Pub reviews are back!

Last night we tried out the latest entrant on Camberwell’s pub scene, the Dark Horse (16 Grove Lane, SE5 8SY) — formerly Blake House, formerly formerly The Kerfield.

It’s nicely decorated and has plenty of comfortable leather pouffes, but they’ve taken the decision not to open the upstairs as a restaurant, instead dividing downstairs into half-bar, half-restaurant, meaning table space is limited. Upstairs will be a private hire room apparently.

They serve the deliciously cloudy, still cider Addlestones,  a welcome addition to the range available in the area. We didn’t eat so I can’t comment on that. The clientèle was young and affluent, and there seemed to be a few King’s staff in there.

Best feature for me, however, was the young lady I believe to be the manager. She’s friendly, helpful and — best of all — attentive to the clients. No looking at the ground while serving then looking up at a throng and asking “Who’s next?”; she looks at everyone who comes in, gives them a greeting and let’s them know that she’s aware and will serve them soon. Fantastic! A lost art around these parts (and in general). Shame the barman wasn’t aware that a good lager needs a good head on it.

It’s a little too impersonal to feel like a good local, but it’s a nice extra option to have when going out. It was fairly busy, too; unlike The Grove/BRB, which was almost empty when we passed and looked to be dying on its arse.

I was going to the Gowlett in Peckham today, but rain stopped play. Instead I am treating myself to a nice sausage sandwich and staying in where it’s warm and dry.

Author: Peter

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

67 thoughts on “Pub reviews are back!”

  1. Hi

    Andrew/Drew here to apologise for my poor spelling and grammar in my last post — end of a long week don’t you know!I should saythe only really confused bit should have “the arbitrator gave a PRECEDENTIAL case”

    Mushtimushta — should we be getting together to form the best named ad agency in all Camberwell?

    And we, my dear Mark, love you. My pic on SE5 forum is me drinking a pint of your beer you know…

    best Wishes


  2. We went to the Phoenix last night, primarily for their on-tap Frulli beer. They had none — for the second time. So we won’t be going there again.

    Then we went to the Dark Horse. I agree with everything people have said about the friendly staff but lack of ambience.

    Then we went to the Joiner’s Arms after dinner. A delight — friendly staff, Blanc on tap and a great selection on the jukebox. Still feels a bit like an “old mans” pub in the back though.

    If only Camberwell would have a pub like the Slug and Lettuce at Borough. Loads of great beer — Frulli, Blanc and San Miquel on tap, for starters. And good food selection — both simple and fancy, to cover all tastes. And friendly staff. And good ambience.

    Some Camberwell pubs could seriously learn a thing or two from pubs like that.

  3. sg: I was with you all the way until your penultimate paragraph.

    I confess, I’ve never been to the S&L at Borough, but I’ve been to it’s siblings at Fulham and Islington and I found both of them to be soulless barns. At the Fulham bar, a group of rugbies were shouting the ‘wazzup!’ slogan at each other while drinking that terrible artificial piss.

    Perhaps the Borough branch shouldn’t be judged on the standards of its siblings, but it gives me no incentive to go there.

  4. Dagmar — Screwcap wine is a big no-no, I refuse to contemplate it — I got a (Spanish),Galician Albarino from Sainsbury’s a few weeks back and it had a screwcap — Usually it’s a really fantastic white medium dry with a citrus aftertaste but the Sainbury’s travesty was so poor and unrecognizable that I felt like crying — no doubt it was the reject stuff that wouldn’t make the grade in Spain but the taster was so crap he probably didn’t know the difference — maybe they should call their luxury range that instead…By the way, I’m not a wine buff by any means but I just thought that was very poor…

  5. Just thought that I should point out that the folks from seem to have revisited Camberwell and added several establishments to their list, including the Sun & Doves, the Dark Horse, the Black Sheep, the Funky Munky and the Old Dispensary. Most get a very respectable 35 pint rating!

  6. i think the dark horse its a place that offers a good menu, the food its fresh and seasonal, like all stablishments they probably have good days and bad days. i have to agree that in terms of atmosphere they could do a bit better. the real problem its that camberwell society arent ready for this sort of place, with all due respect, i read all your postings and i laugh. are we excited about a dingy tapas bar next to the kfc? do we really need a slug and lettuce? do we want to eat burgers, fishcakes and nothing else apart from it? i moved to camberwell from notting hill 4 months ago and i can tell you that i like to go to good places to enjoy my food and my drink. i look for quality, flavours and a good glass of wine or beer to wash down my food. in 4 months i’ve try every single place around and i have to say that only two places stood out. the horse and the bear on camberwll new road. the food offering in both places was excellent. no fishcakes, burgers or platters on sight, just seasonal fresh food.the two places share the same problem, lack of punters. the sun and doves its ok for drinks but food wise its terrible. the castle what it is it a club or a pub?. the grove; worst food and everything they do in there is bad also very expensive. the phoenix, great building i loved the interior its really cool but its the kind of place where you go for 2 pints and off you go. hermits cave smells horrible and they charge £3.20 for a pint of stella. i think that camberwell needs a weatherspoons pub cheap frozen food, no music, loads of cheap booze and thats it. i bet the whole of camberwell will love it. a cheap plce for a cheap clientele

  7. camberwelldemon

    Try to remember how high density Camberwell is now. I think the clientele is there a plenty for the establishments you desire, but drowned out by criminal elements and anti-social behaviour, including local resident drivers.

    Women would need to feel safe at night or confident in public transport, after 10pm, to create the kind of local eating culture you describe.

    To cut a long story short, it just isn’t important to the local authorities concerned that this happens. If they were, they would take the modest steps necessary to give local amenities a chance to survive rather than policy-skew the odds in favour of goods and services from outside the area, which would build up a culture where women do feel safe at night — and men for that matter.

  8. We’ve already got one — it’s called the Fox on the Hill. It’s just of Denmark Hill, towards the top, opposite Ruskin Park.

    Go on- fill your boots.

  9. Sorry Reg — I agree with the anti-social behaviour and criminal element bit, but to put them on par with local drivers/parking issues is a step too far.

  10. Benhill — the reason some of these so called minor crimes are so harmful is that they are completely unenforced against, pavement parking in particular. And such behaviour can condition communities for generations, destroying localist values and social fabric and effectively creating a crime soup, or at least the bouillon.

    Pavement parking is a crime under the Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1974, London-wide.

    Not to mention the indifference to violation of cyclist only zones at traffic lights, which is also a crime, and highly anti-social.

    If there was proportionate enforcement against motorist crimes I might take your point, but there is no enforcement.

  11. I never spoke out on this or other boards for years. All the while I do enjoy your perspective Reg but you seem terribly obsessed, even at times angry about parking, bike lanes, drivers. It just sounds almost like when an extremely intelligent person steps over that thin line into obsession.

    Off all the things Peter rightly suggested in his original post, I cannot bring myself to say, as I walk along Camberwell Green et al of a Saturday, that I’m disgusted and displeased by the horrible parking. Abusers, abusive people, drunks, rude people, dirty streets, poor transport, even traffic, but not parking and such.

    I don’t mean this as an attack. I honestly don’t.

  12. Benhill — thanks for that measured post, and your appreciation.

    You’re right about Camberwell Green — my focus is on outerlying areas to the North and West of the Green, which are never the subject of policy focus, whether it’s the University of Westminster street furniture study, Southwark, TfL, or Living Streets — shame on the NGOs.

    I would add, though, that the car is such a potent weapon and symbol of aggression in one of London’s most testosterone-infused Boroughs that there should be absolutely no question of it overstepping the mark into zones marked as sacrosanct to pedestrians or cyclists. I take a very strong view on motorist anti-social behaviour for the precise reason that it is completely ignored by local authorities. At least they make speeches on and create initiatives against street drinking and drug use, however ineffectual.

    So I can fully understand why it seems extreme, and obsessive to you. But a walk down Denmark Road, with the way they park on the corners of junctions and blocking shops, and its corpse-shop fronts, is instructive in how local cars can destroy local communities. And in London, in places without communities, killings happen more frequently…

    Southhampton Way is another instance, and it’s happening on Camberwell New Road too. Less than half the shop/retail space we had in 1995 in SE5. Not exactly a localist trend, although you wouldn’t notice if you focused on the Green.

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