Doing Good, Getting Involved, and Getting Coffee

Two new cafés are joining the burgeoning Camberwell scene, and both offer a social benefit as well as liquid refreshment.

The first is Brewbird, in the former Sun Pizza premises on Havil St. It’s a lovely venue, bright and airy and plenty of seating. I dropped in this week, and can confirm that the coffee is good. Brewbird is the social enterprise arm of the amazing St Giles Trust, and helps ex-offenders and at-risk young people with skills and a vocation, so is worth your support even if you’re not a coffee-lover.

This Saturday (16th January) we’ll be joined by Lumberjack, opening in the former House premises (70 Church St.). Lumberjack are the trading arm of the London Reclaimed employment charity, and train young people in crafting furniture from reclaimed wood and materials. They also sell cakes, and coffee from the Old Spike roastery in Peckham—itself a social enterprise helping local homeless people.

All in all, coffee’s never done so much good for everyone. We should feel proud to have them.

Further changes coming soon: there’s some work underway in the former Safa (22 Church St.), no idea what’s going in there (update: two commenters say that Oregano Leaf pizza are moving there); across the road, the former library is now two vacant units which I’m sure will be snapped up; and The Bear (on New Road) is under new management, which if I’m not mistaken is the team from The Fox in Haggerston. Look forward to seeing that lovely freehouse back on its feet.

If you’d like to be more involved in broader changes to the area, Southwark have a page on their site dedicated to public consultations (here are the currently open consultations for SE5). One that they’re keen to get opinion on at the moment is updates to the play area in Brunswick Park. If you have children and live in the area, they’d like you and your family to fill out a very brief survey to help them plan the changes.

Public transport changes

The latest TfL Commissioner’s Report [PDF] has been published, and it contains mixed news for our manor. The bad (depending on your point of view, I suppose) news is that the proposed Bakerloo Line extension through Camberwell is off the table:

We undertook an initial consultation in autumn 2014 on route options for a Bakerloo line extension to the south of Elephant and Castle. Since then we have undertaken further work on a number of alternative routes proposed during the initial consultation. The results of that work demonstrate that the preferred route option for a first phase is from Elephant and Castle to Lewisham via Old Kent Road.

However, there is the promise of compensation for not getting the tube:

Any extension would also be supported by significant improvements to the national rail network in southeast London, including the possibility of a new Thameslink station at Camberwell.

Presumably this would be on the site of the old station, on Station Road — this area has previously been flagged for major development. It’s been mentioned that this would ‘reopen’ the station, but I think it would be a complete rebuild / new build — I can’t see how there’s enough left of the old station (closed to passengers in 1916, to freight in 1964) to be viable.

In other transport news, TfL is consulting on changes to the 436 bus route. It’s proposed that the bus will no longer go on to Paddington after Vauxhall, but will instead go to Battersea (to serve the new developments there). The bus would also reduce in frequency between Lewisham and Vauxhall. To compensate for the reduced service of the 436, the 36 would increase in frequency.

The consultation on this change closes on the 10th of January.

Thanks to London SE1 for the heads-up on the tube story.

Theo’s Pizzeria

Theo’s Pizzeria opened just over a week ago, but I hadn’t the opportunity to visit until yesterday (Sunday) evening. I dropped in at about 6.30pm and it was pretty busy already, and got progressively busier as I was there. This is great for them, but had a few drawbacks.

The space itself is quite lovely; clean, bright, modern. The layout remains similar to the former Johansson’s, with three main spaces: a dining room, a bar/counter, and a small connecting room. The major changes are the new toilets (three very spacious unisex stalls) and the bar/counter, with the big new pizza oven and a small bar selling a couple of local craft beers. The garden has been spruced up, although it has no outside seating yet.

I had a few niggles about the service. First, we were shown to a seat and told to order at the bar, but when we went to the bar to order we were told it was table service—so we went back to the table to order. We ordered a starter of oven-cooked onion and mortadella, but were brought onion and burrata (it was replaced quickly). At the end we asked for the bill to be brought over, but had to go to the bar to pay as no-one remembered (the guy serving at the counter seemed quite overwhelmed). This is all mitigated by the awareness that the place hasn’t been open long, and they’re all things that can easily be ironed out.

The big question, of course, is: how good is the food? We ordered a Margherita with sausage, and the Camberwell Scotch Bonnet Nduja. Both were very, very good. The dough is excellent, and cooked very well, puffed up and slightly blackened by the wood-fired oven. The toppings were plentiful and tasty; lots of tomato, lots of mozzarella.

This is, without doubt, the best pizza in Camberwell—and you can extend that out to Peckham, Walworth, and the surrounding areas. It’s major competition would probably be Franco Manca in Brixton, and for me it’s not quite as good (and a little more expensive). The two are very, very close, however, and I really look forward to seeing how Theo’s improves in the future—I know from a quick chat with owner Theo Lewis that in the near future there will be a daytime menu featuring panuozzo, a type of pizza sandwich.

Theo’s is a very welcome addition to the area, and I’ll certainly return—I can already see myself buying a takeaway from there and eating it across the road in Stormbird…

Update: Went back again last night (8th November). All the service issues had been ironed out, and the food was great — roasted onion and burrata starter, anchovy pizza main.

Many Changes to Camberwell Green

Some changes are coming to Camberwell Green from this month. The long-awaited new library is set to open on the 4th November, somewhat delayed after unspecified ‘contractual issues’. The former library will close on 31st October, so there’ll be a few days without a library.

New Camberwell Library

But before that, work begins on the transformation of the Green. From 5th October until sometime next year the Green will be closed while the changes – part of a wider £11m regeneration of the area – are undertaken. The full plan [PDF] is available online, and you can compare old with new in the image below.

A satellite picture of Camberwell Green alongside a plan showing changes

The big change will be moving the playground from the East to the North side, enlarging it in the process. There will be feature walls around four major entrances, and a long wildflower meadow will be planted along the West edge (near Camberwell Road). The South will remain largely unchanged.

Just outside the Green, there will be a new pedestrianised area on the North East corner by the new library, and the South East corner will also be pedestrianised and made into a permanent ‘market square’ — hopefully this will allow them to also serve cooked or ready foods. While the Green is closed, the market will move to Datchelor Place, outside the Pigeon Feed.

Across Camberwell Road to the West, the new ‘Camberwell on the Green’ development has gone on sale. There are 96 new flats, with prices starting from an eye-watering £446,000 for a one-bedroom. On the ground floor of the development, on the East and South sides, there will be a number of new shopping units.

All in all, there’s going to be a new look to the Green over the next year.

As a minor postscript, Southwark have announced that all shop units in the new development, and existing units from the Green to the junction with Coldharbour Lane in the South, and to the Hermits in the East, have had change of use rights from A1 to A2 withdrawn. In a nutshell, that means they will not be allowed to change use to become “financial services such as banks and building societies, professional services (other than health and medical services) and including estate and employment agencies” — although they could still become pretty much anything else.