Cruising around Camberwell’s Kitchen’s

Peter has kindly asked me to do a little post about Camberwell.

I started writing about my everyday experiences after a stay at the hospitality of Kings College Hospital. After a while, it became clear that most of my posts involved food (I eat out far too much) so I decided to go down this path and dedicated my blog to food and restaurants. I now write “a rather unusual chinaman”, a record of my food adventures.

Being a proud resident of Camberwell and the surrounding area for the last 6 years, one thing I have come to appreciate is the great diversity that contributes to the area’s character. We have strong African, Caribbean and South American communities here (amongst many others), without forgetting the influence from the locals of course. With these communities come their cuisines, shaping the gastronomic landscape of Camberwell.

Slowly but surely, I have been tasting my way around our glorious neighbourhood. Long gone are the days when Mozzarella and Pomodoro were selling their wares on the corner of Camberwell Green (only to be replaced by the spelling challenged “Noodel City”) and Spice of Life (which has seen more identities than Frank Abagnale Jr) on Camberwell Church Street. However, with sad losses come great gains. Recent times have seen the addition of new curry houses (Ambrosia and Camberwell Tandoori), a Turkish ocakbasi in FM Mangal and a face-lifted Tadim.

My personal favourites are:

The Bear — A traditional English pub with a beautiful interior. A great place for a Sunday lunch, its popularity endorsed by inclusion in the Observer Food Monthly shortlist for best Sunday lunch.
FM Mangal — An excellent Turkish ocakbasi cooking its meat over smoky coals. Great food complemented by welcoming staff. My favourite local takeaway, I dare you to turn down their tea and Turkish delight as you wait for your food!
Caravaggio — Budget Italian eatery. Serving superb value mountains of pastas and excellent lunchtime jacket potatoes.
Johanssons — I wouldn’t go anywhere else for my full English. The dining room feels like you are dining at home, without the fuss. Delicious smoothies. Roaring fires when its cold and a lovely little garden for when its warm.
Silk Road — A very different Chinese restaurant selling food from Xinjiang, an autonomous region in the north west of China. Amazing lamb skewers complemented by hand spun noodles and delightful dumplings.

These are just a few of my favourites but I am sure we all know that there are a whole lot more hidden delights in our local neighbourhood. Where do you like to eat, and where are the secrets that you would rather keep to yourself?

59 thoughts on “Cruising around Camberwell’s Kitchen’s”

  1. I always have a soft spot for the Vineyard — it’s less than 50 yards from the front door; we had our post-wedding meal there; it’s always friendly and the food seems to have got better recently.

    Caravaggio’s is somewhere I’ve never quite got to grips with, great portions but the sauces on the pasta are often far too heavy.

    I would echo the applause for Mangal’s — it’s a great addition to the local food scene.

    I would add Ganapati to the list, fantastic food but make sure you book ahead for weekends.

    4T4 also provides tasty food, very spicy though!

  2. I think I know where you get the cheapest fresh coffee in Camberwell: Sophocles

    Comes in a polystyrene cup, but it’s only 95p for a latte.

  3. I really like the vietnamese inspired rolls they sell at Bay. shredded caramel pork with pickled veg, chilli, fresh corriander etc. Hmmmmmm
    Also, the Jerk chicken at Cambria aint half bad.

  4. @Stuart Thats the banh mi. There’s quite a banh mi revolution going on in London at the moment, found primarily in markets. Great to think we have our own outlet here in Camberwell!

  5. … I got a selection of lovely meze type dishes from Tadims today for lunch (take away). It was really, really good food. I’ve never actually eaten there before, but will definately be going back.

  6. That’s great news about the Grand Union. There is one in Kennington and another on Acre Lane in Brixton if you want to see what they’re about. They’re both great (a hell of a lot better than the Grove in it’s current Young’s incarnation). They do fantastic burgers too.

  7. At LONG last a well funded and resourced company with a good idea is opening a bar in Camberwell… While I totally welcome Grand Union coming here — and what better venue could there be for them other than the Grove as is but WITH with a massive garden or a rooftop terrace — it’s just what Camberwell needs but, in all seriousnessness, Grand Union will be a serious problem for ALL the other bars in the area who are not well enough resourced to be able to take on that level of competition and survive.

    This also proves that Youngs got out of their depth with The Grove. They lost a shed load of money there this last couple of years.

    See if you can’t understand where I’m coming from.

  8. What Grand Union and Youngs seem not to understand is that having an identikit pub doesn’t work in Camberwell.

    Grand Union clientele are very much the Claphamite model. Not much of that around here me thinks.

    Both Youngs and GU have taken beautiful places full of character and got accountants to refurbish them. Hopefully they will only be there a few years then someone with real vision and understanding of the area will come and get the place for a bargain knock-down price and give us something we really enjoy.

    Hmmm…Hermit’s cave or Grand Union (where I will probably have to queue to get in…even if it’s empty)?. What a tough choice that will be.

  9. Back when they had 2‑for‑1 pizza on Tuesday the BRB (now The Grove) was packed. Art school hipsters, web designer, clapham-types, the lot. That was pre-credit crunch, mind

  10. Does anyone have an update on the Buckle? Are Antic Ltd still interested in it? Would be great if we were to get two good new pubs in Camberwell. Neither the Grove under Youngs nor the Silver Buckle are great losses in my book.

  11. I rather like the Grand Union in Kennington, but I agree with Gabe, that site was best when it was a BRB. Great pizzas, it was always buzzing. Need that sort of venue to take advantage of the arty local clientele.

  12. I’m off to the Bear this evening, for their fantastic pub quiz and an overpriced fishfinger sandwich, can’t beat it!

  13. I accept the possibility that accountant tick box outlets are not what works in Camberwell but, franky, hardly anything else works here either and my immediate feeling is that Grand Union would be a lot more attractive/accessible than anything else that’s happened at the Grove in the past twenty years.

    Silver Buckle is still being looked at by Antic but they are, quite rightly, concerned by its tenure and the fact that it is a tied lease being marketed. See as above.

    IF we (Nicky and me at The Sun and Doves) could buy the freehold of the Buckle — and the Sun and Doves’ freehold too (they are both ‘managed’ by S&N Pub Enterprises (‘the rent collector’) for Royal Bank of Scotland who is the head freeholder) — we’d do somethings very interesting to both sites. As it is our hands are ‘tied’ metaphorically and we have no development money because of our tenure at S&D being tied, there’s no security, little value in the lease, and no means of escape.

    See the serial failures over the last decade of the Kerfield, the Buckle, the Cambria, the Canning among others — tied pubs all. Tied pubs DO NOT WORK. Who’s made profits consistently out of these pubs over the last twenty years or so? The Pubcos — not the tenants who ran/run them.

    I know most of the publicans in the area and believe me, it’s tough out here.

  14. If it makes you feel better Mark it’s not just tough being a publican right now!

    The difference is that if I (or others, I’m sure) hit the wall we’ll still be in the same SE5 boozers, albeit drowning our sorrows. Not vice versa.

  15. I’m pleased someone’s going to have another go at The Grove but also wonder if the client base exists in SE5 to ever really fill the place.

    I mean, The Grove already sort of is Claphamized and it still doesn’t do well.

    So cheap pizzas brought the crowds to BRB once a week but what else will. Look at The Bear and The Castle. Neither are downmarket and both would heave if they were somewhere, dare I say it, nicer. But yet both struggle. And look at Le PP, and the Phoenix.

    Anyway, I’ll give the new Grove a good go. I just hope they don’t find Camberwell is something they didn’t factor into the spreadsheets.

  16. BTW I don’t really like The Rye. Couldn’t bear it much the past few visits, and it’s not an especially nice or comfy pub. It’s more an oasis in the absolute desert of Peckham for all those young parents to drink in.

  17. I just don’t accept the “there’s no market for a decent boozer in Camberwell” arguement. BRB used to do a roaring trade, as did the Castle, before it was taken over by new management and a giant perma-TV policy intorduced. The Phoenix does OK too — it’s packed with after work trade. The simple fact is that the Grove was a souless pub and the Silver Buckle was grim.
    There is a massive market for decent bars / pubs in Camberwell. Both Antic and Grand Union have some great pubs elsewhere, which I think would transfer brillantly to Camberwell.
    Arguements about claphamisation are nonsense. Having a couple more places to go out is not going to lead to whole scale change in SE5, but it might make it a more interesting place to live.

  18. Appreciate that copeywolf but my fear is that I won’t be here, metaphorically speaking — in the form of the business, to accommodate the tears and stories of the masses who lost their shirts elsewhere.

    By the way, think of Ana and Peter in Crete right now — enjoying the close of summer. We’re having a little bit of an Indian one here though aren’t we!

  19. Acorn and chestnut-fed squirrel is on the menu at the Cool Bar. Have you seen squirrel move in the park? They are like contemporary dancers in a nu circus. They must be ab-sol-utel‑y delicious!

  20. Forgot about Bar Story. It has its moments for sure. Used to go there a bit last year but got tired of the too loud music inside and the big groups breaking up crates for the grazier outside. Maybe I’m getting old…

    I would say instead that Camberwell needs another downmarket boozer. The Buckle was quite popular and look at the Dispensary — the nice version closed and the tacky Oirish one that’s now there does quite well. The Jack Beards lot got pushed out when the Bear went upmarket. There’s a clientele out there ready for a cheap no frills locals pub.

    I myself would welcome a bit more Claphamisation. Bring on the new Grove.

  21. Yep, it wouldn’t be a bad thing and would add to the mix. I’d be in there now and then. If the Buckle went Wetherspoons they’d do really well.

  22. I have just been given a £60 parking ticket for parking at the very end of my road (well within one road, not straddling two). The reason given is that you’re apparently not allowed to park in front of a dropped kerb because you’re blocking the pavement route. I had no idea this was a law — did anyone else?

    On a related note, does anyone know if/when we are likely to get resident’s parking in the giant “park ‘n ride” that is Wilson/Dagmar/Maude/Graces?


  23. Yep sorry, a dropped kerb is for disabled and / or pushchair access etc.. If you are blocking it they may not be able to get across the road safely.

    Not much chance of appealing that one I’m afraid.

  24. The problem with downmarket boozers is they tend to go out of business. Witness the above narrative about those which shut locally.

    J D Wetherspoons do it. The birds and the bees do it. Let’s do it. Let’s go down market.

  25. What is the point of a dropped kerb if you park across it?

    Fox on the Hill is not sufficient we need one near the Green, and perhaps another on top of that.

    Silver Buckle doesn’t seem big enough but they could use a couple of floors..

    Imagine it. £1.29 for a pint of bitter beats £3.40 in the Bear by quite a stretch..

  26. I didn’t know about the dropped kerb thing.

    Another rule for us all to get beaten across the back with. £60? Ker-ching. Straight into the bottomless hole of local government pensions and Stakeholder Consultation Managers on £45Kpa. Cheers, mugs!

  27. £1.29 a pint! Is that what it is there now? LOL! I’ve got to get me back to The Fox, but it’s not really Camberwell is it.

  28. @Corner House — We live on Maude and never have an issue with parking. Dagmar and Wilson are always busy. Do you know if we will be charged for a residents permit?

  29. The difficulty with parking is only between 8am and 5pm when commuters arrive. That’s how I ended up squashed onto the end of the road as it was the only space. Evenings and weekends there is no problem. Until I started working different hours to avoid the train/bus rush hour I hadn’t realised how packed it gets.

    I’m not necessarily in favour of resident’s permits especially if we have to pay anything more than an administrative charge — isn’t that how it should work? I don’t know any details but I think there was a meeting about it recently.

  30. There is more than enough cheap booze in Camberwell already. A massive Wetherspoons by the green, Selling pints for under £2 would not be a good thing in my opinion.

  31. Parking permits are around £100 a year. You buy visitor’s permits for £15 the first ten and £30 per ten after. If you have a lot of bays around you it works OK. If you don’t you often find yourself feeling like you’re a hunted criminal because you can’t find anywhere near your home to park.

    Rest assured, Wetherspoons are NOT coming anywhere near the Green any time soon. Alan’s aspirations are sadly forlorn. But I like them.

  32. We have controlled parking in East Camberwell and I have mixed feelings about it.

    It definitely makes a difference — half empty streets now during the week — but its not cheap and you can only register one vehicle per person. Given I have a car and scooter (for commuting to work), I had to find an alternative place to park my bike when I got home at 5 each day as the scheme runs from 8 until 6.30.

    The charges, policy of one vehicle per person and hours of operation are borough wide apparently and can’t be changed per zone.

    All in all probably worth doing, as at least you don’t come home and find no where to park your car — but not cheap.

  33. gives a flavour of the issues.

    We subsidise CPZs through Council tax, on the same principle as motoring is subsidised through general taxation. At the same time as introducing more subsidised CPZs, we are making cuts in education, health, public transport and the environment, as public sector spending shrinks by 10%.

    On the bright side, many more parking consultants, contractors, collectors and enforcers are kept in work not to mention the wealth generated through installation of signage and equipment, so this is great for the economy in our time of need.

  34. Warwick Gardens Winging was great — what weather, what cider, what a vibe. The Saudis were a great band. Well done to the organisers. What a happy time.

  35. Thanks Dagmar, and thanks to all those who came. Everyone to whom I’ve spoken said they had a great time. Talk already of what to do next year, so any views and feedback welcome.

  36. Nice post Tehbus and interesting blog too.

    I think that when it really comes down to it if you want interesting, good food that’s served well and in nice surroundings for slightly more of a sense of occasion then our choices in this area are, essentially:

    The Bear

    That’s it. These are the only real standouts in our area. OK so Gana is technically Peckham but it’s near enough.

    Don’t get me wrong. Beneath that there’s a mixed tier of interesting and value and generally good that includes:
    Mangal / New Dewaniam / Silk Rd / Caravaggio / Camberwell Tandoori /Hoa Viet / Lamoon / S+D / maybe one or two more I’ve forgotten

    These places are enjoyable, but with the exception of Silk Rd, I don’t think I’d travel into SE5 from other parts of London for any of them. I’ve yet to try Le PP with its dull menu or the promising Cambria.

    We need one or two more in the top tier.

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