied factors, notably the level of tax on beer drunk in pubs, but not on beer drunk at home, and the preference of many people to drink at home. A lot of young people are not drinking alcohol, and some people are going to places like Ludoquist in South End, where thay can socialise, play games and have a drink or food, rather than sit at a bar supping pints and decrying the disappearance of the traditional old fashioned boozer selling pints of gassy lager and industrial bitter.

  3. jackgriffin1933 says:

    Art & Craft is not my kind of place, yet I can’t be too harsh on it as it is far from the worst of its kind and I know the owner and wish him well. He is also serious about the Art, being a scion of a South Croydon antiques dynasty.

    As Lewis says: better occupied than not, better there than Boxpark and it has its place.

    Garden-wise, the D&B is good – yet the Oval runs it close.

    Finally, it would behove Ken to venture slightly further on to the Royal Standard.

    After the departure of local licensee legend Martin ‘Polly’ Perkins, it had been in the doldrums for some time.

    Yet the new, young team – formerly behind the late Black Sheep – have breathed life into the place, and former regulars are returning in numbers. New customers have also been seen and, while the demographic is still on the senior side, there’s a feelgood factor to the place at the moment.

    • Even with the new gazebo (to protect customers from masonry falling from the Flyover?), the Royal Standard does not quite fit the hipster wankerdom mantle, not yet anyway. And its bar prices are a good deal more reasonable.

  4. This article although makes an hilarious read, has some major incorrect facts. Mr Fox’s beer pricing is from £4.50 and the most expensive is £5.50 and a packet of crisps is £1

    • We’ve amended the article to reflect your beer pricing, as we are always happy to correct errors on the rare occasions they occur. On this occasion, our intrepid reporter – we conducted two secret shopper visits – was still in a state of shock over being charged eight quid in the previous poncy bar that he must have misnoted the charge in your bar, while distracted by the empty shuffleboard tables.
      Your beer worked out even more expensive, though: it was so undrinkable, that we had to leave half of it. Calling us liars on social media would usually see you forfeit the right of reply, though.

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