Our Future's Orange: Crystal Palace

This is part four of our preview of the East London Line, profiling many of the stops along the new route, ahead of its opening in May.

Crystal Palace will be one of the southern termini for the new East London Line. The Grade II-listed station has been the subject of major renovation and will be served by four tube trains per hour from Brockley.

Built on and surrounded by large hills, Crystal Palace feels like an entirely self-contained world of handsome streets with a surreal park as its centrepiece, topped off with a couple of television masts, the tallest of which is only a little shorter than One Canada Square.

The park is 200-acres, big enough to envelop a national sports centre (including a 15,500-seat athletics stadium, and a 50m swimming pool), a farm, an open air concert venue and a menagerie of jerry-built dinosaurs that make the Kentucky Creation Museum look like an accurate depiction of pre-history by comparison.

Although money has been spent on maintaining the park, it's so huge and filled with so many curiosities it has a haunted quality, enhanced by the fact that its future is in limbo, while an ambitious master plan by the London Development Agency struggles through the planning stages.

Perched above the park is a buzzy town centre called the Triangle, which is home to some decent nightlife and a few great restaurants, including Joanna's, a brasserie with a unique 'railway carriage' private dining room, Japanese diner Edo and Portuguese joint A Torre. The Alma is a great 'traditional' pub with an eclectic line-up of live music and a regular market place in the pub garden. The White Hart, the Royal Albert (for a Sunday roast) and the Grape and Grain are all also worth a visit.

Already connected by two overland trains an hour to Brockley, a trip to Crystal Palace is about to get a lot easier.

More East London Line destinations:

Rotherhithe, Canada Water, Surrey Quays


Monkeyboy said...

You said 'tube train' go straight to train spotters jail. Do not pass go or collect £200.

Brockley Nick said...

It was a deliberate act of provocation! It's a tube, damnit!

Tamsin said...

Thanks for sending me down memoray lane. A great place - not new being able to get there, though. If you can't wait until May Penge West is a stone's throw from the lower gates, and actually closer to the monsters and the farm than Crystal Palace.

Activity Camps are (or at least were) run from the sports complex during the summer holidays (tennis, archery, fencing, basket=-ball etc.) and it was steps towards independence for my pre-teen children that I would send them off there in the morning on their own by train but leave work myself early to come and collect at the end of their day when they were more likely to be tired and just wanting to get home quickly.

They also swam in the pool there from before they were born (ante-natal exercise classes). Very good swimming coaching - also for adult non-swimmers, never too late to learn. And there's gym, tramplining, basket-ball (I think the London team is based there) and a climbing wall.

The park itself is wonderful and I love it's rather shabby splendour. After swimming lessons in the summer we used to go up to "have supper with the Sphinx" - sandwiches sitting on the upper terraces with the broken statues that are all that remain of the old Crystal Palace. And higher still, a scramble up a steep path, there is a little formal garden by the upper road where we played "40-40 home".

Dunwaitin' said...

Who needs trains? Crystal Palace is only a 122 bus ride away (it stops outside my front door too!)

I've always liked the place. So much so, that I've decided, after fifteen years of waiting patiently for Brockley to 'happen', to up sticks and move there.

Brockley Nick said...

Jam Circus, The Talbot, The Orchard, The Broca, Broca Food Market, The Tea Factory Gallery, Tank Gallery, The Amersham Arms, Masons, The Deptford Deli, Aladdin's Cave, Browns of Brockley, Shop on the Hill, Degustation, The Wickham Arms, The Ladywell Tavern, Toads Mouth Too, The Brockley Mess, Brockley MAX, Le Querce, Open Studios, the Rivoli, Mr Lawrence, the Deptford Project, Deptford X, Misty Moon craft fair, Tea and Make, The Honor Oak, The Albany, Hop Scotch, Lewisham Art House, Crofton Park Library, Deptford Wavelengths, Albertines, Try Tapas, Babur, Meze Mangal, the Barge, the Telegraph Hill festival, new playgrounds in Telegraph Hill and Hilly Fields, The Royal Albert, Nu Spice, Long Time Cafe, Smiles Thai Cafe, The Brockley Jack, Jerk Garden, the Summer Fayre...

Two months before the ELL opens seems an odd time to give up on an area which has seen significant change for the better in the last few years.

Still, Crystal Palace is nice too.

Lady Well said...

I love Brockley, but the problem with it is that all of those places that nick mentioned, wonderful that they are, are spread out all over the area.

Lordship lane is what makes ED so successful.
The triangle in CP makes it a destination spot.

Unless Crofton Park & Brockley rd. start to replace the many news agents and chicken joints with more interesting shops(books, toys, clothing), I'm afraid it just isn't going to 'happen' in the way we would like.

Michael Dinner said...

Nick forgot to mention the Royal Albert which is now managed by Richard, formerly of Jam Circus. I was in there last night. And already his presence is felt. Great pub. Great Drink. Great food, the best Sunday lunch ever, and Richard seems to have attracted some very beautfiul people to it. (Some of the women are stunners. And the guy's too!) Ten out of ten.

Brockley Nick said...

@Michael Dinner - The Royal Albert was on the list :)

@Lady Well - I agree with some of what you are saying but will save it for another day, as I have dragged this thread off topic...

Tamsin said...

To get back on topic, Crystal Palace station is beautiful too - almost as cathedral-like as the great London Termini. Hope it isn't being too mangled in the need for accessibility and to accommodate the new train service.

Brockley Jon said...

I too heart CP! To add to Nick's restaurant list, try the excellent and quirky Mediterranean joint Numudie and modern-British newbie The Exhibition Rooms, which we tried a couple of weeks ago and was fab.

The others that Nick mentions are all good. Hope the Palace folk appreciate how good they've got it!

Brockley Jon said...

...and I suppose that does illustrate Brockley's problem. CP is full of decent sophisticated restaurants (not just gastropubs). In Brockley we still don't have a good grown-up restaurant.

There are times when you don't want to eat in a pub, no matter how nice the food might be (Talbot, Jam Circus...).

There are times when you don't want to smell of kebabs when you get home, no matter how delicious the şiş might be (but I still love you Meze Mangal!).

The Orchard has no doubt helped to fill the void, but there is room for more!

tyrwhitt ali said...

I have to say, Joanna's is absolutely lovely! Would really recommend it.

Crofton Parker said...

Interesting that restaurants seem to be such a key reason people like a place - seem to be seen as "needed" more than actual food shops. They'd be the last thing I would care about in an area. Mind you Crystal Palace also has it up on us with ace little charity shops where you can find great books. But they will never be in Zone 2. Hah!

Ed said...

I love CPP too. Fond memories of concerts there when I was a teenager, The dinosaurs scaring me as a young child and sunny 'revision' afternoons when we escaped the college estate. The Masterplan looks great, CP should rival Battersea and other great parks and I am definately going to revisit once the weather improves. Love the station too.

uhnhisg said...

In Brockley life is tough is tough for residents often they don't know where there next restaurant meal is gonna come from.

sydenham central said...

Crystal Palace is lovely. Hopefully soon they will have a cinema if they win their battle against the church that bought it.
It's worth popping along to Sydenham too for Trattoria Raffaele (www.trattoriaraffaele.com) or Ghurkas, two of the best local restaurants I have been too (Trattoria came 5th in 'who do you love' in Lewisham. The Dolphin is great too.

We went to the Talbot recently and thought it was great. Brockley is definitely improving.

The problem with a lot of places is that generally they look horrible. Crystal Palace has a lot of empty shops but still looks great with great restaurants (the Exhibition rooms are my favourite), curious shops, a great Antiques centre (where did they all go?), and funky yummy mummy shops.

I totally agree with what Lady Well says. Unless places like Brockley become destinations the improvements will be hard to come by.

Headhunter said...

I understand what people are saying, that Brockley's "attractions" are spread over a wider area than those in say, East Dulwich or Crystal Palace but I'm fine with it that way, I don't really care if Brockley becomes a "destination", it's not as if most of London isn't on our doorstep. Having said that, it would be nice (but not essential) if we had some better shops on Brockley Rd - something other than fried chicken joints, funeral parlours, bookies and newsagents. Just to spruce it up a bit and make it somewhere locals want to go to shop.

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