Another closure

According to a comment, the España Tapas Bar is to close down. I’m very sad, but I can’t say I’m surprised; the times we went there, there were rarely more than one or two other tables. It didn’t help that it was stuck inside the horrible neon-encrusted fascia of the Marbella hotel, and that most of the tables were tucked around the corner so it often appeared empty from outside.

But we’re losing a restaurant with friendly staff and tasty, fresh, organic food — just what I would have thought the area needed. It does seem to be true that if you’re not a pub, you’re going to struggle. Other than Indian, is Camberwell capable of sustaining a restaurant?

Author: Peter

Long-time resident of Camberwell, author of this blog since July 2004.

47 thoughts on “Another closure”

  1. The Greek restaurant at the bottom of Camberwell Grove has been going strong for a number of years. I have to confess we are not very keen on the food, but the atmosphere is lovely. At least two other Greek restaurants have opened and closed during that time.

    Like you, we liked the Tapas Bar but found it rather expensive. Actually, we preferred it under its previous incarnation, which seemed more authentically Spanish, as well as being cheaper.

  2. Unfortunately it’s kind of our fault… (communally rather than individual finger pointing) i’ve been in once in 5 years despite being a sucker for tapas. Though personally i’ll make the trek to Meison Don Philipe on The Cut for the atmosphere…

    That being said, shouldn’t we just be grateful that (so far) we’ve managed to avoid the generic high st pubs that blight everywhere else and have a selection that serve some pretty good and interesting food?

    Why not organise an outing?!

  3. Shame, they do very good food. I think the problem is that it doesn’t look too much like a restaurant from the outside, would benefit from a more open front onto the street to attract a few more customers.

    Mozzarella e Pomodoro and Willows have been going for quite some time although I’ve only been to each once and wasn’t massively impressed by either. There’s also that liitle bistro on Coldharbour Lane on the right as you walk to S&D from Denmark Hill, never been though.

    On another note, did anyone know that there is a community orchard on the north east side of Camberwell Green?

  4. I’ve always found Mozzarella e Pomodoro to be pretty good, nice atmosphere, reasonably-priced food and good service. Having said that, I haven’t been there in about a year.

    I think the thing is, if I want some quick, tasty food, I’ll go into Thai House, Funky Munky for an eggburger, or The Dispensary for a roast on Sunday. If I want a fancy meal, I’ll go out to the West End. There lies the rub.

  5. Ahem

    I am qualified to comment on this subject.

    Business in Camberwell is incredibly tough — not to say it’s not tough elsewhere.

    I’m pretty sure Thai House is on at least its second life. Mozz&Pm has been under two owners. FkyMky I’d bet many $$ is the same. S&D too. As with Willow. And that little Bistro on Coldharbour has been three different places and shut in between. The Castle, UM in ten years has been: Stirling Castle, Pacific, Babushka, Snug 1 and Snug 2 and: the Castle. Then there’s the Kerfield / Blake House / Dark Horse; The Grove / brb. And the Dispensary, it’s certainly not easy there. There’s more that just went out of business altogether and many of the Indians and so on have changed hands or reincarnated several times. Watch those spaces.

    Camberwell needs a lot more. Of everything. Anyone who thinks it’s, well really I mean just think about it, — good is kidding themselves.

    Lets get together.

  6. I’ve never been to that Tapas bar. I often think, ‘I should go there sometime soon’, but never actually get round to it. I usually end up going to the Thai House instead (which is worth a visit IMO). Sorry to hear that it’s closing. I must check it out before it does.

  7. Other Rich — are you Major?

    I must say I kind of agree with Lord Henry on this one. If I want fancy eats I leave Camberwell for more advanced culinary climbs. Although I have been to Mozarella e Pomodoro and the tapas place on various drunken occaisions and found both to be …ok. S&D one of the best eats in town, but it’s a pub rather than a restaurant. Though there’s nothing wrong with that. I reckon it will become easier to sustain decent restaurants in Camberwell as the population becomes more affluent. Which unfortunately means developments such as the St George one. And will undoubtedly attract horrible national chains. The quandary!

    We are however, blessed with one of the best Chinese takeaways I’ve ever experienced in the form of Silver Lake.

    What sort of get together are you suggesting Mark?

  8. Just come back from a week in Italy to discover that The Espana Tapas bar has closed — what a shame — i had a great birthday meal there back in January. I have to say i think that it laboured under an undeserved bad reputation (earn’t form the last owners perhaps?)which probably didn’t help.

  9. For Mark (in particular):

    A lot of the businesses you mention (pubs esp) seem to do well in that they are regularly very busy. It doesnt seem a lack of custom in these cases and I noticed on an earlier post that Espana Tapas blame the council for difficulties. (

    How far can pressure on local councils make any difference?

    I believe the Bellenden Road area was setup under special disposition for businesses. Is this something that can be achieved for Camberwell?

    Our problem now is not only attracting new, desirable, businesses to the area but keeping hold of our current ones.

    The issue of transport/access we cant resolve quickly, but there must be ways to access funding for businesses in our local community?

  10. Just off-topic:

    Anyone got any idea what is going on down Daneville Road (behind Somerfield)?

    Seems like a helluvalot of a work for a road that is not normally accessible to traffic. A council white elephant? Or are the opening this up to traffic?

  11. Noooooooo.… several weeks work… complete digging up and re-surfacing of a road to install a cable?
    Sounds like it could be feasible. 🙂

  12. Joe Damage mentioned the community orchard — I can tell you a bit more about it: planted 20 years ago by local volunteers as ‘Green Ventures’, a voluntary org which later went bust; neglected and littered since then, but still a source of great redcurrants, blackberries, blackcurrants, rosemary and other free food. It has just been allotted £5000 from the Community Council for replanting and reviving, but I think it needs some active supporters and gardeners (and eaters!) too. Contact — she’s commissioned a tree survey and is gathering interested people.

  13. Talking of restaurants, I went to Hoa Viet (Vietnamese restaurant) on Church St last night. Never been in before because it looks a bit dingy from the outside, but inside was clean, the food was great, service very good and ’twas easy on the wallet too.

    Please go there so that it doesn’t shut down.

    And no, I don’t own/ run/ have a stake in the business!

  14. There was talk a wile back that they were going to have a street market in Daneville rd. Maybe it’s preparation for this ?

  15. We’re very fond of Hoa Viet. Previously there was a Chinese restaurant at that address which was closed down by Trading Standards because of the state of the kitchens, so we were a bit reluctant to try it when it opened as a Vietnamese restaurant. But it’s cheap, tasty, and exceptionally friendly. I can’t answer for the kitchen!

  16. In a dreadful rush as usual so can’t go into detail but: for the sort of GET TOGETHER I’m suggesting see below and:

    DANEVILLE ROAD is being ‘Greened and Cleaned’ as a result of a grant from Camberwell Community Council granted to Camberwell Society for Greening Daneville Road. I don’t know the detail, like the ladscaping decisions made, of it myself but this is typical of the area — no-one I’ve met knows any of the detail; Camberwell Traders meeting a couple of weeks ago assumed it meant the road was being opened up again. Ruth Davies (see above) may know a lot more about what’s happening there. She’s very good but she doesn’t live here.

    Rumour rumour rumour. It’s to combat things like this that I raised a grant from UnLtd to set up SE5Forum for Camberwell:

    To ALL: register at SE5 Forum — website not entirely user friendly yet but it does take registration now. SE5 Forum will grow to be an information accessory — a public version, more comprehensive, of what Peter Gasstom set up here without realising what he’d created.

    FIRST PUBLIC MEETING of the forum is on Thursday 11 May in the Board Room at Kings College Hospital (that’s on the ground floor straight ahead through the main hospital entrance, reception will tell you where to go). The Steering group will be there and we’ll be giving a brief presentation on what we think the Forum can achieve with a bigger, more representative membership and an effective committee. More than 80 people have registered through the website already.

    It’s about people who live here setting goals for what we want Camberwell to be — we’re best qualified since we live eat and breathe here — and guiding our local authorities to make the right decisions and forcing them to spend public money effectively. £many,000’s have been spent in Camberwell over decades to almost no practical long term effect. Just look around.

    The Forum is being supported financially by Southwark, Neighbourhood Renewal and other Community development funds.

    WE can raise money for office accommodation, IT equipment and an admisitrator. Like a town centre manager for instance — to carry out the wishes and instructions of the Forum committee:

    The membership sets out priorities for the committee to tackle; the committee instructs the adminsitrator and hey presto WE get what We want instead of it all just slowly grinding along around us with non of us knowing what’s happening.

    If Espana Tapas or whatever were having problems they could come to the Forum for help in dealing with the council and so on.

    Tasty House 7274 9538, ask for Virginia, on Denmark Hill is very good Chinese take away as well.

    New Dewaniam 7703 1941 on Camberwell New Road, It’s Jay there, is generally very good Indian except maybe on Mondays. They both deliver.

  17. I would have to disagree regarding the dewanian, I have never had a good experience from them, wrong orders being delivered, delivery taking over 90 minutes, delivery turning up and all spilled into a curry hotchpotch in the bottom of a bag, promises of discounts by Jay never received for said disasters. Personally I would never go near them again.

    I do however enjoy Oriental Culture on Denmark hill for a chinese, always prompt, always as ordered, and often with freebie starters thrown in.

  18. Many years ago my father tiled the Kitchen & Restaurant at the Espana Tapas Bar and the owner refused to pay him — insisted he wasn’t happy with the work when it was clear to anyone with a braincell that he had done an excellent job — Maybe the ownership has changed since then but regardless I’m sure my father will be most amused when I tell him this news…

  19. I agree with the comment about the New Dewaniam not being very good. They’re friendly in there, but the food was average, there were no napkins, and the tablecloths hadn’t been washed. Go to Safa if you want a good Indian meal.

  20. I have recently had a couple of bad experiences with food in Camberwell which has put me off eating in the area. Unfortunately it was the Silver Lake and the Castle that were the offenders. I had to wait two hours for a delivery from the Silver Lake which was stone cold upon arrival. Then at the Castle, their Argentinian steak was so disappointing. It’s a real shame because I have not eaten food from either establishment since.
    The best food south of the river is in Wandsworth Common at a restaurant called Chez Bruce. I know it’s a fair trek from Camberwell but worth it particularly for special occasions.

  21. I agree with the comments about The Castle, I found it quite disappointing. The menu’s limited and the food quite average. Mind you, our experience was tempered by a chain smoking group next to us wafting their fumes in our direction. That’s the price of eating in a pub, I suppose.

    I’m surprised that no-one’s mentioned Lamoon on Denmark Hill yet. The food and service in the restaurant are great and it’s pretty cheap. The take-away’s not so good, mind.

  22. I totally agree with Matt that Lamoon does excellent Chinese, with excellent service at very reasonable prices. Never had any issues with the take away service either.

  23. I have to stick up for the New Dewanian, I live really nearby and go there all the time. The food has always been good although sometimes the wait in the restaurant can be a bit long. I went only last night and they’ve got a new snazzy menu and plans for an Indian Elvis night. We even met The King as he was in sorting out his posters.

  24. The SE5 Forum meeting is at 8pm
    Thursday 11 May 2006 in

    The Boardroom Kings College Hospital.

    Use Main Entrance from Bessemer Road
    the boardroom is on the right halfway
    down the main corridoor

  25. Not in Camberwell, but I can pass on a very good word for Dragons Castle, a rather impressive new place right at the top of the Walworth Road.

  26. One day I want to pilgrimage to Zara’s in Croydon. Zara’s was by far the best restaurant between Camberwell and Kenya. I hope they’re still going in their Croydon outpost. Has anyone been? Wouldn’t it be great if several dozen of us turned up on the train from Denmark Hill with our byo bottles of Somerfield screwcap Aussie red…

  27. I put on my top hat and tails last night and ventured out into Camberwell with the woman I like to call my first wife. We had a few drinks in the Hermits Cave (that’s right, no apostrophe) which seems to be less smoky than it used to be, and has more of a student/bohemian atmosphere than I remember. Also the widest selection of beers of virtually any pub in London.

    Then on to pay a return visit to Buddha Jazz. Uniformly excellent, with great food and service. I think they may have expanded the menu, although I was drunk the last time I was in there. And only £21 a head, including drinks. As far as Camberwell restaurants go, it’s in at number one with a bullet, in my opinion.

  28. Ate at Buddha Jazz on sunday, food was good for the price, and HUGE portions on the main course. Unfortunately the staff outnumbered the 2 of us, so felt a little ‘watched’ while eating. I’d hope that word of mouth will make the place more popular as the catalogue of culinary disasters I’ve experienced in camberwell recently had started to make me lose hope.

    I’m no wonder cook, but my yardstick is usually that if I can cook better food than i’m paying for to eat out, it’s just NOT GOOD ENOUGH! stand up The Castle, Mozzerella, willows and depending on the chef that’s on (it seems) the sun and doves too, and that’s right on my doorstep, get a GRIP head chefs and proprietors!

  29. Have to agree with comments on Buddha Jazz. Superb little restaurant/bar, but needs a little more atmosphere. Staff are great too. I will definately be eating there to support it, rather than keeping other terrible restaurants in business.

  30. NOTED thanks. Will pass on comments to Dan, head chef, and James and Leon, managers.

    The following is from Barbara, who I setup SE5 forum with. More of the invisible, Cinderealla, Camberwell syndrome… PLEASE be free to send comments to mark@​sunanddoves.​co.​uk or info@​se5forum.​org

    Dear Mark

    Do you remember my mentioning a booklet that I picked up at the Capital Woman Conference — ‘London by the Book’ — which was published by Rough Guides to complement the London Book Fair and support Get London Reading and which did not include Camberwell? It is set out in areas with South London including Brixton, Deptford, Greenwich, Waterloo and Lambeth, Dulwich, Clapham, Putney and Wandsworth, Peckham, Wimbeldon and last, but not least, Croydon and the Suburbs (!)

    I reported this at the Camberwell Society Exec meeting the other night and it was agreed that we should write to the Mayor voicing our dismay and copying in Rough Guides.

    When Jean (chair) e‑mailed to say she was ready to write the letter this was part of my reply:

    “My thoughts on this were that we should throw this open to the membership in the sense that we could explain the reason for writing (ie setting the case straight re writers in Camberwell) and ask for additions to the list. My list includes: Ruskin (lived here and wrote essays on aesthetics), Robert Browning (lived here), Michael Caine (wrote about his childhood and schooling), Jenny Eclaire (two novels set in Camberwell), Stella Duffy (lives here when she is not in Hollywood!), Jeremy Bowen (latest book deals with the Middle East situation), Steven Bourne (books about the Black presence in Southwark).”

    The reason I am writing to you is that I have not yet mastered the Blog site (this one) and I think it would be an ideal arena to get more suggestions.

  31. Charlie Richardson’s torture emporium was in Camberwell. He counts as a writer if you take into account his “autobiography”, MY MANOR. Although, having said that, I met Charlie once and he said the book was ghostwritten and he hadn’t even bothered to read it. Charlie reckoned he never tortured anyone, that he was just a “maligned entrepreneur”.

    I saw Lorraine Chase in Blake House once. I think she lives in Grove Lane. Also, I’ve heard that the actor Chewietel Ejiofor’s favourite pub is Funky Munky.

    I think I’m clutching at straws here.

  32. I was in the Tapas bar on Camberwell Church Street a couple of weeks ago, on the last night before it closed. The amiable waiter who served us our (excellent, as usual) food said that the place was closing down for a few months to be renovated, and that they were going to remove the tacky neon sign, but (sensibly) retain the menu once they reopened. Best of luck to them.

    Also can I stick up for the Sliver Lake? Two hours is excessive, but it’s never taken that long for me. I normally wait for about 45 minutes, but the food really is superb, way beyond the usual London Chinese takeaway standard, and unless I’m ravenouslly hungry I’m prepared to wait.

  33. Went to Buddha Jazz again last night. Food and service excellent as always, but the place was EMPTY! Hope things pick up. It’ll be depressing if it closes.

  34. Well.. i’m passing on by word of mouth that Buddha Jazz is great.. worse thing that can happen is that it closes and another chicken and chips place opens.. dont understand why that place is empty.. food and service is great.

  35. I’ve never seen her round there, and I’m in the Grove pub quite a lot. Then again, maybe she’s not an alcoholic.

    The Welsh actress from THE OFFICE was doing the pub quiz in there last night.

    The name of Long John Silver’s parrot is Cap’n Flint, in case you were wondering.

  36. She definitely used to live on Grove Lane, as there was an article in the SLP when she was prosecuted for putting non approved windows in her Grade II listed property, but that is going back a few years.

    She’s also something to do with Dulwich college.

  37. Some interesting articles in the Camberwell Quarterly this, er, quarter…

    I picked up a copy from the S&D and have seen it in newsagents too.

    - Tram link. Proposal to cut through Burgess Park under appeal as are routes when it reaches Peckham.
    — St George. Allegedly paid £5.1million for the Mary Datchelor site. There is another discussion/appeal about this, I‘ll try and dig out the date as it is a public meeting so worth attending if it affects you. Believe they are talking about 130 units on that site.

  38. I’m another fan of Buddha jazz, went there on Saturday night and it was packed. Thought it was excellent service and food at reasonable price, still a shame about the name.

    Thought I should give Mozzarella e Pomodoro another try last week but was not at all impressed. Despite being an Italian restaurant the pizzas are not nearly as good as the Grove, was also overcharged by £3 on the bill. Apparently sometimes the calculator adds it up wrong!

  39. Well i’m doing my my bit by going to Buddha Jazz with a group of camberwell based friends this saturday — hope it lives up to the good reviews!

  40. I think Buddha Jazz is great. They’re still new so give them a chance.The staff tell me they are improving their menu and wine list going to keep my eyes open for that. Im definately going to support them. Food is yummy and service is lovely. coming of track a little but their toilets are gorgeous… Pass the word folks its a great litle establishment and deserves to do well. We should support the good things in our community and help the little shops. I agree with JamieP would be a shame if it closes, but i think the atmosphere is great.

  41. This thread has been interesting reading. Another restaurant has opened on Coldharbour Lane that is suffering from lack of trade. The Su~Thai takes its food and service seriously and although it is well received and has regular customers, it struggles to find a momentum. The owner is scratching their head, so will point them here.

  42. Su Thai is very good — on the five or six occasions when I’ve been over the last year or so I’ve always had a great meal and its very reasonable. I have too however been concerned about it long term viability — sadly there never seems to be more than two or three tables occupied whenever Ive been in.

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