Published on November 12, 2013 | by Adam Biagini

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The untold joys of Elephant & Castle shopping centre

Oriental Market in Elephant and Castle shopping centre

Oriental Market in Elephant and Castle shopping centre [Ekaterina Anchevskaya]

Although voted London’s biggest eyesore by Time Out readers, look past the peeling blue paint job and the Elephant and Castle shopping centre has an endearing quality quite unique for something of its kind.

Built in 1965, the centre was the first covered shopping centre in Europe.

Boissenvain & Osmond, the centre’s architects, said at the time: “In design, planning and vision it represents an entirely new approach to retailing, setting standards for the sixties that will revolutionise shopping concepts throughout Britain.”

People continue to love the centre for what it is, which is largely down to the absence of massive chains. Sure, there is a WHSmith and a Greggs. But this is a far cry from the commercial hellholes of Westfield, where attempts to fleece you for everything you own are constant.

The Elephant has ‘atmosphere’, something many shopping centres are completely devoid of. Unfortunately it may not always be like this. The gentrification of the area and the regeneration schemes of Southwark Council mean we may soon have another Westfield-like monstrosity on our doorstep.

To celebrate the shopping centre and the surrounding market as it is today, the ALN has compiled a selection of their finest establishments.

Mamuśka

A Polish milk bar or bar ‘mleczny’ in the heart of the shopping centre, this canteen-like establishment offers cheap as chips Polish fare even better than Mama used to make. Perfect for cold weather, the potato pancakes with goulash or lard spread are bound to fatten you up for winter, and for £6 per main and £3 for a starter you certainly get a lot.

Don’t worry, there’s not only milk to wash it down with. You can always accompany your meal with a Tyskie or a shot of Żubrówka from the freezer.

La Bodeguita

One of the many examples of Colombian culture in the area, La Bodeguita has a daytime café, shop and restaurant on the first floor of the building. The café is a good alternative to Tesco for your lunch break with chorizo arrepas, strong coffee and deep fried empanadas with salsa, not to mention very cheap beer. The restaurant will serve you a huge lump of steak with plaintain and rice for very little money, and on weekends there’s also salsa dancing if you can stand up after your meal.

Kung Fu Teddy’s

Kung Fu and reggae might seem like odd things to combine, but Teddy is a fixture of the covered market that surrounds the shopping centre, keeping passersby entertained with the latest sounds from Jamaica. For a cheap, plastic-wrapped copy of your favourite Shaolin movie or Lee Scratch Perry album, he’s your man.

Elephant Superbowl

The faded glamour of the Elephant and Castle superbowl takes you back to the Megabowl birthday parties of your childhood, and it looks like the prices haven’t changed much either. Relive your youth with the added bonus of getting pissed cheaply, but steer well clear of the party platters.

Little Orient Supermarket

From won tons to dried shrimp, soy to frozen octopus, Little Orient is a one-stop shop for Asian delicacies. Also great for lunch, the supermarket serves a selection of hot Chinese buns, along with row upon row of soft drinks you’ve definitely never heard of.

 

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