Vineyard, Greek Taverna

Continuing with our monthly restaurant visits to celebrate our wedding (January 30, since you ask), the wife and I went to this nice little Greek taverna on Camberwell Grove.

There are a couple of small tables outside and Camberwell Grove is the leafiest street in Camberwell, so I’d imagine on warm evenings this place is even more popular — as it was, we were surprised by how many people were here for a Monday night. The restaurant is decked out with vines across the ceiling — fake, obviously, not like the real ones at Seymour Bros. There are a collection of odd pictures on the walls, but the place feels homely and comfortable.

One drawback was that a waiter come over to us twice before we’d had a chance to take a look at the menu, then after delivering the wine he didn’t come back again for 15 minutes, when we were more than ready to order. But the house white wine was really good, a dry Cypriot that didn’t have a strong flavour and left your mouth nice and fresh.

For our starter my wife ordered vegetarian ‘meatballs’ — I hope that’s not too confusing, I just can’t remember the proper name; Efsthethes, or something — and I had mildly spicy pork and wine sausages — hopefully any readers with a decent knowledge of Greek will correct me when I call them Loukidaca, because that’s similar but not right. I really should have taken a take-away menu when I had the chance.

My wife — ok, her name is Ana, I’ll stop calling her ‘my wife’ — had a Moussaka (I remembered that name) for her main course and I had mixed Kebab. Both came with rice, hers with chips. The Moussaka wasn’t presented well, but was tasty; mine was pretty tasty too. Nothing exceptional, just good food reasonably priced and badly presented.

But apart from the food being average and the service being fairly poor, this is a place we’d go back to — the prices are reasonable and it feels comfortable. It’s not the type of place you’d go for a proper celebration, but a good place to know for early-week eating where you don’t have to get dressed up and you can just feel comfortable.

Sophocles Bakery, Camberwell Church St

I’m an absolute sucker for bread and savouries. I love them; Dr Atkins would turn in his grave if he saw how much bread I ate. So one thing I was really looking forward to when I moved back here was Sophocles, the bakery at 24 Camberwell Church Street.

Saturday morning, the wife and I decided to go out and get breakfast because we were both feeling lazy. At first we planned to go back to Tadim, but it was closed for refurbishment. So we went over to Seymour Bros — also closed. Funky Munky was also closed for refurbishment — we hadn’t planned to go there for breakfast anyway, but it seems there’ll be quite a few new things for me to talk about soon.

We went to Sophocles instead — not that it was a last option, but just because I didn’t really think of it as a place to sit down. But it has a few tables inside, so that’s exactly what we did.

I’m guessing by the name that Sophocles is Greek-owned, although I’m not swearing by that. What I will swear by is that it’s the best bakery I know in London. The variety on offer is amazing, and it tastes just excellent. We both had a sandwich (I, Italian Chicken; the wife, Salami and cream cheese) and shared a spinach/feta pastry, eating them surrounded by the delicious smell of hot bread. It was so good we decided to buy a loaf to take home, and ate sandwiches for dinner too.

Mmmm… bread…

Duraty, Denmark Hill

We needed to buy a new hoover this weekend so went to Duraty, the electrical goods shop at 72–74 Denmark Hill.

One of the things I like about Camberwell is the fact that it’s not fashionable enough for the big chains to have completely taken over yet; while there is the obvious McDonalds and a couple of supermarkets, there are still plenty of independent or small-chain shops in the area. While you may end up paying a little more, the level of service you get is often much better.

Duraty is a prime example; this is the third time I’ve been in there and every time they are absolutely bang-on in terms of service. The assistant spent plenty of time answering our questions about the hoovers, and was honest in her assesment; she didn’t steer us towards the expensive models, she just helped us with what we needed. And the owner (I think) is a walking encyclopedia of electronics; he knows everything.

Contrast that with when we went shopping for furniture in Ikea a few months ago; every query we made was met with “If that’s what it says in the catalogue.” Useless. That’s why the knowledge of the staff in Duraty is really impressive, and made the difference between us buying there or going to one of the big shops in Old Kent Road.

Camberwell Police Station

A quick read back through the few posts I’ve made so far shows that I’ve mainly only written about food, drink & shopping — not my intention when I started this blog. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve really found my voice yet — but persistence will cure that.

On the 436 home last week I saw two newspaper hoardings with headlines which interested me — although not enough to seek out the newspapers. The first was along the lines of ‘SE5 Crime Rates Shock’ (or similar) and the second was ‘Camberwell Police Station To Reopen’. Obviously, I’d say one had something to do with the other.

When I finally left my job in Camberwell in 1999, the Police Station was open only during the hours of 9am-6pm or something absurd like that — not exactly peak crime hours, I’d guess. Sometime between then and now, the station has shut down completely. I know there has been a campaign to get the station to reopen (although there was no web presence — a shame, I think), and it looks like that campaign has been successful.

I’m not sure how much the embarrasment of a ‘gangland execution’ in front of the closed station influenced the decision.

I don’t know the details of the reopening — I never found the newspaper, and there doesn’t seem to be anything online — but I’m pretty sure it can only be a good thing for the area. Hopefully it won’t be a 9am-6pm job again.

Quick Update: Is it this they’re referring to?

Shopping and eating in Camberwell

Saturday morning was pretty sunny but we had a barbecue to attend that evening and needed to buy a present for the birthday girl. Thinking of a book or a print, we took a walk down Love Walk and headed to Great Expectations (43, Denmark Hill), the gallery and framing shop.

They front of the shop sells prints, frames and cards, while the rear (including the cellar) is a gallery. Has to be said, there wasn’t a great selection of either frames or prints on show; at least, not as many as I might have thought. Plenty of cards, however, and the gallery at the rear had a good selection of traditional paintings on canvas and also a few sculptures. I get the feeling that the framing only makes a small part of their business now, so the idea of a print went out of the window.

Instead we walked down to Wordsworth Books (Butterfly Walk) and browsed in there for a while. As an independent bookshop, this is obviously never going to be able to compete with the financial clout of the big chains; instead it concentrates on new releases and gift books, the obvious move as there’s no other bookshop in Camberwell to compete with it. The shop takes two units in Butterfly Walk so doesn’t feel cramped, and we found a gift very easily.

Seymour Bros

Purchase made, we went to Seymour Bros (2, Grove Lane) for lunch. The last time I went here it was a little sandwich shop with about four tables; it’s now expanded into the shop next door and, more crucially, into the back yard.

This is an absolute treasure; a small, jumbled courtyard with grapes hanging down from the vines which grow overhead, it feels more like you’re eating in a small cafe in the Italian countryside than in Zone 2 of London. There isn’t a massive amount of choice other than sandwiches (although they do an all-day breakfast at the weekends, but £10.50 all-in is a bit steep), but the sandwiches were really tasty and good value. Eating them under the green vines was further value still.