Openings and reopenings

Despite the recession, Camberwell’s playing host to a spate of pub/restaurant (re-)openings. Here’s a quick round-up of what’s happening, and what’s coming up.

The Grand Union opened last week to generally favourable reviews. I went along on Friday and the place was the busiest I’ve seen it for years; here’s hoping that continues. The refit has been positive; it’s a little fussy for my tastes, but it feels cosy.

Small quibble: food is pretty much burgers or nothing, and while there’s lots of variety of burger, you’d think for somewhere gambling on a single food item that it’d have to be perfect; unfortunately, while the meat itself was tasty and well-cooked, my blue-cheese sauce tasted more like mayonnaise.

Still; teething problems, I hope. I’ll certainly be going back to try them again. I still wish they’d kept the Grove name, though.

Names brings me on to George Canning; did you know he was the last British Prime Minister to take part in a duel? And with the Secretary of State (for War and The Colonies!) no less. His namesake pub has been refitted and reopens this weekend; the bar on Friday 13th, the kitchen on Saturday 14th.

No major changes inside (although I hope they’ve replaced the toilets, which were among the worst around); the bar and kitchen are in the same locations. The George Canning used to be a fine little bistro a couple of years back, so I hope they aim to get back to that.

The Silver Buckle has been taken over by Antic, owners of the East Dulwich Tavern (and others), and is to reopen as The Oberon. To remain a traditional pub, from what I hear.

And finally: the Angels & Gypsies Tapas y Cervecceria, long believed to be a myth, is advertising for staff and so likely to open soon. It’s been, what — three years since the hotel opened? They’re going to have to live up to high expectations, at least from me. But I really can’t wait; Camberwell needs something like this.

Fingers crossed that all the new arrivals thrive here.

Author: Peter

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

140 thoughts on “Openings and reopenings”

  1. What’s George Canning’s link with Camberwell? Certainly no link on the Wiki page.

    Judging by Mark’s Camberwell timeline in the previous post the buffers were hit around the same time as copeywolf’s arrival. Sorry guys.

  2. Is it a coincidence that there’s a pub in East Dulwich called the Palmerston? Presumably after Lord Palmerston, Canning’s nemesis.

    I went to the opening night at Grand Union aka The Grove and thought it was shocking. I’ll give them that it’s better than before but that’s not saying much. The decor was a confused fusion of neon signs, Parisian brothel and Japanese bric-a-brac.

    I think they did well to put the booths in which were cosy and comfy but I’d have closed off the front and back rooms. The place doesn’t actually feel significantly different from before besides the food.

    I hope it survives and flourishes though.…too many places come and go.

  3. The Grand Union’s back room has excellent canoodling possibilities. The loucheness is quite a turn-on. Surely a fusion is not confused, but fused. I thought I saw some couples almost fusing in that back room, as it happens, on opening night. Perhaps the style is not so much Singapore as Surabaya, Kurt Weill and all that, what! Ahhh… Shocking is sublime.

  4. Had a GU burger last night. Quite meaty wind today.

    That’s a sign of a good burger though! Enjoyed it on the 2 for 1 offer but if it were the full £6/£7 I think I’d go to Golden Grill for a bab.

    Place was comfortably busy last night. Music a bit loud at times.

  5. The Hootenanny in Brixton was also called The George Canning originally…

    Lord Palmerston was a heroin smuggler…which just goes to prove that the bourgeoise families of today were the same contrabandists,drug smugglers,gunrunners and mercenaries of their day…

    Nothing ever changes…

  6. @ Dags
    Surabaya Johnny — Kurt Weill & Bertholt Brecht’s louch classic. Your namesake (Dagmar) Krause did a fabulous version of that in the mid 80’s.

  7. She is a good old Hamburger, Mush, a proper Hanseatic girl, plied her trade and perfected her craft in the tough clubs of Hamburg, like the Beatles.

    Our own Florence would make a good torch singer — she should do some Kurt Weill. Imagine Florence from Camberwell singing Mac the Knife! Classic!

  8. @Dags,
    Great idea and, I suspect, not that unlikely. Florence has a magnificent voice and a refreshing artistic edge.
    Here’s the other Dagmar on YouTube:

  9. Went out last night. Strange one off experimental music showcase at The Sun and Doves. Fairly busy with a mixture of youth drawn by the evening’s promise and regular punters wearing tolerant smiles. The original music sung and rapped live by its writers was arresting and worthy of attention, the DJ infill sounded like it had been recorded in an empty cavernous loudly echoing multi storey car park, created out of bin lids and corrugated iron wobble boards. Not my kind of music, nor anyone elses for that matter. The Dj appeared pleased, attentive and oblivious to the cacophany he was generating. I asked the tallest member of the audience if they might ask the DJ to turn it down and he did.

    Next to Grand Union. Overall moderately busy, definitely much too busy interior decor — trying way too hard to be some kind of cool that hasn’t registered with any interior decor gurus yet, Nanny’s Knickers crossed with Tart’s Boudoir. Kept having the feeling they are doing an anti Ikeas ‘out with the chintz’ campaign. The music is dull but not awful, piped over a good sound system and played too loud for the level of business there was. No draught cider on tap among the forest of lagers and ales (as with its previous Youngs’ incarnation) which strikes me as something of an unintended style statement in itself. Staff attentive, smiling and all trying cocktails and paying attention as Rose, the manager, took two of them through making Bloody Marys; shaken not flipped which is unneccessary for a Bloody Mary.

    Then up to the George Canning for a last scoop before hometime. GAH. What an odd thing has happened there. If I didn;t see it with my own eyes I’d struggle to believe it. This is an EXCELLENT example of everything that’s WRONG with pubco UK. Enterprise Inns spent a lot of time and intransigence working with Steve in not helping turn it around on a rent of £37K and a beer discount of £40 a brewers’ barrel. It was not working and the place shut because it was losing Steve’s business money. So, failed and shut, Enterprise pile in with a refurbishment which in truth is no more than an unimaginative but well executed paint and decoration makeover, replaced all the kitchen and bar equipment with brand new kit, new chairs and tables, awnings and lights outside — I’d guess they’ve spent £100K on the place. Now it’s being run by a management company — a bunch who run pubs to keep them trading while they are being marketed to as tied leases for new long term tenants to sign a long deal on. The staff have George Canning shirts, they are well trained and attentive, the manager knows what he’s doing; yet the place manages to be utterly dull and characterless, devoid of any personality; basically awful… How on earth anyone would go in there after changing rooms has been done to it and impose new character over the job they’ve done is beyond me. What a terrible waste of time, money and what was already basically a very good community pub business that needed some money spent on it — which didn’t get spent because it made no money.

    If anyone’s interested it’s being marketed: “Welcome to Enterprise Inns! Our business is providing pubs in England & Wales to both individual entrepreneurs and multiple operators on either a leased or tenanted basis. Our new agreements are always negotiated with applicants on a pub by pub basis and are structured to provide fair value and a viable business opportunity.”

    “We are pleased to propose a Retail Partnership Agreement for discussion with interested applicants. The annual rental level will be dependent on the successful applicant’s plans for the business and will be discussed in further detail with the Regional Manager. As a further incentive, we are offering an above target discount of £150 per barrel. The actual level of ingoings required will again be dependent on their plans for the business and these can be discussed in much further detail with the Regional Manager, when we also agree the target and other principle terms.”

    Here it is:

    I can’t express how angry this sort of disingenuous corporate arrogance and utter stupidity makes me.

  10. The world is turning into a bunch of corporate replicants…that’s for sure

    Thanks America…Your influence has done so much for humanity

  11. Good that you eat your own dog food, Mark.

    I went to Tadim’s for a Latte and a chocolate croissant. Only £2.50 all in.

    Another customer had left a copy of the Guardian. I had a window seat. Easy life.

  12. Agree with you about the George Canning Mark. All the charm of the place gone. Really disappointing.

    And more vinyl signnage! This time mint green.

  13. @ eusebiovic: worryingly true but some of those most vociferously Anti Corporate America are American:

    @Gabe? Dog food? No dog in the house. I snack on hamster food and for main meals it’s cat’s dinners — from Lidl of course; in jelly. Their lamb and mint is especially aromatic and tasty. And oh so convenient; just rip off the lid, turn into an earthenware dish; microwave for three minutes, leave it to rest for another three mins and, heyho presto a balanced meal fit for a king.

    @copeywolf: £100K down a drain somewhere — essentially to save face and say the pub is trading. Those pubcos are very clever.

    @Camberwellonline: kegs of Sambrook’s Wandle ale will be delivered Thursday and on tap from Friday. Hurrah! Sticking with Hogan’s real cider on draught. Eat your heart out Grand Union.

  14. Read your article, Mark. V interesting. Seems some of the area’s paradoxes are timeless.

    We’ve got some great pubs in SE5 and the solution may be to teleport them to Brixton.

    Went to the White Horse on Brixton Hill at around 1am on Saturday and the bouncer says there’s a 20 minute wait to get in?

    Excuse me? A 20 minute wait to get into a totally average pub for a pint? What is this, Fabric?

    Obviously we walked on, but it seems to me a big part of the battle is location. White Horse feeds off the hinterland of 2030 year old educated whities with few other options to go to.

    As such I worry the Canning is as doomed as it was before. I’ll have a look soon. Important to try to support these places.

  15. Those pubcos are the same arseholes that tore out Traditional English Pub Interiors to turn them into Irish Theme Pubs (Brendan O’Geebags)and then back into Traditional English Pubs minus the original fixtures and fittings (ie: Sublime Carpintery and Original Minton Tiles)

    A classic example was The 3 Stags on Lambeth Road…Intact if faded Cockney Boozer…all it needed was a sympathetic lick of paint…and they f***ed it right up — now full of B&Q/Homebase interior…


  16. I experienced the Sun and Doves ‘theme’ night on saturday. Though we hid around the corner. Was a little concerned about the need for 2 doormen. We did have an excellent burger though.

    We also came up with an ill advised plan to have lunch at the George Canning on Sunday. That was a little chaotic, the food wasn’t ‘bad’ but I wouldn’t rush back. The roast chicken was ok but probably died of malnutrition. The roast beef looked ok. A good clean up like Mark said, but much the same formula as before.

  17. Have finally checked out the Grand Union and am very encouraged — it looks great inside, 2 for 1 on burgers was welcomed (although burger itself was average and no better) manager Rose was very nice to chat to, and even the bouncer was on best behaviour — welcomed us very politely and said goodbye too. It was medium busy on Saturday evening so we headed off to the much more packed Grand Union on Acre Lane that I hope this one will soon be like. Even returned to check it out again on Sunday and most tables were occupied which is a good sign.

    With this, The Sun and Doves (also briefly checked out their rap/ poetry/ performance night on Saturday which looked fun), The Bear, The Cambria and hopefully a soon to be revitalised Oberon replacing the Silver Buckle, we are beginning to have a few good options for pubs in Camberwell and that can only be a good thing.

  18. Good set of pub reviews on here. The culture of pub-going seems to have changed a lot over the years.

    @Mark eating your own dog food, — i.e. visting your own pub (and other pubs in the area) if you are in the pub business. I think the term orginated in the software industry.

  19. @Gabe you most likely tapped into my absurd paranoia. I thought ‘your own dog food’ maybe referred to what you think of the FAYRE at the Sun and Doves.
    The software industry clearly have to rewrite old stalwarts to give themselves a veneer of originality. In truth a Busman’s Holiday it was — and rightly too, because a lot is going on in the area and I’m torn three ways.

    1) I want more to happen to Camberwell so that more people come here and circulate socially
    2) I want that more happening to be good happening — for everyone’s benefit — so that it’s sustainable and it encourages more investment in the area as entrepreneurs spot an opportunity
    3) I want the Sun and Doves to benefit from the shot in the arm Camberwell will get if the newcomers do it well but losing trade to them FREAKS ME OUT because we cannot possibly afford any reduction in income. Competition needs to encourage local people to stay here of an evening and to bring more people here to visit friends who live here instead of the other way round. Times in Camberwell have more or less always been hard and I don’t want my Sun and Doves to become an invisible statistic of the regeneration of the area which, to be fair to me, I kick started fifteen years ago with my pub… SE5 didn’t regenerate the way most people expected it would and nor has it since. Fifteen years is a long commitment and I don’t have a pension because I can’t afford to put the money into one!

  20. Thought for the time being: A LOT of people have told me (and staff) that our burgers are the best they’ve EVER tasted. I like this and am just recounting — not bragging. I lived in America three lifetimes ago and worked at Joe Allen in Exeter Street WC2 two lifetimes ago. I always thought they did the best burger I’d ever eaten and if I ever got to set up a catering business I’d want to do burgers like that, if we did burgers. I avoided burgers at S&D for the first eleven years, partly because I was never happy with the results and gave in to the inevitable when I met Jean Paul Huberman, the Franconian Sausage man who developed our burgers using his sausage making technology about four years ago… Easy to say but, believe it or not, getting a burger ‘right’ on a semi industrial scale is very hard to achieve

    Anyway now that the kitchen at the Doves is presided over by CHEF Robin alles is gut and there are a lot of changes happening — a lot about tweaking and refining what was already there before Rob but in two weeks there’s a noticeable difference.

    Come and try it — you won’t be disappointed. If you are email me at mark@​sunanddoves.​co.​uk and tell me about it right away!

  21. Ah, no. It’s a good thing to eat dog food in that context.

    But then, I wouldn’t even eat a burger. I’m vegetarian.

  22. Ohoho Always been aware about non meat but cooks not that interested. We’re now doing even more vegetarian and… vegan — le CHEF Robin’s woman is vegetarian and so is my Mum; since I was 14.

  23. I went to the George Canning on Friday night just to have a look. Everything Mark says above is true but you know what stood out for me the most? The new tables; they are total crap.

  24. Popped into the Grand Union Sunday lunchtime. Unfortunately, I popped straight back out as there was no draught cider. Do you really need 8 lagers on tap? I don’t know, ridiculous!

  25. Pity about Camberwell train station never reopening or that we can’t rename Denmark Hill instead. There must be lots of people who would travel here but don’t take buses. A good cinema or club would also help to bring the people in and help to improve the image of Camberwell Green as looking rather like a bus depot. At the moment it’s a case of ‘local shops for local people’. And that surely restricts the number of people sustaining our pubs?

    We can’t seem to sustain any restaurants unless the prices are pitched rock bottom.

  26. @butterball: i wouldnt agree about local shops for local people, as that to me implies existence of a local character. i really don’t think there is one in camberwell town centre. butterfly walk is a prime example of everything unlocal: macdonalds, superdrug, supasnaps, 99p store, etc.
    then we have barclays, another 99p store, a bakery chain shop, an estate agent, a betting shop, then, down camberwell road, a job centre, a newsagent and a chemist. and of course nail bars churches and bingo.
    we’d written about some of the camberwell issues here and here, please feel free to comment on either.
    we are also planning a forum of sorts (a play session really, as meetings are not the most creative way of spending a couple of hours) to see what camberwell could be

  27. Butterball hits the nail on the head. Without a train station, people aren’t going to travel to SE5 regularlly and Camberwell will never sustain more than a couple of pubs / restuarants.

    A long time ago, when the Redstar was a half decent dj bar with a rare late licence, people did cab it here occasionally for a night out. Now, no one travels to SE5 for the evening. The wierd Victoria — London bridge loop line isn’t likely to draw anyone in. We need Camberwell Green station reopened.

    There was a chance this station could have been reinstated, but it would have required the closure of the under utilised Loughborough Junction (which lets face it, is only 10 minutes walk from Brixton overground and underground stations anyway, so no major loss in my opinion).
    It’s a shame, euse Camberwell has been on the brink of something great, on and off, for around 10 yearse, it seemed like In the same period, East Dulwich, Herne Hill and Brixton have all boomed. Camberwell has got ever so slightly worse.
    Until there is a major change to the transport infrastructure here, there isn’t going to be any serious improvements. I know, there are loads of buses… but let’s face it — buses are slow, unpredictable and often depressing.

  28. The ‘click to edit function’ is crazy. Jumps all over the place, hence my attempt to edit a typo in above post leading to further incoherence.

  29. I’m not convinced that the train is the problem; the distance from East Dulwich station to Lordship Lane is only marginally less than from Denmark Hill to Camberwell Green.

    And Camberwell Green station will *never* reopen.

  30. The problem is that Denmark Hill is on a strange (and irregular) loop line between Victoria and London Bridge. Useful for travelling out of Camberwell, but unlikely to bring many people in.

  31. People are in such a hurry these days. Not they who live at 230 Perry Rise SE23, the most eccentric and greened terraced ‘arse in London. It won a Conservation Foundation “London’s Green Corners” Award last year. An ancient flag of St George was flying there today, so old that the red cross is now salmon pink. I wonder who lives there.

    The nutty man who rides round shouting on his bike round here — well, there are loads of them — his bike lies unlocked and unpinched every night in the middle of the Lettsom Estate — the bike bears two large Welsh flags. He has baskets fore and aft. He is a basket case.

  32. ‘Camberwell has been on the brink of something great, on and off, for around 10 yearse, it seemed like In the same period, East Dulwich, Herne Hill and Brixton have all boomed. Camberwell has got ever so slightly worse.’

    Absolute nonsense.

  33. Alan, are you that nutty bloke who cycles round with two taff flags on his bike?


    I find the edit system very good. It stops me from riding round with Danish pastries hanging from my handlebars and wearing a pig’s head.

    Also, the new edit system on this blog is very good. Gone are the days of ghastly typso. Typsomania, giggle, titter, hee-hee!

    Does anyone read the blog Hitchcock Blonde? It is very racy and sparky, like it.

  34. No I’m not.

    I’m the guy who gets the train from Denny H.

    Are you the moody bird in Johansons/Seymour Bros?

  35. Just got back from Brussels from meeting Euro MPs and Director General Consumer Affairs with CAMRA to discuss the beer tie and what’s happening to the UK pub market. Long day but very interesting. The Fair Pint Campaign is very effectively raising awareness of the dreadful state of the industry. was set up by our very own Camberwell pub licensees and has truly rocked the industry boat.

    Enterprise Inns (George Canning; Hermit’s Cave and The Castle) results out today — massive drop in profits and from head office a barrage of bloated upbeat interpretations of the dire facts.

    Admiral Inns went into administration yesterday (Nag’s Head — evicted last week).

    So many pubs are failing it’s finally beginning to pull down the pubcos.

  36. Weeks on and the roadworks on Kennington Rd near Elephant are still causing total mayhem on Walworth Rd.

    Any other ‘developed’ country would’ve had it fixed in days, a week at the most. And as for the developing, well, I guarantee that China would’ve sorted it overnight.

    It’s astonishing. The mayhem out there. Thank GOD I didn’t take the bus today. Thank God. I’d have missed meetings and all sorts.

    And thanks to the idiotic overnarrowing of Walworth Rd by our stupid council, it was still a real challenge for those on bicycles and motorbikes.

    Of all the many different places I’ve lived across the UK and this planet, the cr‑p infrastructure and idiocy of this place often just drive me to despair. It’s the worst.

  37. Wait, the Grand Union has eight lagers on tap! Why didn’t someone say sooner. That sounds like a selling point. (@southmark)

  38. Phil,

    If it’s that bad. Complain to those that can do something about it. What do you want me to do?

    If it’s really that bad. MOVE. Let all those that appreciate the great things this country has to offer move into your place.

  39. Ha ha. Well MCat, last time this was raised plenty of folk were keen to share the pain and it quickly became a talking point.

    So, what do I want YOU to do about the burgers at GU? Or the lack of a tube station? Or Mark eating dog food?

    Seems to me you had a similar outburst about perceived negativity a few months back, and that time you had even less of a point.

    My friends here know that I’ve often been the 1st to big the place up when it deserves it. Excuse me for seeing the cons as well. I thought that moaning about transport was what makes one a real Londoner.

    That said, I was a bit wired when I got in this morning, so it’s best taken with a pinch of salt. Sh1t roads though. Truly.

  40. You need a fast car.

    Outside the Grand Union today was a Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG in shiny Flea Black with diamond inserts, silver slivets and fantasium filigree.

    This car made the pub look like a hotel in Monaco or Casablanca, or a roadside tobacconist kiosk in Dubai, on the front of some sales brochure.

    The 63 AMG has a 6.3 litre V8 normally aspirated petrol engine developing 514 bhp (British Horsepower) which takes the bus to 60-ish mph in 3.9 seconds.

    A specimen recently took the speed record for a street legal car at the Nardo track in Italy. AMG the Merc tuners are owned by Bodo Buschmann.

    The drifters and cruisers of Club Couture take note. Dis is serious gear, Sierra Leona Boy.

    Now den.

    Or New Den.

    The 63 AMG is eclipsed by the 730 bhp BRABUS ROCKET.

    Dis wheels is based on da aforesaid — pay attention in de dock, rude boy! — 63 AMG and is bored out to mean it can make a restricted 220 mph and serves as a polis car in Germania.

    What to say.

    Well, Lord Coe has negotiated for BMW to be a big sponsor of the 2012. They will supply bicycles to athletes in the Olympic village.

    A machine is a device for tapping the power of nature, as Bronowski observed in “The Ascent of Man.”

    But maybe, as man and his mate said long ago — or woman and boar as we say in old Denmark — best walk.

  41. The only thing that will help Camberwell is the Bakerloo Line extension (which is due some time in 2025 — almost 100 years since tunneling began!)

    I hear they are thinking of bypassing Camberwell Green in one probable plan…The completely talentless paltroons at Southwark Council would passively allow it to happen too…because they are very,very dim — always have been…

  42. In the meantime we can concentrate on getting a cinema/arts centre in Camberwell…

    It’s not as if there is a lack of potential support…

    Camberwell College of Arts (hipsters)
    Kings College Hospital (professionals)
    English National Ballet

    Local population crying out for a resource…Young Teens will always appreciate a performance/arts space, especially if it becomes part of a multi-use site for everyone

    Like I said before…Gala Bingo — we need to keep a close eye on it…that’s our space…because it will close sooner rather than later!

    A community cafe there…It would be a great place…The space is already there to the right by the bus stops

    We could call it The Camberwell Carrot!

  43. The former Redstar would make a nice community theatre space, but is unrealistic perhaps. There is already the Blue Elephant and that one down the side of the town hall.

    Also House cafe seems to have gone quite quiet. They could do with a refresh.

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