Lavender chocolates, phone booth libraries and orn...

Lavender chocolates, phone booth libraries and ornate trinkets: three of the best kept secrets in South London

After challenging Why Waste Annual Leave to come up with three quirky things to do in London if you’re penny pinching and just a bit skint, we asked her to get down and dirty in the South, and suggest three things South Londoners have kept secret. Here’s what she’s come up with…

Brockley Market

I don’t know about you but there’s nothing I enjoy more on a weekend morning than a stroll to a local food market. It ticks all the boxes – fresh food, fresh air and most importantly, it prevents that shameful sense of guilt I would otherwise be burdening for surfacing after noon, socially acceptable as an angsty teenager perhaps but most definitely not acceptable in ones thirties.

Let’s be honest, nothing heals a Saturday morning hangover quite like a greasy fry up but what about those Saturdays when one is sober? For a city so cosmopolitan, London has a disproportionate number of food markets lurking in all zones, encompassing those with an emphasis on street food as well as farmers’ markets, swarming with fresh produce.

The turn-off, as with many London locations on a Saturday, is the crowd. You haven’t worked your socks off all week and suffered the underground’s sardine-tin commute to then spend your Saturday morning sandwiched between hordes of hungry tourists but unfortunately for visitors (rather more fortunate for traders), many longer established markets have become too darn popular for their own good.

Cue Brockley Market. I whisper the precious name to you with cautious trepidation, wary of what may happen if I let it out of the bag. This is the baby of London food markets and has only been gracing the South London food crowds for a couple of years so has a unique vantage point in being relatively undiscovered.

Here, you will find everything from hot Schnitzel sandwiches, peanut butter flavoured whoopie pies, handmade lavender-flavoured chocolates and my ultimate favourite find – the fish dog. Think retro fish-finger sandwich – now picture it with fresh white fish, battered in front of your eyes and lashings of perfectly tangy tartare sauce all shoved in a roll. If you’re not already sold, then you’re not reading it right or you’re allergic to fish – and if you are laden with such an affliction, you may still wish to hang around this van to try their Churros dipped in salted caramel sauce, which is every bit as rich and sinfully sweet as it sounds. One of my visits here fell on a gloomy winter’s morning when the rain was as stop-start as the District Line in rush hour but it takes a larger obstacle than this to deter me from ice cream and you will find yourself in an arduous dilemma at Ruby Violet’s ice cream van.

Her range of eclectic flavours includes apricot rice pudding and gingerbread (sorry folks, I think it may have been a Christmas special unless you ask her nicely.) Have you ever managed to make breakfast a 3 course meal? A few months ago, I’d have judged you for answering affirmatively. Unfortunately for the waistline, Brockley market has helped me to master the art of 3 course morning feasts. Come hungry, that’s all I’m saying.

Every Saturday from 10am. More details can be found here.

The Lewisham Micro Library In A Phonebox

It’s shameful how long it had been since I went to a library until I stumbled upon this quirky gem in leafy Brockley in South East London. It’s not that books have lost their allure; it’s more an issue of digital versus manual, noughties versus nineties – many of us have become reliant on e-readers and the internet for our book acquisition purposes.

My re-acquaintance with a library took place unexpectedly one Saturday morning when I was ambling along, somewhat in a daze after a draining week at work. If you’re walking around in London, it takes more than a red phone box to surprise you but when I caught sight of shelves and books, the mystery deepened. Was this an art exhibit? Was it part of a film set? I cautiously tried to open the door, apprehensive and wary, as if I was doing something wrong.

There were books on all shelves, mainly fictional, a few educational books. I was intrigued and then I spotted the sign on the front of the door.

This charming library is free for all and open 24 hours a day. Visitors are welcomed endearingly into the world of the micro-library and are encouraged to bring an old book of their own to replenish it but in return, they are free to take a book of their choosing from the phonebox. Recently renovated by a local resident, this is rapidly gathering a loyal following in the local community. There are no opening hours here, no library cards, no late return fees and no spectacled and smartly-dressed librarians. This is a must-see for adults and children, book lovers and bloggers, visitors to Brockley and to be honest, for anyone who happens to be walking past.

I would challenge you to find anyone walking down that street who notices the books and doesn’t pause curiously. Furthermore, looking beyond the originality of the concept, let’s not forget that the book exchange, like all libraries, provides an educational resource for us to learn from, expanding our horizons and vocabulary whilst we immerse ourselves in the books we pick up (and a great way to de-clutter our shelves at home).

At the corner of Lewisham Way and Tyrwhitt Road.

Aladdin’s Cave

Think you need to head to Spitalfields or Portobello to find the best antiques in London town? You could venture there by all means but you’d be fighting the crowds. You may also be paying the premiums for antique furniture. As an alternative, you could head south of the river to Brockley, which is easily becoming one of the trendiest neighbourhoods in London and keep your eyes peeled for a tiny treasure trove of antiques, known as Aladdin’s Cave.

A family business located on the grounds of an old Lewisham railway station, this little alcove is as stooped in history as it is in ornate trinkets, unique furniture and oodles of character. As with many family businesses, the service is helpful and unobtrusive and their commitment to the cause is exemplified by their willingness to remain open even on Sundays and bank holidays.

I’ll warn you now that you’ll wander in purely for the purposes of a browse and you’ll leave convinced that you need the silver serving dish complete with 6 engraved goblets. Many items are eccentric but that only adds to its charm. If you thrive on unconventionality, unique décor and quirky interior design, you will feel sinfully lustful here. I’ve never particularly considered myself an antique lover but it’s as if Aladdin casts a spell to draw you into a web of charm here and I kept mentally mapping my home, wondering where I could slot in the vibrantly coloured, graffiti-esque chest of drawers with eclectic shapes, patterns and hues.

It looks quite small externally but step inside and follow around the dimly lit, meandering alleys, paying your respects to a giant jade Buddha as you do, and you’ll find an elusive depth to it. In fact, when I first spotted it, I had mistaken it for a hardware store. Deservedly, sources far more influential than myself have acknowledged its treasures, being included in Time Out Magazine’s top London furniture shops. Come and see for yourself but my advice would be to have a glance around your home to see where you could best slot in some impulse purchases.

Find your next treasure here.