Food and Drink News: Openings and Closings

Featured illustration by Sam Peet, used with permission. Thanks, Sam!

Some enticing news, some good news, some bad news.


There’s a licensing application in for Ambigu, a new restaurant over two floors at 58a Church Street, the site of the recently closed Kalabash African restaurant and Club Couture in the basement. The food would be small plate / tapas, largely Latin American, with a small bar and a late license. The team behind the application are involved with the Bermondsey Social Club, and Blues Kitchen in Brixton and Shoreditch. You can see more details on the published appeal to local residents [PDF].

It’s an interesting proposition; the request is to have a license until 2am, and Camberwell doesn’t offer much in the way of late-night dining. My guess is that there will be some objections about noise from the residents of Camberwell Grove. I can’t find a formal decision made on the application as yet.

Peckham’s famous Frank’s will be moving into a winter residency in the room above The Camberwell Arms, which they bought outright back in May (I missed that news at the time). Seems Camberwell’s Frank’s will be a cocktail bar.

Major refurbishment work seems almost complete at The Grove, on Camberwell Grove, which will reopen this month as Grove House (update: it reopened on 11th November). After the last tenants, the Grand Union chain, sold most of their properties to the Draft House chain, The Grove returned to ownership by Young’s, but they’ve said they’ll only be acting as landlords and the new tenants are private; I don’t have any details yet on who they are.


The Bear, on Camberwell New Road, will be closing down for six-eight months from this Friday, 10th November as the landlord of the building renovates the upper floors of the building. The team at the Bear say they will definitely be re-opening again next year, and there’ll be a big party there on Friday.

Nape, the wine and charcuterie deli on Church Street, has permanently closed. They’ve said they’ll soon publish news about why they had to do it; I don’t know whether it was trouble with the premises (I know it wasn’t as complete as they wanted it to be), a simple lack of business, or just the difficulty of doing business in Camberwell.

Camberwell Church Street is becoming pretty bare after the closure of Angels & Gypsies, Queen’s, and now Nape. Does the area’s heavy concentration of students make it hard for slightly more expensive dining and drinking spots to keep going? Or is it perhaps with seasonality (it’s quiet in Summer and at Christmas, again because of students)? Is it more to do with the transport links? The A202 running through the middle of it?  Business rates?

Whatever the reason, seems that it’s often a struggle for small businesses to establish themselves here.

Possible Closing and Opening

I can’t comment on this publicly yet, but have been told that it’s likely that another small, popular, recently established business in the area may be closing soon. However, there’s a chance it could appear again in a different venue a little later. Sorry for being so maddeningly vague, I’ll update in future.

Author: Peter

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

10 thoughts on “Food and Drink News: Openings and Closings”

  1. Camberwell is a really tough market. We are relatively busy and have been here a while now but it’s not easy and margins are tight. It feels like people’s perception of value/cost/offering are getting harder to match. Prices and overheads are going up, but people want to pay less. It’s tough.

  2. I can’t help but feel that the crowdfunded outfits, in particular, perhaps just never had a strong business case in the first place (which may be why they were crowdfunded).

    1. Agree entirely. Running a business is incredibly hard work and it seems to come as a surprise to some young entrepreneurs.

      What happens to crowdfunded money when a place never really gets going and then quickly disappears *cough Queen’s cough*?

    2. Didn’t the Pigeon Hole get set up originally by crowdfunding, and then get sold on to a new owner (who also crowdfunded the purchase)? Something about that rubs me the wrong way a little.

    3. I get what you mean; the owner takes on less risk as they don’t have to take out a loan (or, at least they take on a smaller loan) to start the business, and the funders don’t get any profits or fiscal returns. But people go into crowdfunding knowing that; you get something direct as a response to your donation (could be a t-shirt, free meal, something like that), and they also get to bring into existence a business that they might use regularly and that may not exist at all otherwise.

  3. I thought Nape was nice but a little overpriced. Only went twice when it opened.
    Dammit, I hope The Bear re-opens as its my favourite pub in Camberwell, right combo of good beer and food.
    One my neighbours in my work estate runs a four restaurants in Brixton / Soho / Shoreditch. Chatting with him about the current business confidence / brexit — footfall is down amongst the 2030 somethings with disposable income that make up target market, finding staff is difficult, prices had to be increased, investment has been put on hold. I suspect it’s not just Camberwell thing.

  4. I was going to say, Robbie, the economy is — then a word beginning with f and ending with d. One is upset by the situation. Everything was going so well. We even got used to the upmarketification. Dingy lost its appeal completely.

    The current state of Dulwich Hamlet is interesting, used as a football between Southwark and the developers. It’s such an oddball place — I recommend anyone to go along and check out the atmosphere and characters — the trees alone, it’s just like Tuscany. Soon London will have no odd corners, may as well be Dubai or one of those places, Abu Dhabi.

    I mean, who wants an eccentric football club amongst the releases of apartments? But it is exceptionally colourful and fun — the pink and blue army, you don’t hear that kind of chant everywhere.

    People seem to go there just to meet up and chat, be friendly, human, drink cheery beer from the excellent bar. It’s a whole world away from the A202 up there on the hill.

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