Author Archives: Kennington Runoff

Red Sea Restaurant & Bar and Kennington’s six Eritrean or Ethiopian restaurants

Eritrea used to be part of Ethiopia and we haven’t yet been able to discern any differences in the two countries’ cuisines, although they are completely unlike any other cuisine we’ve tried. So when friends raved about an Ethiopian restaurant on Camberwell Road, we got confused, Googled an Eritrean restaurant on Camberwell Road and found Red Sea.

Red Sea exterior - kenningtonrunofff.com

We felt something might be amiss when we turned up to find they didn’t have any other customers when we arrived on a Friday evening, they don’t take cards, but they do have a TV in the restaurant. The sign above said “under new management” so perhaps that was why, we thought. Four customers did come in later, plus quite a few people seemed to be heading to the club downstairs (we’re always curious about those clubs downstairs on Walworth Road and Camberwell Road but haven’t plucked up the courage to visit one for many years, and anyway suspect they don’t get going until after our bedtime).

Red Sea interior - kenningtonrunoff.com

We had no complaints once the food arrived – the vegetarian platter on injera was as good as in the three other Ethiopean or Eritrean restaurants we’ve tried in the area (Adulis, Bar 48 and Harar), and tasted very fresh despite the lack of customers. Very reasonably priced too.

Red Sea vegetarian platter - kenningtonrunoff.com

The restaurant our friends actually recommended? Zeret Kitchen of course – we’ll visit there soon. There’s also an Ethiopean restaurant at Artworks which we need to try – Beza. How wonderful that the Greater Kennington area supports six Ethiopean or Eritrean restaurants.

Mother Kelly’s Taproom Vauxhall

Like Cottons, Mother Kelly’s is another independent retailer-turned-chain who recently arrived in West Kennington (they were already in Bethnal Green, Homerton, Stoke Newington and Portlandia).

Mother Kelly's outdoor seating - kenningtonrunoff.com

In fact the Vauxhall branch is their biggest, with a bottle shop on Albert Embankment, outside seating facing Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens (above), and a massive tap room with 33 different beers on tap under the railway arch in between:

Mother Kelly's interior - kenningtonrunoff.com

Great news for lovers of craft beers like us, but it’s not cheap. The first we heard of Mother Kelly’s coming to Vauxhall was this tweet:

Craft beer for people who live in towerblocks designed by Versace, you might think. But the beers were great and the atmosphere was welcoming so we’ll be back.

Here’s the bottle shop:

Mother Kelly's IPAs and others - kenningtonrunoff.com Mother Kelly's pale ales and others - kenningtonrunoff.com

They also sell Mother Kelly’s merch:

Mother Kelly's merch - kenningtonrunoff.com

When we were there, their food offering was meat boards (£10), veg boards (£7.50), cheese boards (£9.50), chocolate boards (£6.50), olives and bread, and sandwiches, but they also host food trucks.

Mother Kelly’s, 76 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TP

+44 (0) 20 7091 9779

 

Cottons Vauxhall

Cottons started as a long-running and popular Caribbean restaurant in Camden. Now the Cottons chain is in all four corners of London, with branches in Notting Hill, Shoreditch and West Kennington – they’ve taken over the riverside site at St George Wharf that was previously occupied by the Moroccan restaurant Souk River Lounge.

Cottons exterior - kenningtonrunoff.com

It’s hard to imbue St George Wharf with character but Cottons have given it a fair shot with this colourful wall mural:

Cottons wall mural - kenningtonrunoff.com

The centre piece of the restaurant is the bar, with many different rums on offer:

Cottons bar - kenningtonrunoff.com

This seafood platter with rice & peas, plantain and jerk sauce was top notch, as you’d hope for £18.50. In true Kennington Runoff tradition, we enjoyed it so much we tucked in before taking the photo:

Cottons seafood platter - kenningtonrunoff.com

Less successful was this order of vegetable coconut rundown for £12 – basically just some veg in an over-flavoured sauce. They should really add a vegetarian jerk option to the menu.

Cottons Vegetable Coconut Runover - kenningtonrunoff.com

We went along on a Friday night and they were playing the greatest hits of dancehall too loudly for our middle-aged tastes, but the restaurant certainly has a party atmosphere you won’t find elsewhere in the area, except perhaps on Walworth Road late at night.

Cottons interior - kenningtonrunoff.com

They do a daily happy hour on cocktails (£6), wine and beer (Carib for £3.50 a bottle) from 5pm-9pm and a bottomless brunch from 11am-5pm Friday, Saturday and Sunday which we plan to try soon.

Cottons Vauxhall. Unit 12 Flagstaff House, St George Wharf, Vauxhall, London SW8 2LE

T: 0207 091 0793

two of Kennington’s finest institutions are under threat

Read more about the threat to Bonnington Cafe and sign a petition here.

Read more about the threat to the Cinema Museum and sign a petition here.

Both of these institutions are magical, unique and irreplaceable. The area will be much worse off without them.

See our original piece about the Bonnington Cafe here.

Bonnington Square Cafe - kenningtonrunoff.com

See our original piece about the Cinema Museum here.

The bar and shop at the Cinema Museum - kenningtonrunoff.com

The Migration Museum and The Workshop

The Workshop is the former fire engine workshop on the corner of Lambeth High Street and Whitgift Street.

The Workshop - kenningtonrunoff.com

It previously played host to VIP parties and the Scumoween illegal rave before the developers Vauxhall One took it over and turned it into a temporary community and events space. It’s becoming an increasingly vibrant destination, playing host to the monthly Vintage Vauxhall Market, and seeing queues stretching all the way around the block when it hosted the Art Car Boot Fair.

The Art Car Boot Fair at The Workshop - kenningtonrunoff.com

The Workshop also has two more long term residents – the Fire Brigade Museum:

London Fire Brigade Museum - kenningtonrunoff.com

And a timely arrival in the area, the Migration Museum:

The Migration Museum figurines - kenningtonrunoff.com

We are big fans of migration and found this a thoughtful and moving museum with a lot of relevance to the local area:

Outside Bar Estrella, July 2006, after Portugal won World Cup Quarter Final against England at the Migration Museum

Outside Bar Estrella, July 2006, after Portugal won World Cup Quarter Final against England at the Migration Museum

The Migration Museum is on the first floor of the Workshop with no step free access. It’s open to the public Wednesdays–Sundays (plus bank holidays), from 11am–5pm.

The Migration Museum exhibit - kenningtonrunoff.com

Address: The Workshop, 26 Lambeth High Street, London SE1 7AG.

The Tankard

This pub used to be the Grand Union, and before that it was Bar Room Bar, but is now under new ownership – The Draft House – and has reverted to its original 1825 name of The Tankard – bravo.

The Tankard exterior - kenningtonrunoff.com

It was always a great site – at the junction of Brook Drive and Kennington Road, the other side of Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park from The Three Stags, which is invariably busy. Bar Room Bar’s stock-in-trade was opening late night on weekends (rather unusual up this end of Kennington), and the later it got, the dodgier the crowd got. But its greatest asset has always been its terrace, once used as a viewing platform for the curious to observe patients in the grounds of the original “Bedlam” next door, now the Imperial War Museum. And, in common with every other old pub in Kennington, Charlie Chaplin and his dad used to hang out there.

So what have Draft House done with it? Well, for one they’ve built roofing on the terrace – great for a summer’s day, even if rain is threatened:

The Tankard roof terrace - kenningtonrunoff.com

Downstairs the layout is the same but there’s lots of pale wood and bright red paint:

The Tankard main room - kenningtonrunoff.com

They have a big selection of craft beer in bottles and on tap, the latter of which can be bought in paddles (a little flat when we tried their three bitters – teething troubles no doubt – they’d only just opened after a super quick refurb):

Beer paddle at The Tankard - kenningtonrunoff.com

And for the teetotallers they do Brewdog’s Nanny State:

Brewdog Nanny State at The Tankard - kenningtonrunoff.com

We’d described the food as “comfort gastro”, heavy on grease, salt and beige colouring. This was beer battered cod and chips (you can see the salt):

Beer battered cod, fat chips, mushy peas and tartare sauce at The Tankard - kenningtonrunoff.com

This was buffalo cauliflower (go easy on the Frank’s hot sauce):

Buffalo cauliflower and Frank's Hot Sauce at The Tankard - kenningtonrunoff.com

Chicken schnitzel – no complaints here:

Chicken schnitzel, buttered new potatoes and rocket salad at The Tankard - kenningtonrunoff.com

They do a good veggie burger with smoked cheddar:

Veggie burger, smoked cheddar and fries at The Tankard - kenningtonrunoff.com

We’d like to see them add a few more green items to their menu, but they do do veggie scotch eggs, moist on the inside:

Veggie scotch eggs at The Tankard - kenningtonrunoff.com

As you can see from the above, the pub was packed and noisy when we were there, so we’re optimistic that The Tankard and The Draft House will be in Kennington for a long time to come.

The Garden Cafe

Watch out Brunswick House, steady on Louie Louie, there’s a new contender for the title of Best Restaurant in Kennington – The Garden Cafe at the redesigned, refurbished Garden Museum.

Let’s start with the negative – the Garden Museum have only gone and destroyed their beautiful garden! This was the best feature of the old museum – an oasis of calm and quiet featuring a 36 year old knot garden, and the grave of local, ahem, hero William Bligh. What has replaced it is a courtyard that’s nice enough but not an oasis. We’re so annoyed we might actually start paying attention to planning applications.

The Garden Museum courtyard - kenningtonrunoff.com

The old Garden Museum had a real community feel to it, whereas the new one feels more like a corporate events space. And it costs £10 to get in to the museum, so you’d have to be really interested in gardening (the cafe is free to enter).

gravestone chic

gravestone chic

But it might be worth it because the food in the new-look cafe is so good, and the space isn’t bad either – nice and light, with the courtyard along one side.

The Garden Museum cafe interior - kenningtonrunoff.com

The food is fresh, modern, seasonal and full of flavour, with a constantly changing menu.

This was a melt-in-the-mouth chicken leg, with rainbow chard and borlotti beans:

Chicken leg, rainbow chard and borlotti beans at the Garden Museum - kenningtonrunoff.com

The menu is fairly short and there aren’t as many vegetarian or vegan options as we’d like (unlike the old cafe which was all veggie), but this farro, courgettes, aubergine and mint was good:

Farro, courgettes, aubergine and mint at The Garden Museum - kenningtonrunoff.com

On a subsequent visit we had this starter of pigeon, cooked rare and not as tender as we’d hoped, with radicchio and elderberries for £8.50:

Pigeon, radicchio and elderberries at The Garden Cafe Museum - kenningtonrunoff.com

But this beef shin lasagne more than made up for it – an awesome, mouth watering dish for £14:

Beef shin lasagne at The Garden Cafe Museum - kenningtonrunoff.com

Likewise this pappardelle with courgettes and parmesan, a bargain at £10:

Pappardelle, courgettes and parmesan at The Garden Cafe Museum - kenningtonrunoff.com

Kennington’s leading restaurant critic Jay Rayner got there first of course, so read his review for more details including where the chefs came from (very good restaurants).

As Jay points out, the only snag with the Garden Cafe is the opening hours:
Monday to Friday 8am–5pm
Saturday 9am–3.30pm
Sunday 9am–5pm

But normally they only serve meals at lunchtime, 12pm–3pm daily, or 12pm–2pm on Saturdays, and booking is recommended.

Over the summer both the Café and Museum are doing late openings on Tuesday evenings and they’re serving meals from 6pm–9.30pm.

Address: The Garden Museum, Lambeth Palace Road, London SE1 7LB.

Yoga at The Tommyfield

The Tommyfield has cranked its boutique hotel credentials up a notch with an intimate in-house yoga session every Monday evening from local teacher Tim Mosley.

Tim offers a dynamic vinyasa flow class in the first floor Master Room. It’s a nice, calm space, usually used for the ABC comedy night or private events. You may even find a sprinkle of 40th birthday party confetti alongside your mat as a neat reminder of why you’re there in the first place. We have been along a couple of times and Tim is attentive and will provide a quick head massage at the end of the class if he thinks you’ve been spending too long at the blogging coalface.

Kennington is pretty well-served for yoga, including long-standing favourite Yogabelle at the RIBA Award-winning Siobhan Davies Studios, and Kennington Osteopaths for a gentler class (that is a bit of a tight squeeze – not one for the claustrophobic yogi).

yoga

Yoga @ The Tommyfield
Every Monday 6.30-7.45 pm

Limited mats available, £10 per class

Tim Mosley is also available for private lessons.

Counter Termini – the best pizza in Kennington and beyond

Sadly Counter Termini and Counter both closed down shortly after the opening of Termini.

There’s a bit of a dearth of Italian restaurants in Kennington at the moment. First of all Sirena’s shut down, apparently because the office it was based in wanted something healthier and more modern. Then Amici closed for an extended refurbishment that doesn’t seem to be progressing. Even Pizza Express was briefly closed due to flooding. Well, there’s a new restaurant in town and to say it’s the best Italian in the area really doesn’t do it justice – Counter Termini serve some of the best pizza we’ve had.

Counter Termini interior - kenningtonrunoff.com

The premises used to be Back Counter, on the other side of the railway arch from Counter itself. The interior hasn’t changed much, except for the introduction of a wood-fired pizza oven.

Counter Termini pizza oven - kenningtonrunoff.com

As well as pizza, they serve antipasti, salads and drinks every day from 11.30am to late. We went along to one of their ‘sneak preview’ nights. They’re now in ‘soft launch’ mode, and they’re offering 2-4-1 on all pizzas until June 30th (except when there’s an ICC match at the Oval). If you book, quote ‘Friends & Family’.

This is the Verdura pizza with cherry tomato, aubergine, artichokes, yellow courgette, ricotta, aged balsamic – fresh, flavoursome, and so good we started eating it before taking the photo. Normally it costs £9:

Pizza Verdura with cherry tomato, aubergine, artichokes, yellow courgette, ricotta, aged balsamic at Counter Termini - kenningtonrunoff.com

Equally great was the Tonno pizza with tomato, tuna, red onions, capers, oregano (you can probably guess why part of it isn’t in the photo – yum yum). Normally £11:

Pizza Tonno with tomato, tuna, red onions, capers, oregano at Counter Termini - kenningtonrunoff.com

They’re also rightly proud of Mahrez’ Greek Salad:

Mahrez's Greek salad at Counter Termini - kenningtonrunoff.com

They do takeaway, and they’re about to launch delivery services via Uber Eats and Deliveroo.

Counter Termini is a great addition to West Kennington and indeed to London.

Address: Arch 50, South Lambeth Road, London, SW8 1SR

T – 020 3693 9600

Louie Louie

Louie Louie - kenningtonrunoff.com

Gentrification has well and truly arrived on Walworth Road’s most interesting stretch, and very welcome it is too, as long as Oli Food Centre can stay opposite (long live Oli Food Centre), and Arments Pie & Mash is just around the corner. Louie Louie is a cafe/bar/restaurant from the people behind Fowlds Cafe. It was initially funded by a Kickstarter campaign and has already proven very popular with locals, whether for brunch, lunch, dinner or drinks.

The interior is impressive but our photos of it are not. They pack a lot of people in, plus there’s a bar, a DJ and displays of vinyl records.

We’ve sampled the weekend brunch twice and we’ll be back again. Great service and atmosphere. We highly recommend the hot chocolate, and they stock beers from the nearby Orbit Brewery.

We’ve also been for dinner in the evenings, which they serve from Wednesday to Saturday with Tel Aviv-born chef-in-residence Oded Oren. The evening food is really special, in the mould of Palomar and Ottolenghi.

These 5 hours braised ox cheeks, Moroccan paprika and humus were great, and the most expensive item on the menu at £17:

5 hours braised ox cheeks, Moroccan paprika, humus at Louie Louie - kenningtonrunoff.com

Less exotic but even tastier were these bavette skewers, with smoked aubergine and green tahini:

Bavette skewers, smoked aubergine and green tahini at Louie Louie - kenningtonrunoff.com

This roasted freekeh with caramelised leeks and pine nuts was decent if rather expensive at £9.50:

Roasted freekeh, caramelised leeks, pine nuts at Louie Louie - kenningtonrunoff.com

This was a salad of shaved roots salad, feta, toasted almonds:

Shaved roots salad, feta, toasted almonds at Louie Louie - kenningtonrunoff.com

Louie Louie has already received a rave review from Kennington’s leading restarant reviewer Jay Rayner. We agree with Jay – this place is great.