The Railway Telegraph has joined forces in a new venture which is set to cement the future of this traditional pub and provide a top notch place to eat out in Thornton Heath.

The Crown and Pepper brand which is synonymous with top quality Indian cuisine is now being served up at The Railway in Thornton Heath. The tailored made lunch and all day menu offers vegetarian, vegan and meat  dishes along with traditional pub favourites.

Friends Neal Rekhi, landlord of the Brigstock Road pub and Raj Shukla, managing director of the Crown and Pepper chain, recognised the lack of eating out venues in Thornton Heath and have launched The Crown at The Railway.

The Indian Kitchen at the Railway has been open less than a month and has already received rave reviews with one local resident Suzy Tiago describing  the curry as” “amazing” and  really authentic.” 

Adding: “I’ve been to India three times and eat Northern Indian food regularly and the flavours here are bang on.”

The Crown platters are proving particularly popular with groups and in addition to an extensive all day menu, the lunch deal of two meals for only £12 is now available from 12-3pm Tuesday to Friday. Crown and Pepper are famous for their Salt and Pepper King Prawns and Chilli Garlic Mogo which are sweet potato with lemon. Sliced in to thin strips, and are a fantastic accompaniment to the lamb kebabs and chicken tikka.

The majority of the dishes are either £7 or under making it affordable and the Crown Platters offer a great way of sharing with friends for as little as £5 each. Plus you can choose how hot you want your curry! Another  fan of the new food regime Cici Wongster said: “The best veggie/vegan Indian dinners EVER last night. Mogo chips are the food of the gods!!” Both Neal and Raj recognise the importance of the great British pub but that it won’t survive without moving with the times and offering a mix of all the traditional pub fare: sport, drink and entertainment while appealing to a broader audience who like to eat out.

Nearly one in three pubs in Croydon have closed in the last 10 years – leaving about 90 pubs and bars in the borough. Thornton Heath has seen the closure of the Wetherspoon’s Flora Sandes pub, The Thomas Farley, and The Horseshoe and Wheatsheaf both at The Pond. The Crown and Pepper, formerly the Catherine Wheel, at 242 High Street Croydon, has just celebrated its tenth anniversary and the Shukla’s also have a pub in Caterham. Mr Shukla grew up in Thornton Heath – living for many years on Parchmore Road.

Neal who runs The Railway Bell in Gipsy Hill, and has been  running the Railway Telegraph for seven years, both under The Rekhi Pub Group, said he wanted to provide a business that ‘added value’ to Thornton Heath. He explained: “I’m Thornton Heath born in Gonville Road and this area means the world to us because this is where our families  immigrated to and we  are all children of immigrants. “Both our parents came from Kenya and we all settled in Thornton Heath.  We are looking at what we can give back to Thornton Heath. 

“Having just a pub that sells alcohol doesn’t give Thornton Heath any value. We wanted to give something to the community so they don’t have to go elsewhere in to Croydon or Norbury. That they can go out and eat out here in Thornton Heath.”

Neal isn’t phased by Thornton Heath being named the  third worst High Street in London  in a  Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) survey or the growing number of chicken shops. The self confessed vegan explains: “That to me is a good thing because there’s an opportunity to change. Every negative has a positive and I don’t believe in negatives. “ There has been a pub on the site opposite the station for 142 years.

The outside has just been repainted and last year Neal added a  covered garden which has its own big screen. The kitchen has been extensively refurbished with long term plans to convert the upstairs accommodation in to  functions rooms. The food is freshly cooked and the  menu will soon be available for takeaway with Deliveroo so you can order locally and eat at home if you fancy staying in.

Neal said: “In the last year we have  been looking at our catering side. We never got the operation absolutely correct so I spoke to Raj about three months ago and said ‘look,  do you think the Crown and Pepper would like to venture in to Thornton Heath?’ “I thought the answer would be ‘no’, to be quite honest, but was happily surprised when he agreed.”

Raj said: “We saw it as a great opportunity to work together in partnership. There is huge potential in Thornton Heath, with the variety of communities here all looking for something different.” “Lots of pubs are closing down in the area and hopefully we have brought something new to the pub business and together with Neal’s expertise it should work well. 

“It might take little bit of time but I think gradually if we continue working hard and with the successful brand we have we will attract in a lot of new people and families. It’s already starting to happen.”

Raj explained that when he took over the Catherine Wheel, located opposite Leon House in Croydon, the aim was not   to ‘reinvent the wheel’ but  to offer customers something different and so they started serving up Indian and Chinese cuisine. Ten year’s on the pub is thriving and has eight chefs working on site.

Raj explains: “It has a good reputation and good recognition with the  local community. We worked hard to build our brand and now everyone knows our name. “We get a lot of council staff coming in to the pub and we also do catering for a lot of events.”

The Crown and Pepper, in Croydon is set in a beautiful Victorian building which serves up a range of foods  of bar snacks for watching the big game to an extensive lunch and dinner menu’s.

There is also a private function room located above the main bar with a DJ box and dance floor. Raj added: “We are  always looking around for new ideas and projects. “Everything is regenerating around the Croydon area and we were looking around for new opportunities. “We had been talking for a while about what to do next when we were approached  by Neal and it seemed like a perfect match to set up a kitchen here.”

We are offering the Indian dishes together with the traditional favourites like the burgers and fish and chips.

Neal explains the great synergy in the pub between the different nationalities all living together in harmony: “We have Dominoes at one end, Jerk chicken outside and Indian inside. On Paddies day we were more busy than the Irish pubs even though we had less Irish people in here but all were celebrating Paddy’s day!”

The pub has entertainment most weekends with karaoke and guest DJs with a Halloween fancy dress on Friday (November1). He said: “We have spent a lot of money on the Telegraph. We made the decision two and half years ago to plough some money in and take a chance on Thornton Heath.”

Raj agrees:“The potential is here. The High Street has to change and we are confident it’s going to work here. “It’s about establishing the brand, working with Neal and being part of the expansion and growth of Thornton Heath.”

We will show people they can eat decent food locally with their families closer to home.

There are 13 TVs in total to watch sport in the pub which also opens its doors to football fans at Palace home matches but Neal made the decision despite losing money to close the pub to away fans after the match. He said: “We lock the doors for three hours but we made a choice because we have developed a huge customer base in last two years and we don’t need Mr Away Fans because we have our Thornton Heath regulars and they are our bread and butter.”

This also goes for staff who are locally hired which is the same for the Gipsy Hill pub. Raj said:”A lot of people have been coming in through word of mouth. The  feedback has been very positive and Neal already has a good reputation this will enhance that further with food element.”

Neal added: “We have seen a lot of new faces coming in to try the food and groups of friends returning who we have not seen before.”

In addition to the new menu the kitchen will continue to serve up the traditional Sunday roast which the Railway is well known for but with a Crown and Pepper ‘twist’! All roasts come with four seasonal vegetables, stuffing, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes topped with gravy at £7.95 for adults and £5.50 for children with an additional £1 extra cost for lamb.

19 Brigstock Road, CR7 7JJ

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