Down and out in Le Petit Parisien, London

I dropped into Le Petit Parisien, Camberwell’s latest bar/bistro, last weekend, for a steak baguette and a pint of cider. Please bear in mind that the following notes are now almost two weeks out of date, so things may have changed since then, but I found the whole place to be a little half‐hearted. The exterior has been tastefully redone, but the interior is largely unchanged from the Dark Horse days, with only a lick of paint as the major differentiator.

The paintwork seemed to be a little hurried, the menus still had price stickers on the back, there were light fittings missing; it gave the impression of having opened in a hurry. However, my major problem with it is that it doesn’t feel French, largely due to the fact that there are no French (or even Belgian) beers at the bar. When I think of France I think of glasses of foaming Kronenbourg or Kasteel; sadly missing from the bog‐standard selection at LPP. I’ve heard mixed reviews of the food as well, although my steak baguette was very tasty.

I don’t want to sound like I’m slagging the place off, as I really hope that it does well; Camberwell could do with a(nother?) decent brasserie/restaurant. I just think they need to do a bit of work on the atmosphere of the place; something that I hope will come with time. Anyone been more recently want to correct my initial impressions?

Enjoyed the best of Camberwell this weekend, too; went to Edwardes to trade in the wife’s bike for a newer model, where we were pleasantly surprised with the deal that was offered; then to Cube for a haircut (has been sold, so will be staying open); then Johanssons for a fruit smoothie; with the only disappointment coming from Cruson, where all the English asparagus was sold out. Season’s almost over.

Picked up a copy of the Quarterly from the newsagent; highlights include news that the old green buildings at the foot of Grove Lane have been sold and will be developed “in a traditional architectural style… [which] will outshine” the Mary Datchelor development; and that the old Camber Well has been rediscovered, in the garden of 56 Grove Park.

I’m off for a dirty weekend with the wife; will hopefully have a new face chipping in to the blog when I get back. TTFN.

Author: Peter

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

60 thoughts on “Down and out in Le Petit Parisien, London”

  1. Agree mostly with the comments on the décor of the place. However, it is light and airy and a change from the darkness of the dark horse.

    We ordered the mixed grill…not very French in my opinion but it seemed like a good idea at the time. The Toulouse sausage was lovely but the rest of the meat was swimming in dirty, greasy fat or oil from the grill and was slightly cold. Obviously the grill had not been hot enough when they put the meat on.

    When I pointed this out (much to my girlfriend’s shame), I was told that they clean the grill every day… The attitude was that it was my fault for not liking how they cooked it.

    Not an attitude I appreciate. I worked in the industry for more more than 15 years, as well as studying it at uni. One thing that restaurants and bars need if they are to survive is good customer service. You need to listen to what the customer says (and doesn’t say).

    You can mess up as much as you like, but boy, you had better make up for it after. Otherwise, don’t be surprised when people start to tell friends how bad it was…or put posts on internet forums…

  2. Doesn’t sound too promising — will pop in this weekend for a shufty.
    BTW — finally got round to trying Johanssen’s (still haven’t forgiven them for kicking out the best Thai in the area). Appalled. As it was a weekday they only had limited breakfast — cost a fortune, and wasn’t particularly good (or filling).
    Won’t be returning any time soon.
    BTW — has the Thai place that used to be there re‐opened in Peckham yet? Does anyone have any details?

  3. We popped along last night and to be honest we were fairly underwhelmed. The prices did not seem to match the quality of the food and we weren’t impressed that the bar staff didn’t seem to know what a crepe was, despite it being featured on their menu! I do wish them all the best, though; I hope these are just teething problems as I would LOVE there to be a French bistro type place in Camberwell to complement the other food places we have. But I fear it will be a while before I try it again.

    Maybe it is all part of the overall equilibrium of Camberwell: for us to have a Co‐op and a Morrisons in exchange for the Somerfields, something good (in the form of the Dark Horse) had to go…

  4. I am so pleased to hear that the bottom of Grove Lane is to be redeveloped.

    This has been an eye sore for far too long.

    Having a fag outside the Hermits will perhaps become more of a pleasure.

  5. @Chunters — you’re right, developing those Grove Lane buildings will improve the view and it didn’t need to be an eyesore for so long.

    At the same time, those used to be retail/commercial buildings. Evidence of their decline is writ in the CPZ rules which allow none but residents to park on‐street there, crowding out customers and suppliers and making the buildings commercially unviable — an eyesore.

    People who find the ongoing disappearance of Camberwell’s amenity infrastructure acceptable need to stop complaining about the quality of local offerings. As things stand, the Morrisons car park is not enough to sustain one decent supermarket, let alone a town centre.

  6. Regeneguru wrote…

    “People who find the ongoing disappearance of Camberwell’s amenity infrastructure acceptable need to stop complaining about the quality of local offerings. As things stand, the Morrisons car park is not enough to sustain one decent supermarket, let alone a town centre.”

    Could not agree more.

    There is a large car park in Camberwell that know one has discovered yet, or are aware of it and are ignoring it.

    It’s at the front of Camberwell Magistrates Court.

  7. I would like to congratulate our MP, Harriet Harman for not appearing in the Daily Telegragh over the last week or so.

    Yet.

  8. The Bickleigh is being turned into flats, a workchap tells me. Le Petit Pain could do with playing some Piaf, too, or Django Reinhardt, or Ravel, rather than the usual pub music, for those of us who can but afford to pass by, look in and long.

    Talking of longing, getting long and getting along, bong voyage, Pierre, amoureux de bierre!

  9. Harriet won’t be in it. Most of the London folk aren’t — whatever their party. Mind you, Labour have been far and away the worst for it, though perhaps because the Tories have more cash to start with. And who would begrudge a few grand to a man who actually has his own moat. Fantastic.

    Interesting news on the Bickleigh, though it was never going to be anything else. More flats. Great.

    I looked into the French place then changed my mind. Looked v empty and didn’t have the pub allure that Dark Horse did. I’ll try it one day.

    I’m so excited about Morrisons. That’s sad, isn’t it.

  10. Philg wrote…

    “I’m so excited about Morrisons. That’s sad, isn’t it.”

    You’ve gotta get out more kid.

  11. Too right Chunters!

    Brainwave for the Bickleigh flats. Turn them into the vanguard of a series of publicly owned flats to house MPs whose 2nd home is in London.

    Be good to have a jar with Lembit Opik in The Cadeleigh. Hear about the Cheeky Girls.

  12. Le PP is a gimmick and thus a big disappointment. To be honest, I can’t even bring myself to wish them luck — they don’t deserve it in my view. And I hope they don’t join the throng of Camberwell traders who moan about being hard done by when the fact is their offering is just plain crêpe.

    I’m off to Paris in a couple of weeks and will see if I’m mistaken. France has changed so much over the last few years it might turn out that Le PP’s pitch is spot on! Brasseries with no French speakers, no French beer, no idea how to prepare and serve good food…

    Glad to hear that Grove Lane’s bottom is going to be done up. Time for me to start ranting about Windsor Walk and the bus garages again, methinks. Stuff’s happening!

  13. Le Petit Parisien is shocking, the paint job inside and out is awful, the signage badly hand painted on a bit of old wood, nothing remotely french or pleasant about the décor, food, beers, atmosphere or staff, waited 1 hour for an omelette that was cold and uninteresting but had to be eaten as I was starving ..asked for pepper etc didn’t get any until after we finished, service was bordering on rude as the front of house guy ran around with big bunch of keys jangling from his pocket as if he was a jailer. Béarnaise sauce that came with my other half’s steak had split and looked revolting he didn’t risk eating it. Asked for a sparkling water but they didn’t have any so requested and orange juice and bitter lemon (after explaining what a St Clements was) and was served an orange juice with a “bit of” lemon in it..genius!! ..this place is a disgrace and will not being seeing us again! On a more positive note another fantastic meal and evening in The Cambria on Sunday.

  14. Also excited about Morrison’s — is it also true that we’ll have a Co‐op as well?? It’s all too much — and there I was swearing to only shop in farmers markets!

  15. All remaining Somerfields are being converted into Co‐Ops over the 1–2 years I believe so at some point we will get a conversion to a Co‐Op.

    As for le Petit Parisien I am hopeful that these are just teething issues which they will overcome and get fully in their stride for the summer

  16. Le Petit P hasn’t a chance unless they get their act together right away. You have to hit the ground running. I mentioned the difficulty of being tied and not being able to stock French beers. Two 175ml sauvignon blanc, one pint of beer and a half of lager was £13.20.

    Did anyone get to see any of the huge exposure of the Business Enterprise Comittee’s report into pubcos which came out yesterday. Evidence in there to support my previous claims, which Alan Dale was highly sceptical of, that publicans don’t earn much.

    Bloomberg offered this. It was also in the global edition of the New York Times:

    U.K. Pub Tenants Held ‘Hostage’ as Beer Prices, Rents Increase
    2009‐05‐12 10:43:07.408 GMT

    By Andrew Cleary and Kitty Donaldson
    May 12 (Bloomberg) — Nicky Francey earns the equivalent of
    a sixth of the U.K. minimum wage running the Sun & Doves pub in
    the Camberwell district of south London. Rising rent and beer
    prices mean she may soon face bankruptcy.
    Like 28,000 bar managers across Britain, Francey is a rent‐
    paying tenant of a large pub company, which she is obliged to
    buy her beer and cider from. The 221.76 pounds ($333.80) she
    pays landlord Scottish & Newcastle Pub Enterprises for a 22
    gallon keg of Foster’s beer is about 50 percent more than the
    148 pounds paid by central London publican Karl Harrison, whose
    tenancy of the Distillers bar isn’t tied to a pub company.
    Scrutiny of the industry will intensify tomorrow when a
    parliamentary cross‐party committee publishes a report that KBC
    Peel Hunt analyst Paul Hickman says may go as far as recommending
    the abolition of the so‐called tied pub practice.
    “We’re stuck hostage in this situation,” said Francey,
    sitting at a table in the bar she helped pay to refurbish with
    personal loans. “This pub turns over 725,000 pounds a year, but
    we’re barely breaking even, mainly because the beer costs so
    much. If we stop and walk away tomorrow we’ve still got lease
    financing, bank loans — we’re just clinging on.”
    KBC’s Hickman says abolishing tied pubs would leave pub
    companies such as Enterprise Inns Plc and Punch Taverns Plc
    unable to make up the loss of income.
    “There could be some dramatic calls made by the
    committee,” Hickman said. “If the tie were abolished or
    limited, those companies couldn’t really compensate for that.”

  17. Whoa! Is that a new restaurant I see taking shape near where Bar Miura was (perhaps the same unit, bus was moving too quick)? Mangal? As in the one near New Cross which is supposedly very good?

    We’ll be spoiled for Turkish / mid Eastern fare in SE5…

  18. Le PP is crap, it needs to improve fast or it will shut very fast … Edwardes on the other hand is amazing, the deal Mrs DDC and I got was incredible

  19. Dirty weekend with the wife indeed. Can’t believe you’ve turned your blog into soft grot..

  20. We’re going to get another real ale in at The Sun and Doves — we have stocked two for a long time now which tend to be Adnams’ Broadside and Old Speckled Hen, both strong beers, both of which a lot of people like but another lot of people say are too strong for their taste… So the new beer is going to be Adnams Best. IS this a good choice? We could get Harveys in or maybe Wandle.

    ON the cider front we’ve been doign Strongbow for three years. No one complains about this but then why would they expect us to take any notice of them if they did? So we’ve goign to get a better cider in — and are looking at Aspalls http://www.aspall.co.uk/ and Hogans http://www.hoganscider.co.uk/

    Not being a real ale or cider drinker (only Mersault or Pinot Noir for me) I’d appreciate advice from anyone who has a bent for these tipples…

  21. Glad to here it Mark. I was hammered three Saturdays ago because your beer is too strong for pre Buckle warm up drinks. Happy with Adnams Best.

    Last Sunday, however, we had to leave the Doves because all the real ale was off. Ended up in the Fox on the Hill and now I can’t stay away from the £1.29 Ruddles. Tough competition.

  22. Adnams do good beer

    I like a nice pint of Smithwicks myself…

    Trouble is it’s near impossible to find in London

    Estrella Galicia is a great Spanish Lager but for some reason nobody imports it over here

    St Peters Organic Ale is my current favorite but a pub in Hampstead charged me £6 a bottle last month!

    £6! — It’s only £1.79 in Sainsbury’s — I thought at the most it would be £3.50–4 but they fleeced me good and proper!

  23. I do like Adnams but…if you are going to be limited with only a few how about something different.

    Either Harvey’s Best Sussex Bitter, which is delicious or Timothy Taylors Landlord is also very tasty.

    Either that or an IPA. I’m not that keen on the Green king one, but Deuchers IPA from the Caledonian Brewery is good if you can get it…from Edinburgh…

  24. The new show at the South London Gallery is great. Young children are transfixed by Marie Coo, she is fab. Well done, the SLG. They have hit the money on the head this time.

  25. Marie Cool, that is. It’s the onlookers who go “Coo!” They have never seen an art show where they become part of the art so quickly.

  26. Monkey Cat

    Have you been to the Bricklayers Arms just over Putney Bridge…

    That’s a Timothy Taylor Pub…Perhaps the only one in London

    Good call about the Deuchers IPA — Young’s pubs stock it…even though they totally sold out — closing The Ram Brewery — Idiots

  27. Mark, if you got Harvey’s I’d practically move in, especially when the heating comes back on. A really fab standard bitter that absolutely whoops Adnams Best. And it’s almost local (only about 50 miles from us).

    Agree with Alan that both your regulars being premium ales is a bit much. Bitter is best consumed in vast quantities. As such please price it as much below £3 as possible! Hooper’s had lovely fresh Harvey’s. Went in a flash.

  28. I’ll second you copeywollf. It just has to be Harvey’s. Go for it Mark. Adams is available all over London, Harvey’s much less so. Also, I don’t believe Adnam’s travels well. It’s a great pint if you’re watching the sun go down over Snape Maltings but less so over Coldharbour Lane. Harveys is a much smaller enterprise and real ale aficionados will tell you they take great care in transporting it beyond the boundaries of East Sussex. A pint in their ‘flagship’ London outlet (name escapes) in Tabard St, Borough, is indistinguishable from a pint supped at the foot of the South Downs.

  29. I am happy to remove my vote for Adnams, based on the passion and superior beardiness of Copeywolf’s and Merrick’s posts. You could drop the speckled Hen and get both?

  30. Merrick

    You are so right about the Harvey’s and as you point out they are about as local as we’re going to get…

    The Royal Oak — Tabard Street…A fine establishment…in winter especially for their game and stews and their food in general

  31. Isn’t The Royal Oak on the site of the pub where Chaucer’s pilgrims meet to set out for Canterbury?

    Also, I recently found Harvey’s in a little known pub in Westminster. Anyone fancy a visit to try it out?

  32. Drew

    Correct — Just around the corner from the pub you will find a place called “Pilgrimage Street”

    It’s an area of London rich in history and myth — It could of been so much better if the architects in the 60’s and 70’s had left their hands in their pockets…I make HRH Prince Charlie Boy spot on in that regard (I’m no monachist!) — He’s right to tell the architects what bufoons they can be…

    Mark!

    The Southwark Tavern does a cyder called “Old Rosie” 8.1% and no mistake

    Otherwise “Storford Press” is a nice one…also availiable at The Royal Oak

    I think a field trip to The Borough might be helpful…

  33. Hello all, I’m back. Mark, I’ve never tried Hogan’s but Aspall’s is nice and very popular (the Phoenix stock it). Either one would be a vast improvement over Blackthorn.

  34. The Bear has stowford press and has just started doing a pink cider in a bottle, think it’s mixed with raspberry, nice enough but if you stocked Aspall’s Peronelle then I’d be round in a flash!

  35. Old Rosie cider is on draught at the Hermits along with many other inspirational ciders & beers. It’s a good place to go and drink, which is what you want in a pub, really.

  36. On the cider front Weston’s Vintage is a cracking drop. I can also vouch for Stowford Press being yummy too. As for the bitter anything under 5% (under 4% would be even better) ensures a proper session.

    Looking forward to some summer supping at the ‘Doves.

  37. Dagmar

    You’re right!

    I haven’t been to Hermits Cave for a while but they do a fantastic cider and perry…

    I forgot the brewer but it was excellent sipping a couple while watching West Ham on the big T.V on a Sunday a few months back…

    Good luck to Millwall FC — They are in the play off for promotion next week

    Also another call to get everyone down to Dulwich Hamlet next season — Looks like Fisher Athletic have fallen by the wayside and will be incorporated into the club

    Lets not let the same happen to the mighty Hamlet!

  38. I went up to Flying Fish the other night for my cod and chips, first time in a long time, and noticed a couple of things (apologies if this has all been covered before) –

    1) Thai House has undergone a further metamorphosis and is now Silk Road restaurant. Is it any good? There were a lot of people in it when I passed.

    2) Is it just me, or is the makeover for Tadim’s the worst makeover in the history of Christendom?

  39. Just wanted to add that FM Mangal has opened up in the old African Club across from Flying Fish. I ordered the Lamb Kofte to take away and it was great value(£5.50) and absolutely delicious, coming with an array of sauces, salads and bread. The staff seemed friendly too, always a bonus.

  40. Thanks for that, Peter. I think I’ll probably give Silk Road a try.

    I used to like looking at the pastries as I passed Tadim’s. That’s all gone now. “Sterile and characterless” is right.

  41. Am I dreaming, or did I just hear Bill Clinton say “I have seen the future and it is Elephant & Castle”? That will put Camberwell on the map.

  42. Well .… where do I start? The Petit Parisien .… oh dear!

    I am trying to start on a positive note, but unfortunately can’t think of one decent thing to say. So here goes with my complaints, most of which have been mentioned before, but I feel the need to reiterate them.

    Decor‐ Council loo green or apple white, circa 1980, terrible ‘car boot’ lighting and nasty mirror. (Although, as the Dark Horse it wasn’t completely beautiful but at least it had some atmosphere). Terrible signs and zero kerb appeal.

    Staff‐ Unwelcoming, slow and lacking in product knowledge.

    Food‐ Steak, asked for rare came well done, tasteless and tough and waited over an hour for it, sauce inedible.

    General‐ Why the Petit Parisien? Very little to do with Paris or France come to that. Let’s hope the next people to take it over have slightly more idea of what makes a good bar/brasserie and a concept of some relevance.

    .… and as for getting rid of the Thai restaurant where Johanssen’s is now.… don’t get me started on that one!

  43. More bad service, more crap food.

    I guess Matthew from LPP doesn’t really give a shit, then, hey?

    Nice that he sent in that e‐mail, though, to try to hoodwink everyone for a few days.

    Teething problems, you gotta love ‘em!

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