Elephant and Castle, a Mecca for urban street artists and hungry Colombians….

I paid a visit to the Heygate Estate in Elephant & Castle this week to photograph some street art and graffiti, a brand new hobby I’ve taken up in the last few weeks. It’s a deserted council estate (used in several movies including Harry Brown) awaiting demolition which has become an oasis in which for London’s street artists to express themselves. I stumbled across it by accident a few weeks ago and found it absolutely mindblowing, wandering around such a vast urban metropolis with no-one to be seen anywhere is quite bizarre, perhaps a little daunting at first but you soon don’t care once you’ve seen some of the artwork on display. New artwork pops up all over the place every week. a lot of the stuff I’ve photographed has been painted over already. Go and see it for yourself while you still can before it becomes a construction site, it’s located on Walworth Road behind Elephant & Castle station, at the moment you can just wander in off the street.

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Anyway, my trips to the Heygate Estate have become far more fun since I discovered a spat of Colombian restaurants (or cantinas) serving up authentic Colombian food just off Walworth Rd by the railway bridge. The sandwich boards outside don’t give much away (especially as they’re all written in Spanish) but there are enough clues to indicate there might be some interesting South American food inside. I liked the look of Restaurante Cocorna, it’s situated in a small Latin American shops arcade so has quite a buzzy atmosphere and you can perch yourself on a stool at the breakfast bar right in front of the kitchen. This is just one of three cantinas situated next to each other.

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It didn’t take long to figure out that I was the only non Spanish speaking customer in there, I was greeted with ‘ola’ and quickly responded accordingly but the game was up within about 10 seconds when I turned into Manuel from fawlty towers by saying ‘que?’ to everything. I asked for a menu and was looked at blankly, they don’t have menus in here so you have to figure out what you want from seeing what others are eating, unless you’re fortunate enough to speak Spanish of course. The guy in the kitchen spoke some English and told me they had soup, fish, chicken or beef so I went for beef based on what the guy next to me had on his plate, turned out to be an excellent choice!

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Beef meant a rustic slow cooked plank steak stew with big flavours, potatoes, rice, salad, and pinto bean stew with cubes of belly pork (like you need more stew!), and a corn tortilla on top. It was absolutely delicious and there was so much of it I was barely able to finish. All this for just £5 including a drink of your choice, I had two drinks without realising and they stll only charged me £5, they’re a friendly bunch and they clearly enjoy making their customers happy. The guy next to me assured me that everything else on the menu is just as tasty too, as well as main meals (which are all £5 with a drink) they also sell traditional Latino snacks like empanadas and rissoles for £1 each.

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This place isn’t just about the food, it’s a refreshing experience just going in there, you feel like you’re in a cantina somewhere in South America on your travels and that is something that money cannot buy. Thoroughly recommend you check out this little corner of London, definitely one of my most memorable lunches to date.

Restaurante Cocorna

Unit N – Eagle Yard, Arch 147 Walworth Road, SE1 6SP

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