A pair of reviews

I mentioned in my last post that I’d bought a copy of John D. Beasley’s Camberwell Through Time, but when I wrote that I’d only really glanced at it. Now I’ve had more time with it, I can give it a bit of a fuller review.

The book shows old photographs of Camberwell and compares them with a contemporary photo of the same location. This is a really interesting concept; it’s great to see views I recognise now look vastly different — such as seeing the former St George’s church on Wells Way with the canal running in front of it — and places that no longer exist, like the mansion that used to stand at the end of Wren Street.

The main problem with the book is that the modern photographs aren’t as good; they’re not great quality, a few are slightly out of focus, and some are taken from angles which hide much of the subject. Luckily this isn’t a huge drawback because we already know what the locations look like today!

The author’s obviously very knowledgeable about the area and provides plenty of references to other sources, so I can recommend this if you want to know more about your local history.

Moving on to a different subject, last weekend the wife & I ate at Zeret Kitchen, the Ethiopian restaurant, for the first time. I’ve been meaning to go there for literally years, but always managed to avoid it somehow; that was my loss. It’s unassuming both outside (you have to cross the concrete precinct of the Wyndham Estate) and inside (a few tables and chairs, not much in the way of decoration), but the food and service belie the appearance.

The manager is Taffe, who gave us a really warm welcome and helped us through the menu. When the food arrived she brought a small plate for herself and showed us how the food should be eaten, even feeding us pieces as a sign of friendship! There’s no cutlery, you eat using a special kind of flat bread called Enjerra (or Injera).

We had the Zeret Special which is a huge plate, like a sampler, of many different kinds of dishes. The spicy lentils (misir wot) and chopped beef (kitfo) were my favourites. The food is very different from West and Central African, and shows more of an Arabic influence, although it isn’t quite like that. Anyway, it was really good, and Taffe was wonderful, and you should all go there; don’t wait as long as I did.

Author: Peter

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

22 thoughts on “A pair of reviews”

  1. I love Zeret Kitchen, and I’m always impressed that the manager remembers my food preferences, and is extremely friendly. Great food, lovely people, and an underappreciated feather in the Camberwell dining cap (along with Pasha, where my parents will be staying next weekend, so I will be able to provide a review of the hotel…)

  2. Yes, I’m a big fan of Ethiopian/Eritrean Food.

    I’ve been to 3–4 restaurants around London and the hospitality is pretty much unparalled with anywhere else I’ve ever been…Must be a cultural trait!

    I would highly recommend without hesitation.

    The coffee ceremony is a must-do experience too.

  3. We went on holiday to Eritrea a couple of years ago and every time I have injera I feel transported back there. Red Sea (Eritrean on the Walworth Rd) is always very friendly with great food too, though it has a little less ambience, alas. Has anyone tried Asmara on Coldharbour Lane?

  4. Rather amusingly, we were in the busy capital of Eritrea, trying (and failing) to get a bus to the obscure town of Keren. Eventually we had to give up and looked around for someone with whom to share a taxi. A random man hopped in, en route home to his family after a busy day in Asmara. We got to chatting. It transpired that though he was Eritrean, in fact he was on holiday and lives in Camberwell! We spent the rest of that journey incongruously discussing what supermarket might replace Somerfield on Denmark Hill…

  5. I’ve been to Asmara in Brixton a few years back. It was nice. Quite busy. Bit pricey I thought for what you got. Injera was a novelty and makes a nice change. Will try Zeret at some point.

    There’s also an Ethiopian place on Old Kent Rd. This is quite a big place. I liked it but my dining partner was less than impressed with the chopped dry fried lamb thing we had, and the sides.

  6. Having gone to Asmara only a few weeks ago, I can confirm little has changed since Phil went there — you echo my reactions exactly. Good food and excellent hospitality, but the prices push it into the bobo category. A novelty place rather than a local favourite for when you don’t feel like cooking… I will try Zeret next.

  7. Just got the book. Love the pictures amazing to see the pictures of all those mansions on denmark hill and around the green.

  8. Zeret sounds very interesting, will have to check it out soon. Does anyone know if the Bolivian place on Southampton Way is ever open? Everytime I’ve gone past its been shut…

  9. Today, a regular visitor to the place where I work — knowing I live here gave me a local history book about called “Around Dulwich” by Brian Green

    It’s quite an eye-opening book actually…

    “Almost encircled by hills, the valley of Dulwich still retains a very open aspect”

    “whilst it’s residents maintain a very closed mental aspect to those who live on the periphery”

    I may have invented one of those two paragraphs myself 😉

    I shall be ordering the Camberwell one which Peter recommended…I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for books like that…whatever the location

  10. the Camberwell through time book is brilliant! ok the new pics are not amazing but the history is great! it makes you realise what used to be and also the potential Camberwell has to go back to being as beautiful as some of the images! we are lucky we still have a victorian highstreet (church street) and some amazing roads and buildings as well as a village green — we just have to make the most of it! I hope the book is inspiration to anyone who has the ability to make changes, funding, decisions etc! Grove park has just had new street lamps and they look crap — its a conservation area with grade listed buildings, why did they not put victorian lamps in? im sure anyone who lives on the roads would chip in!

  11. Frazzle@

    We are also lucky to have a modernist Grade II listed purpose-built cinema theatre building just a 1 minute walk from the Green.

    Which also happens to be the last remaining one in the entire Borough of Southwark…

  12. James Barber (councillor for East Dulwich) has recently posted the following on his blog:

    One week more of campaigning for the Brunswick Park by-election in Camberwell… It has been a real shock …how crummy the Brunswick Park area feels. Really quite an unpleasant surprise how much graffiti, dog poo, and other eco crime around.

    I may sometimes be rude about the I live in, but I still find it irritating to hear an East Dulwich councillor say this especially as he makes no positive comments about the area to give some balance. Am I alone in feeling this way?

  13. I live in Brunswick Pk ward and the only Labour councillor who ever showed an interest in the emails I sent about various local issues was Wingfield. The rest did nothing. Nothing.

    I haven’t noticed that much graffiti really, no more than anywhere else.

  14. Would definitely agree with Phil G — out of the Brunswick Park councillors, only Ian Wingfield ever responded to my emails.

  15. Isn’t James Barber a Lib Dem councillor? Did the Lib Dems care about Camberwell when they were running (down) the borough from 2002–2010? Could their candidate come 6th in Brunswick Ward? Is Nick Clegg an alien?

    There’s good and bad everywhere and the rubbish spouted on Barber’s blog would best be recycled (one area that Labour — surprisingly — has improved in) — plenty of room in Burgess Park for well rotted manure.

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