Counter have stepped up their food game, with the recruitment of a pedigree new chef – Mahrez Loukal, ex of Quaglino’s and Chez Bruce, has come in as Head Chef and frou-froued up the menu with a touch of Gallic class. The brasserie staples (burger, steak, veal chop) are still there, now rubbing shoulders with wild sea trout & Granny Smith apple tartare (pictured), tartiflette and pigeon.
Our other choice of starter was the decidedly un-French duck tacos, which Chef Mahrez has yet to banish from West Kennington:
The honey glazed wild salmon fillet, grilled artichokes & dandelion leaves (pictured) was the highlight. No clues on the menu as to whether the dandelions were provenance Pleasure Gardens, but we are hoping that’s the translation of its ‘Seasonal’ claim.
For those of you who are in the throes of Veganuary, there’s the Quinoa Hot Pot:
If you haven’t been back to Counter since the excitement of its opening months, now would be a great time to return for brunch, lunch or dinner.
Firstly, honourable mentions to other places that received votes: Mumbai Delight and Pizza Pazza are just outside the borders of Kennington, and we must visit Pico and revisit Koza – watch this space.
But the winner is…
1. The Lobster Pot
pros: one of London’s best seafood restaurants. It’s great fun from top to bottom and there’s nowhere else like it; you even get a special bib if you order the lobster
cons: it’s not cheap hygiene rating: 5
4. Aobaba pros: top quality Vietnamese food and loads of choice – who needs Kingsland Road?
cons: it’s a brightly lit cafeteria on the side of an Oriental supermarket so don’t come here for the ambiance hygiene rating: 4
3. The Ragged Canteen at Beaconsfield pros: super tasty vegetarian food and organic Monmouth coffee
cons: it’s not open that often (they serve hot food Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays from noon, last orders 2.25pm; at other times it’s drinks and cakes) hygiene rating: 4
2. Brunswick House pros: totally unique setting amidst LASSCO’s antiques, plus top quality seasonal food
cons: the staff can be rude, and if you want to buy the chair you’re sitting on, be prepared to remortgage your house first hygiene rating: 3
7. Dirty Burger pros: top quality, posh, juicy burgers
cons: the Vauxhall gyratory goes right past the outdoor tables, and the veggie burger features mushrooms, which everyone knows are banned throughout Kennington on grounds of taste, texture, appearance, smell, and name hygiene rating: 5 (Reassuringly Clean Burger)
pros: delicious Persian specialities, a charcoal grill, and loads of vodkas
cons: it’s a little pricey hygiene rating: 5
If you’re heading to the Pullens Yard Open Studios this weekend, you will most likely drop in on East Kennington’s kookiest cafe and gallery, the Electric Elephant, which is on the Walworth Road end of Pullens Yard. The homemade ice cream is particularly eccentric.
In the early 20th century, East Kennington’s magnificent Pullens Estate, AKA the Pullens Buildings, comprised almost 700 properties and stretched all the way to Manor Place. In the seventies the surviving buildings were threatened with demolition. Residents and squatters fought back (Kennington owes a lot to the preservation efforts of squatters) and thank goodness they did – these are some of London’s last surviving Victorian tenement buildings, and their workshops host a thriving community of creative people, as well as providing film sets for the likes of The King’s Speech (in the scene where the king goes to visit the speech therapist for the first time).
Twice a year they host an open day and their Christmas event is coming up next weekend. It’s the ideal opportunity to look around these unique spaces and pick up unusual Christmas presents. How about some Alex Monroe jewellery for a fraction of the Liberty’s price, or some pottery moulded from vegetables, or a handmade loot, or some architect-designed furniture, or a print of all the regions of the shipping forecast? It’s all here, in the most amazing and rather Christmas-y setting.
The White Bear, on Kennington Park Road, is a pub of two halves. The front half is an Irish sports pub with lots of regulars and rather an edgy atmosphere. The back half is an extraordinarily intimate, award-winning fringe theatre with a capacity of just 50. It was established in 1988 and actors who’ve appeared there include Emily Watson, Tamzin Outhwaite, Kwame Kwei-Armah, Mark Little, Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan and Natalie Imbruglia.
Plays we’ve seen here:
* One about Byron, the Shelleys, and their frantic sex lives.
* A play featuring objectionable middle class couples arguing and cheating on each other over barbecues – or we saw half of it anyway (the problem with leaving a theatre this small during the interval is your absence will definitely be noticed in the second half – sorry about that guys).
* A good production of Noel Coward’s Still Life, the play on which Brief Encounter was based, which is about an abortive affair.
* Recently we saw Coward, a rather unflattering depiction of Noel Coward and his sex life.
The Ship pub on Kennington Road is celebrating its 250th birthday tomorrow with a pirate-themed evening. 250! Ten generations of Charlie Chaplin’s family have drunk in this pub.
The Ship underwent refurbishment recently and it’s really rather nice inside now, not to mention outside thanks the hanging baskets and picnic tables you can see below. They have an extensive selection of real ales, board games, live music twice a week, decent local-sourced food, and best of all, they have a bar billiards table, which is great fun if you can figure out the rules.
Dino’s hairdressers is on Kennington Park Road, opposite the park. We’ve never quite plucked up the courage to get a haircut there, but a friend of ours goes, and he has excellent hair. Plus, they used to straighten out Bob Marley’s dreads for him after he’d been playing football in Kennington Park.
Anyway, here’s a photo of Dino’s from one of our favourite photo blogs, London Shop Fronts:
(It’s not hair week on Kennington Runoff, or at least we didn’t plan it that way.)