It’s a crisp and chilly January morning when I pay a visit to Isla Ray, an independent café and bar on Deptford High Street, writes Holly O’Mahony…

Rumours are rife of there being another Beast from the East on its way (although, at the time of writing several days later, said beast still hasn’t manifested itself). Still, it’s cold enough to make the idea of having brunch in a tropical-themed café hugely appealing.

Isla Ray opened its doors six months ago. It’s run by Rachael Dalton-Loveland, who was inspired by the café culture she found while living in Melbourne. On returning to her south London home, Rachael made it her mission to set up a cafe that captured the easy, breezy style she found so popular in Australia.

On ducking into Isla Ray, we’re met with splashes of colour every which way we turn, from the mismatched velvet furniture to the blue walls and yellow bar. Between the bamboo furniture, palm plants and beach scenes painted on the walls, the setting transports us somewhere tropical. But then there’s the blue and white patterned tiles which harken to somewhere in the Mediterranean and the Chinese fans splayed on the walls pointing to the east. Ultimately, it’s hard to tell which corner of the world Isla Ray is trying to transport us to, but there’s a holiday vibe all the same – ruined slightly by the dinginess due to a lack of natural lighting and a slight chill creeping in from beneath the door.

To the menu: fruit juice seems like an appropriate thing to order here (we’re at a tropical beach bar after all) and so I opt for a freshly squeezed orange juice. It’s not squeezed on site, I’m told apologetically, but it could have fooled me: fresh, extremely pulpy and chilled with two large cubes of ice – it hits the spot.

Coffee (a black Americano for me, a flat white for my companion) comes in mismatched, colourful crockery and is a little bitter but not too strong. Jars of cutlery and Barbie pink paper napkins arrive, followed by our food. From the predominantly vegetarian menu laced with seeds, herbs and all things good for the gut, I ordered the garlic mushrooms, which came tossed in thyme and chives, between two slabs of sourdough. To this, I added a fried egg for good measure. It was garlicky (duh) and a little oily but at the same time both light and filling – making it a breakfast dish of champions.

My companion ordered the Isla special: a hashbrown, fried egg, roasted vine cherry tomatoes and avocado. The dish came prettily displayed with the fried egg centred on the hashbrown, the tomatoes circling it and the avocado placed carefully to one side. A drizzling of sriracha mayo zigzagging across the plate plus a delicate sprinkling of micro coriander on top made it look like a piece of contemporary art.

Perhaps the best thing about Isla Ray is the sense of community it projects. You won’t just find breakfast and brunch served in the day, drinks and records (yes, there’s decks) in the evening.
There are regular yoga classes and knitting workshops, too. Between the warm glow of its table lamps and fairy lights, and comfy furniture, there’s a cosy living room feel to Isla Ray that might sit at odds with its tropical decor, but makes it a welcome (and welcoming) addition to Deptford High Street.

Isla Ray

37 Deptford High Street