Elephant and Castle is one of London’s hidden gems when it comes to its shops and community. Move to this part of the capital and you’ll enjoy access to a surprising range of independent shops and markets - you just need to look past some of the less appealing parts of the area to get to them.
Exit the tube and you’ll find a few stalls located close to the station entrance and the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre that make up Elephant and Castle Market. Goods for sale include confectionery, clothing and fruit and vegetables.
Elsewhere, East Street Market off Walworth Road is one of the biggest and oldest markets in London, having been in operation since 1880. It sells pretty much everything you can think of and is open every day except on Mondays. Top tip: in the summer, look out for the mini flower market near East Street Market on Sundays. It’s a great place to buy all sorts of flowers for a reasonable price.
If Latin American cooking is your thing, look no further than La Bodeguita for the best authentic ingredients. This is one of the gems of the somewhat underwhelming Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre and sells a huge range of products imported straight from South America.
It also offers kitchen utensils, drinks and health and beauty items. It’s well worth checking out the adjoining restaurant and deli for a true taste of Latin America.
For seafood lovers, Aberdeen Sea Products on Toulmin Street is a must-visit. This is primarily a restaurant supplier, but it also sells direct to members of the public keen to buy the freshest sea bass, swordfish, octopus, eels and much more besides.
It keeps odd opening hours (from the early morning to the late morning or afternoon), so it’s best to phone ahead to check when the shop is open. Aberdeen Sea Products also delivers to homes in London.
G Baldwin & Co (also known as Baldwins) is an independent seller of natural and organic health foods, as well as beauty products, aromatherapy items and more. It can be found on Walworth Road and has been going since 1844, making it a staple of the high street here.
There are also a number of grocers along Walworth Road selling Asian, African and other ingredients that you’d be hard-pressed to find in the supermarket.
Shalimar Books is a retailer and wholesaler of all kinds of Indian literature, including fiction, poetry and most categories of non-fiction. Located on Kennington Lane, the shop was originally known as Soma Books, a business founded in the 1980s that sold books from Africa and the Caribbean, as well as Asia.
The shop changed its focus to Indian books only in 2012 and is now a fantastic place to unearth gems on everything from Indian history and economics to cookery and health.
If art is more your thing, head to Kennington Road to find Danielle Arnaud Contemporary Art. This gallery was founded in 1995 and sells a limited number of artworks and books. There are regular exhibitions of works by up and coming artists as well as events such as lectures and discussions.
High street names
The bulk of the area’s high street chains can be found in the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre. The centre doesn’t look too appealing from the outside (it was built in the 1960s) but it houses a reasonable range of stores including Tesco and Boots.
Technically part of Kennington, the southern end of Kennington Road has more independent shops that are well worth visiting. The Kennington Bookshop is an excellent independent bookshop that offers a welcome antidote to the bigger book chains with its hand-picked selection of interesting titles, including both new and second-hand books.
Budding musicians can pick up an instrument at ASM Music and DIY enthusiasts have a selection of suppliers to choose from, including MP Moran. There’s also an Oddbins which, while not independent, offers a splendid selection of wines.