Suttons’ Radio: Review

Excitement had been mounting for some time in Lewisham with the news that the long-closed Market Tavern was to reopen, and finally the glad day is here. So, welcome to the revitalised Market Tavern! – er, hang on – it’s actually called Suttons’ Radio. Why have they called it that? The company behind it, Antic, have a pedigree of doing minimum refurbishment and that includes names. So, the converted Job Centre in Deptford became the Job Centre, the Conservative Club in Catford became the Constitutional Club – because South East London is too progressive for Conservatives, or something – and whilst they were doing up the old Market Tavern they discovered that it was originally a radio shop. Fair play to sticking to their naming scheme, but it is faintly embarrassing to say. It’s best pronounced as Peter Kay would: SUTTONS? RADIO?

Antic pubs tend to be nice places to be with good food and beer, but we still haven’t forgiven them for closing the nearby Ravensbourne, a lovely 1930s boozer and home of South London’s best Sunday lunch. It’s now flats. Sadly, we didn’t get a chance to try the food at Suttons’ Radio because the kitchen doesn’t open until January. In fact, the whole pub feels a bit embryonic: there are signs saying “coming soon” next to the coffee machine and one of the beer pumps. Still, they very kindly let us bring in food from nearby Lewisham market. This is worth taking advantage of while you can: create your very own street food festival at Suttons’ without having to pay the ridiculous prices charged at the nearby Model Market. We can heartily recommend the German sausage man – fully laden bratwurst hot dog for only £3.50. The jerk chicken smelled good too, though nobody seemed very keen on the rather sad looking vegan food stall. We can’t help thinking that Lewisham market might not be the best place for vegan food.

So, there’s no food, but what about the beer? They have five hand pumps, of which four were working, including Hophead Dark Star and Volden Session Ale, tasting very good, especially at £3.30 a pint. Also a Hiver Honey IPA (HONEY? IPA?), which we weren’t quite so keen on, and a truly terrible mulled cider, which didn’t seem to have been sweetened at all and so just tasted like hot tannic cider. There’s some big name beers on keg, including Guinness and Amstel, and Thornbridge Jaipur at a rather optimistic £5.20 a pint. The wine list looks simple and well-priced, with bottles from Southern Europe starting at £16.50 and going up to £25, and prosecco at £22. On the spirit front, the rum selection was particularly strong.

The inside of Suttons’ Radio has that classic semi-renovated Antic pub feel. It’s a one-room pub, with an old parquet floor, some exposed concrete and then lots of bric-à-brac. They’re hammering home the name with old wooden radiograms dotted around the room, and lots of brown 70s jars of the sort that your grandparents probably used to own. There’s a massive blown-up section of Booth’s Poverty Map for the local area showing the rough income of each street. Lewisham town centre was a prosperous place in the late nineteenth century. Looking out the window onto the unlovely shopping centre, it does look like it has deteriorated since then. The pub is next door to Poundworld. Some days it seems that the only bright spot in Lewisham market is the man who blasts dub from his mobility scooter.

And yet lots of people do come to Lewisham to shop, and there are good places to spend money: useful chains such as M&S and Clarks, but also excellent indies like the Polish and Italian delis on nearby Lewis Grove, and the fruit and veg market is always lively.  So one would imagine that there should be demand for a good pub in the town centre. The competition is a Wetherspoons and an Irish old man’s pub, the Joiners Arms.

The only windows at Suttons’ Radio are at the front of the pub.  Walking in, one quickly descends into the gloom. On a summer’s day this might be a bit depressing but in the winter it seems cosy and womblike. We can imagine popping in for a rest from the market and then losing track of time. It’s early days for Suttons’ Radio, but if the food is as good as other Antic pubs, then we might just forgive them for shutting the Ravensbourne. . . . though that name will take some getting used to.

Suttons’ Radio, 139–141 Lewisham High Street, SE13 6AA

JOL was invited to review Suttons’ Radio on a complimentary basis. We retain full editorial control. 

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