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.

Tadim, Turkish cafe

On Sunday morning the wife and I went to have breakfast at Tadim, the Turkish cafe at 41 Camberwell Church Street.

It must be at least five years since I ate there, and all I could remember is that it did decent sandwiches and there was a semi-open rear room. When we got there I saw that the rear room had a proper ceiling on it now, except for two tables at the very rear which were still under corrugated plastic.

With no memory or idea of the portions involved, we ordered a croissant, Halloumi, some feta and spinach pastries and spicy minced beef wraps. When it came, we saw that we’d drastically over-ordered; there was loads of it. We had to ask for some stuff to be wrapped so we could take it with us when we left.

And it was very tasty; all the vegetables were nice and fresh, the pastry fluffy and the bread hot and tasty. And to cap it all, cheap too; £1.50 for a small loaf of Halloumi with cheese? I’ll take it.

The whole thing came to just over £10 including two cokes, and was more than enough for two people; we could have got away with just the wrap and the pastries, which would have come to about £7 all in. Even the waitress who only gave us 30 seconds to decide every time we asked for a little more time couldn’t spoil that.

Saturday Night

Two more friends came over to see the flat (one of them making a return journey — only the second of our friends to do so, making us think that perhaps they don’t like it), so after a quick chicken pie (fast becoming my speciality) we went out for a few drinks in some of Camberwell’s hotspots.

First was a return to The Sun And Doves to enjoy the last few minutes of sunshine. I was a little worried that if we left it too late we wouldn’t find a table, as it always used to get packed on a Saturday night and as it has a great beer garden I thought everyone would be there. I needn’t have bothered, as the garden had a few people in it but was by no means full. We had a couple of beers there (including a wheat beer called Brug’s, which I advise you give a miss) then walked over to the Funky Munky.

After The Sun And Doves, Funky Munky was Camberwell’s second decent pub to open, sometime around 1998, I think. It has the bare wooden floor and tables which are de rigeur for any self-respecting bar nowadays, and a decent selection of beers. The bar used to run along the long east wall, but at some point in the last few years been moved to the north. There is a second bar upstairs which also has space to dance, but was closed when we were there (at about 10.30pm).

Again we easily found a table. The music was turned up and the lights down low, but there was still a lack of animation in the place. The wife and I went there a few times when we were in the area looking for a flat, and it seems to be pretty calm and comfortable. Still, we were looking for a little more life and so moved on.

I figured the BRB would be more lively as they have a DJ there on weekends. I was wrong. As we walked in there were about ten people there, excluding staff. We tried to play a game of table football (too dark, couldn’t see the ball — that’s why I lost) then tried to have a conversation, but despite the bar being 80% empty the music was up to 180% volume. It was absurdly noisy.

We could have tried Cube or Red Star, but instead went home. Saturday night was cancelled due to lack of interest.

Saturday Afternoon

The first really decent sunny day for months, so I persuaded the wife we should get out and explore Camberwell.

First we took a walk down to Burgess Park, with a quick detour to point out my very first home in London and the shop that used to sell marijuana.

Burgess Park is mostly a flat, featureless expanse of grass. It used to be wharves, factories and a canal, and some of those features are still perceptible: the long, straight path where the canal used to be, and the now-pointless bridge over it. There was also a burned-out car which had been smashed into a wall, a feature which is probably not original but excited the wife more than the old lime kiln.

At the end of the park nearest the Walworth Road are some new tennis courts, just opened with Sports Council money. Camberwell doesn’t do badly for tennis courts; there are these, the Butterfly courts on Grove Lane and also in Myatt’s Fields. Strange how it hasn’t produced a champion by now.

Anyway, back to Burgess Park. It’s two best features are surely it’s pond — if you like fishing, which an astonishing number of people seem to — and Chumleigh Gardens. Former almshouses, they’ve been converted into a kind of tropical garden in the heart of the park. It’s quite disconcerting; you step out of a plain of brown grass into a neatly-kept lawn, then turn into a still, balmy paradise with butterflies and flitting over swaying palm fronds. I found these pictures on OnionBagBlog. We sat for a few minutes there in the mid-day sun. It was very, very calming, and the cafe gave us the idea to go out for breakfast there one sunny morning.

After leaving Burgess Park we headed up the Walworth Road and on to the previously-mentioned Myatt’s Fields. Beautifully tended and furiously middle class (there was an impressively healthy-looking family eating the most perfect picnic ever), it’s not a big park but it’s pretty impressive. Lots of flowers, large childrens play area, the seemingly obligatory tennis courts, and right in the heart of Camberwell’s most affluent streets. In fact, I think the residents say they live in Myatt’s Fields, rather than Camberwell.

We took a walk back via Coldharbour Lane and stopped for a drink in the beautiful beer garden of The Sun And Doves. The S&D opened in 1995, shortly after I moved to London; it was by far the best pub in Camberwell at the time, and nine years down the line it still is. It’s also probably the most spacious, with a forecourt, wide bar area and lovely back garden.

There’s lots of art on show and it seems they have regular exhibitions and events there, but as I’m an utter philistine I’m more interested in the service and quality. Both were fine. We didn’t eat there, but we did have a pint and soaked up some more of the fantastic London sun before making a move towards home.

Friday Night

I finally managed to get out and see a little more of the area this weekend — starting with the Cadeleigh Arms which is, geographically, my local — owing to it’s location on the corner of my street.

From outside it looks quite pleasant; fresh green and white paint job, blinds on the windows. Inside it’s a little different. It’s… strange. Not bad, just obviously a pub with a very habitual clientele. There’s a pool table in the small front bar and a large-screen TV and dartboard in the back room. The landlady, whose name I heard was Mary, was kind enough to switch on the big TV even though I was the only one who wanted to watch the Arsenal match.

I had a couple of pints of Guiness there — it was nicely poured and well chilled. Mary was very kind and even, when I went back there on Sunday night to watch the other Arsenal match, remembered what I was drinking.

This isn’t the type of pub I’d take my mates out to, but it’s likely to be my base for watching football next season. It’s pretty cheap, unthreatening, and ridiculously close to my home.

The wife came in to meet me for the second half and after the game we walked across the street to our flat and got changed to go out and celebrate our first six months of marriage. We got a little sidetracked and left slightly later than we wanted, so ended up going back to Blake House.

The upstairs restaurant was closed so we ate downstairs. The pub seemed a lot busier than the previous times we’d been there, but it still seems like it could be in financial trouble as the portions we were served were disappointingly small. Even with the complimentary bread and a dessert I was far from full. It was nice food, but not value for money. Walking past the next night, the restaurant was closed again. They’re stuck in a Catch 22; they don’t want to serve big portions so they can keep their costs down, but people won’t go there if they don’t start giving more value.