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.

Angels & Gypsies

So after a three-year wait, Angels & Gypsies tapas y cerveccaria has opened. Being a fan of tapas, and of the place in it’s previous incarnation (Viva Espana) I was really looking forward to trying it out. So I did.

At first I couldn’t see any big changes to how it was before; the big U‑shaped bar is still there, and the table layout is the same. But the more I looked, the more changes I saw: the Spanish tiles around the bar, the new wooden floor, the wider front windows.

We got a table easily (next to the Gay Camberwell ladies, if I’m not mistaken); there were two or three other tables already taken, and it got steadily busier throughout the night. There were still probably too many staff, though.

So, the food: we ordered some bread, serrano ham, calamari, chorizo in cider, croquettes, chicken in apricot sauce, and chips with a bravas sauce. It was uniformly very good; ingredients were obviously great quality, and it was all cooked to perfection.

My one quibble: portion sizes. The dishes were priced around £5, and while most of the portions were fine, I thought a few were too small — especially the serrano ham, which gave five small pieces. With all the nice cured legs of ham hanging around the restaurant, it seemed pretty stingey to not give us more.

After dinner I had an almond and pistachio tart with vanilla & cardamom ice cream, while the wife had a chocolate… thing. Both were excellent.

Without wine, the whole meal came to about £33, which was pretty good, I think. We had a nice rioja from the excellent wine list to complement.

Over all, a really nice experience. It’s probably a little bit of a luxury to eat there too frequently, but for a special occasion or a treat it would be great. I could justify it because it’s my birthday.

In summary: a very welcome addition to the Camberwell culinary scene. Recommended.

Hams & CamberwellStained glass, Angels & GypsiesAngels & Gypsies

Caravaggio & The Hermit’s

Saturday afternoon the wife & I — at a loose end, hungry, and emboldened by the positive comments already posted here — decided to check out the latest addition to the burgeoning gastronomic scene in Camberwell, the Italian restaurant Caravaggio, on Camberwell Church Street.

If I eavesdropped correctly, it’s been opened by a former employee(?) of Mozarella & Pomodoro (and is seemingly in competition, therefore). It’s decorated in a much more modern, gastropub‑y way than its sensei, in warm tones of brown and cream, with lots of wallpaper and classic artworks throughout. In front are smaller cafe tables, while the large room at the rear has bigger tables for dining.

Food is basically panini and pasta; the wife had sausage in a tomato sauce, I went for mushroom ravioli. Both were good; not excellent, but good. Hers was a little spicy for her taste, mine a little small for mine. But for approximately a fiver each, we were pretty satisfied. I then had a nice custard tart for dessert, while she ate a delicious home-made tiramisu. Plus a juice each, coffee and hot chocolate, the whole thing came to about £18.

We were pretty impressed by the experience, so on the whole it’s a welcome addition to the area. Whether our limited market can support two Italian restaurants is a different matter.

Took a quick walk through Butterfly Walk afterwards, and saw that another two shops have closed/are closing. That leaves about five empty units in there, which is a scandalous situation for what should be the prime shopping area. Something is not right there.

Then into the Hermit’s for a pint of Westons and a read of the paper in front of the roaring-effect fire. I like the Hermit’s scruffy charm, although I rarely go there because it’s marginally out of easy walking distance. With all the bars and gastros around, it’s nice to have a no-frills boozer as an option.

But did I really see a statuette of an old lady holding what seems to be, from a distance, a large — *ahem* — penis? Can any regulars confirm that, or was it just a product of my over-active imagination?

Finally, the Camberwell Grove railway bridge gets its own comment piece in The Guardian today.