Category Archives: cafes and restaurants

New year, new Counter

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.

Wild sea trout and Granny Smith apple tartar, chives, creme fraiche at Counter - kenningtonrunoff.com

Our other choice of starter was the decidedly un-French duck tacos, which Chef Mahrez has yet to banish from West Kennington:

Pulled Gressingham duck tacos, cucumber, sweet and sour sauce at Counter - kenningtonrunoff.com

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.

Honey glazed wild salmon fillet, grilled artichokes, dandelion leaves at Counter - kenningtonrunoff.com

For those of you who are in the throes of Veganuary, there’s the Quinoa Hot Pot:

Quinoa hot pot at Counter - kenningtonrunoff.com

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.

London SW8 1SP

020 3693 9600

opening hours:
Monday to Thursday    7am-12:30am
Friday    7am-1:30am
Saturday    9am-1:30am
Sunday    9am-12:30am

Cable Bakery & Roastery

Cable Bakery & Roastery is a very exciting new arrival from the couple behind the Cable Bar & Cafe and Waterloo’s Scootercaffe. It’s situated at 82 Bolton Crescent, a street that runs along the side of Kennington Park and was previously most notable for an adventure playground and a bondage shop (Fetish Freak – “your fetish is our business”, but not if, like us, your fetish is for four coloured pens, although to be fair, we haven’t enquired so we can’t be sure).

Cable Bakery & Roastery exterior - kenningtonrunoff.com

The decor is every bit as stylish as their other two establishments, with vintage coffee machines scattered around the place.

Cable Bakery & Roastery shelving - kenningtonrunoff.com

As well as these stools, there are a couple of small tables. The establishment is already proving popular so you may not get a seat at busy times, but you can always head around the corner to Cable Bar instead.

Cable Bakery & Roastery seating area - kenningtonrunoff.com

They bake sourdough bread and roast coffee on site, all organic:

Cable Bakery & Roastery bread - kenningtonrunoff.com

As well as the expected hot drinks, they serve smoothies, sandwiches, chicken and beef broth and other lunch options with plans to add more. They also have a good selection of cakes – we had an excellent slice of apple pie.

Cable Bakery & Roastery cakes - kenningtonrunoff.com

They’re open Monday to Friday 9.30am to 7pm and Saturdays from 10am to 3pm, although hours may increase in the future. Let’s hope so – this place is great.

Address: 82 Bolton Crescent, SE5 0SE.

Bombshell: The Lobster Pot is closing after 25 years

This is a big loss to Kennington and to London. We’ve never had lobster so good, and we’ve never been to a restaurant quite like it. Back in 2014 we named it the best restaurant in Kennington. Read all our past coverage here.

Lobster Pot interior

Their farewell email says:

“The time has come to an end… It is with great regret that our Sister Restaurant, The Lobster Pot will be closing its doors for the final time on Saturday 19th November 2016.

It has been a pleasure to serve our loyal customers for the past 25 years! If you want to enjoy it one last time, reserve a table by calling (020) 7582 5556, spaces will be limited on a first come, first serve basis.

The Toulouse Lautrec will continue for many years to come… and can cater for those exceptional “Lobster Pot Experiences” in our Private Dining Room on prior arrangement only.

Please email events@btlrestaurant.com for more information.

Hervé Régent
Chef / Proprietor
The Lobster Pot”

Maybe we’ll see you there on or before November 19th (and remember they’re closed on Sundays and Mondays).

So long Hervé, and thanks for all the fish.

Herve

The White Bear

Like the Elephant & Castle, the White Bear is a Kennington pub with a very long history, which has recently relaunched in impressive style.

The White Bear Theatre Pub new exterior - kenningtonrunoff.com

Thomas Ellis owned the Horns Tavern pub on Kennington Common, where Guy Fawkes stored his gunpowder in the cellar. Mary Cleaver leased White Bear Field to Ellis in 1780, and he laid out Cleaver Square, the earliest London square south of the Thames, and built the White Bear (read more Kennington history on their blackboard).

The White Bear Theatre Pub fire and local history - kenningtonrunoff.com

We first knew The White Bear as a rather edgy, although rarely busy, Irish sports pub, with the White Bear Theatre feeling very incongruous in the back. It was bought by Young’s around 2012, after which there was a short-lived relaunch (bye Irish sports fans, hello not many other people), then it closed for a long time for a much more thorough overhaul.

The White Bear Theatre Pub middle dining room - kenningtonrunoff.com

The White Bear Theatre Pub back dining room - kenningtonrunoff.com

Now it’s huge – Kennington’s biggest pub  – with two dining areas where the theatre used to be, plus a garden stretching the width of two properties (which we’ve only visited after dark unfortunately).

The White Bear Theatre Pub garden - kenningtonrunoff.com

The theatre (which we’ve not visited since the relaunch) has relocated to the first floor – the bear will show you the way.

The White Bear Theatre Pub bear - kenningtonrunoff.com

The new White Bear has the feel of a country pub, and we can’t think of another like it in central London. Perfect for Kennington Village!

The White Bear Theatre Pub bric a brac - kenningtonrunoff.com

They serve food which is decent although not quite yet of the standard of the Elephant & Castle. Mains range from toad in the hole for £11 to black Angus sirloin, mushrooms and tomatoes, chips, Bearnaise sauce for £21. Being mostly vegetarian we haven’t tried either of their specialities yet, which are beef Wellington, black cabbage and chestnuts (£21) and steak and kidney suet pudding, calcannon (£20). But we have tried rainbow chard, pine nut and blue cheese quiche (£13):

Rainbow chard, pine nut and blue cheese quiche at the White Bear - kenningtonrunoff.com

And the roasted pumpkin cobbler, purple sprouting broccoli, not entirely successful but relatively cheap at £12:

Roasted pumpkin cobbler, purple sprouting broccoli at the White Bear- kenningtonrunoff.com

The Queenie and monkfish scampi, chips, peas cost £16.50:

Queenie and monkfish scampi, chips, peas at the White Bear - kenningtonrunoff.com

And the ale battered cod, chips, mushy peas, tartare sauce are £13, which is £2 more expensive and not quite as good as the Duchy Arms’ equivalent:

Ale battered cod, chips, mushy peas, tartare sauce at the White Bear - kenningtonrunoff.com

Nonetheless, we will eat there again and found the service exceptionally friendly and helpful. They have a good selection of ales on tap, and both times we’ve been, it has been very busy in the bar area – great to see after years of emptiness. Well done The White Bear and Young’s brewery.

Tiffany Bar – Korean Bistro and karaoke bar

There are so many interesting, little known establishments in Kennington and we’re still discovering new ones. Did you know the rather unpromising looking Tiffany Bar on the West end of Kennington Lane is a karaoke bar and rather good Korean restaurant? Or at least it was when we scheduled this post, but now it’s under new ownership, with a new name, Jihwaja, although still doing Korean food and karaoke, and it’s opening tomorrow.

Jihwaja shopfront newly installed - kenningtonrunoff.com

Anyway, in case you want to read about what Tiffany was like…

Tiffany Bar Korean Bistro exterior - kenningtonrunoff.com

The very friendly owner is a big fan of the Audrey Hepburn film Breakfast At Tiffany’s, hence the name, and an interior decoration theme that is almost as incongruous as Pop Art Sushi’s.

Tiffany Bar Korean Bistro Breakfast at Tiffany's print - kenningtonrunoff.com

If you ask nicely and they’re not too busy they will seat you in a private karaoke room for dinner, even if you’re not planning to sing.

Tiffany Bar Korean Bistro karaoke and dining room - kenningtonrunoff.com

Naturally we ordered a Korean pale lager called Hite, and a sweet drink (if only we could remember what that was).

Tiffany Bar Korean Bistro exterior drinks inc. Hite beer - kenningtonrunoff.com

The vegetable kimchi was really good and spicy.

Tiffany Bar Korean Bistro vegetable kimchi - kenningtonrunoff.com

The seafood noodle soup was so rich we struggled to finish it.

Tiffany Bar Korean Bistro seafood noodle soup - kenningtonrunoff.com

We mentioned Pop Art Sushi above and there are some similarities with Tiffany Bar – both are in West Kennington, undiscovered, rather odd as concepts, but with really superior food. Give them a try. (It’s too late to try Tiffany Bar – it has closed)

Address: 353 Kennington Lane, London SE11 5QY

The Elephant & Castle pub

The Elephant & Castle pub in North Kennington has been on quite a journey these last 250 years but we’re confident its present incarnation is the best it has been.

The Elephant & Castle pub - exterior - kenningtonrunoff.com

Back in 2015 it had its license revoked after a series of alarming incidents. Then it was occupied by squatters and mooted to become a branch of Foxtons, which would have been the ultimate unwelcome symbol of the scorched earth gentrification of the area. Then it was declared an asset of community value and taken over by Antic Pubs who also run The Old Red Lion, and they’ve done a mighty fine job on it. It’s certainly a symbol of gentrification but a tasteful one that reflects the character of the building and the area. I mean, it has an actual sewage waste pipe exposed beneath the ceiling – how North Kennington is that?

The Elephant & Castle pub - sewage pipe - kenningtonrunoff.com

A lot of love and care has gone into the seventies-inspired interior:

The Elephant & Castle pub - table and decor - kenningtonrunoff.com

They have some good real ales on tap.

The Elephant & Castle pub - interior - kenningtonrunoff.com

The kitchen is now open and the food is a different level to any other pub in the area, somewhat filling the gap left by The Duchy Arms whose menu seems to have gone more lamestream recently.

The Elephant & Castle pub - kitchen - kenningtonrunoff.com

We had a starter of potato, leek and cheddar frittata:

Potato, leek and cheddar frittata at The Elephant & Castle pub - kenningtonrunoff.com

The Sunday menu has all the expected roasts but also plenty of veggie options including this mushroom, cheddar and parsley stuffed aubergine with trimmings including an excellent Yorkshire pudding:

Mushroom, cheddar and parlsey stuffed aubergine, trimmings at the Elephant & Castle pub - kenningtonrunoff.com

And these English vegetables with goats cheese, almonds and rapeseed oil:

English vegetable and goats cheese, almonds and rapeseed oil at The Elephant & Castle Pub - kenningtonrunoff.com

The Wolseley would been proud of this breaded chicken schnitzel with fries and lemon & sage butter:

Breaded chicken schnitzel, fries, lemon & sage butter at the Elephant & Castle pub - kenningtonrunoff.com

The beer garden certainly has atmosphere, although it could be London’s least green and most polluted.

The Elephant & Castle pub - beer yard - kenningtonrunoff.com

See here for more on the history of the pub and the area:

history of the Elephant & Castle pub - kenningtonrunoff.com

And if you’re wondering where this pub is, it’s on what was the North Roundabout, now The Bend. Look out for their rather amusing A-boards:

Voted best pub next to a bend sign at The Elephant & Castle pub - kenningtonrunoff.com

Address: 119 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BN.

Telephone 02074038124

Mercato Metropolitano

Mercato Metropolitano entrance - kenningtonrunoff.com

Move over Giorgio Locatelli – we went to Mercarto Metropolitano in the former Paperworks and Hotel Elephant sites on Newington Causeway and had the best pasta we’ve had outside Italy- this tortelloni stuffed with pumpkin in butter and sage sauce (not sure why we needed a ciabatta with it but still):

Mercato Metropolitano pasta - kenningtonrunoff.com

Mercarto Metropolitano is huge, 45,000 square feet, with two halls full of food stalls, mostly variants on pizza, pasta and sweet stuff, but recently completed stalls include French and British food. The gelato stall is also excellent, with an array of sophisticated flavours, including a black sesame of which we have heard tell from our North Kennington stringer but which always seems to be in production whenever we visit.

Mercato Metropolitano bar - kenningtonrunoff.comMercarto Metropolitano second food hall - kenningtonrunoff.com

Move over Borough Market – there’s also an Italian food market featuring rows and rows of produce that would not otherwise be available in London.

Mercato Metropolitano jars - kenningtonrunoff.com Mercato Metropolitano cheese - kenningtonrunoff.comMercato Metropolitano meats - kenningtonrunoff.comMercato Metropolitano wines - kenningtonrunoff.com

Many of the prices in the market are as eyewatering as the products are mouthwatering. £5 for a 330ml bottle of Italian craft beer for example, or these organic pastas:

Mercato Metropolitano pasta - kenningtonrunoff.com

There are also bars and street food in the outdoor gravelly area where Paperworks used to be:

Mercato Metropolitano bars - kenningtonrunoff.com

There’s a coffee van and juice bar in front of the market (finally somewhere to get a proper vegetable juice). Above the market there is, apparently, a barbershop, boxing gym and shared working space. There’s also an “urban garden” (i.e. flowers planted in crates):

Mercato Metropolitano outside seating - kenningtonrunoff.com

Mercarto Metropolitano originated in Turin. The Evening Standard report that the owner Andrea Rasca has invested £1.2 million in this London venture which is believable based on its scale, but the initial lease is only for a year so get down there and support – we want this to stay!

They’re open Tuesday to Sunday from 11am to 11pm.

Mercato Metropolitano,  42 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6DR.

The Athenian – Greek street food

The Athenian shop front - kenningtonrunoff.com

The Athenian is a popular recent arrival at The Artworks, serving delicious Greek street food – i.e. souvlaki, which are pita bread wraps – and more than making up for the loss of My Big Fat Greek Restaurant (which used to be where Mamuśka! is now).

The Athenian counter - kenningtonrunoff.com

The founders are Efthymios and Neofytos, two Londoners born and raised in Athens and Cyprus. They’re really friendly and the food is great.

The veggie option comes with talagani cheese, which they describe as being like halloumi but with a more refined texture and minty undertone. It did indeed melt in the mouth in a way that halloumi doesn’t.

The Athenian halloumi wrap - kenningtonrunoff.com

The most exciting meat option is wild boar sausage,

The Athenian wild boar sausage wrap - kenningtonrunoff.com.

They also sell Greek confectionery and Loux drinks, which they say are like Fanta but better:

Greek confectionary at The Athenian - kenningtonrunoff.com Loux drinks at The Athenian - kenningtonrunoff.com

Unlike a lot of Artworks food outlets, they’re open every day 11.30am to 10.30pm, and they’re expanding at a rate of knots with five other sites including Vauxhall Street Food Garden.

Address: Unit 16, The Artworks, Elephant Rd, London SE17 1AY

Phone: 07445 876716

The Old Dairy at Vauxhall City Farm

We think we may have identified the most child-friendly corner of Greater Kennington, with the opening of the new extension to Vauxhall City Farm, and its star attraction, The Old Dairy Cafe.

Vauxhall City Farm extension - kenningtonrunoff.com

A slick building with clean, minimal lines, it is at odds with the crafty, homespun aesthetic of the original farm buildings, which started life as a squat, and a neat visual metaphor for the area it sits in. It’s been busy on both occasions that we have visited, but there is plenty of seating both inside and out, with picnic tables around the duck pond for finer days.

The Old Dairy Dining Room - kenningtonrunoff.com

The Old Dairy dresser - kenningtonrunoff.com

They offer superior sandwiches and cakes – including gluten and dairy free options – and simple, homespun food, with a soup, salad, quiche, open sandwich and hot dish of the day in smaller and larger portion sizes, mostly vegetarian. We ordered the white bean “risotto” with asparagus, spinach and onion broth, and understood why quotation marks had been inserted once it arrived without a grain in sight. The leek and feta tart with olives and capers, and sun-dried tomato Spanish omelette were more satisfying and accurately described.

White bean risotto with aspargus, spinach and onion broth at The Old Dairy - kenningtonrunoff.comLeek & feta puff pastry tart with olives and capers at The Old Dairy - kenningtonrunoff.com

The cake stand:

The Old Dairy cake stand - kenningtonrunoff.com.JPG

For their core customer, they also provide a wide variety of Ella’s Kitchen products, a hot kids’ meal of the day (again in smaller and larger portion sizes), as well as a selection of mini sandwiches for smaller hands, and a pile of the iconic Ikea Antelop highchairs stacked in one corner, all in immaculate condition. There is a children’s play area in one corner of the cafe, and when we visited during their ‘Spring Spectacular’ there was a charming and well-attended story and rhyme time with an animal theme, complete with props. Watch out Tea House Theatre, pay attention NCT groups, there’s a new destination in Kennington’s own Nappy Valley.

Back to the revamped Oxymoron at the Royal Oak for food by Marcello

When we first wrote about The Royal Oak on Fitzalan Street, it was Kennington’s mystery pub. Now its mysteries have mostly been revealed, but it remains a magical place, with decor and atmosphere quite unlike any other pub we’ve been to.

Oxymoron at Royal Oak, Fitzalan Street exterior - kenningtonrunoff.com

Marcello is their new Italian chef and since his arrival the pub feels less like a squat and more like the finished article. It’s still highly eccentric, with resident pets and children, and the landlord William temporarily unable to serve because he’s fixing someone’s bike or showing off fossils he has found on the banks of the Thames, but you no longer feel like the flooboards are about to collapse beneath your feet.

Oxymoron at Royal Oak interior - kenningtonrunoff.com.

There’s a lovely beer garden which catches the evening sun:

plants in the garden of Oxymoron at Royal Oak - kenningtonrunoff.com.

If these stacks of animals were at Newport Street Gallery they’d be selling for millions:

Towers of animals at Oxymoron at Royal Oak - kenningtonrunoff.com.

The Dundee Cake is not on the menu sadly, but the wildly diverse clientele did include a large contingent from Dundee, plus some twenty and thirty something hipsters, pillars of the community like the Earl of Bedlam and the queen of the Ragged Canteen, and a few stalwarts who’ve been drinking there for decades.

Oxymoron at the Royal Oak display case - kenningtonrunoff.com

So what is on the menu? They serve food on Fridays, which is burger night with veggie and vegan options, Saturdays, which is fresh pasta night, and Sundays, when we went along. The food has a homemade vibe, with lots of flavour and lots of salt (like the pub and their fliers, come to think of it). They also serve sizeable, slow cooked meat and veggie brunches on weekends from 10am-3pm.

The Oxymoron flier

Starters cost £4. We went for some moist and salty fried courgettes with polenta chips:

Fried courgettes, polenta chips at Oxymoron at Royal Oak - kenningtonrunoff.com.

Mains are £8.45. There were only two options so we had one of each. Chicken breast wrapped in parma ham served with taleggio fondue and braised fennel was creamy and indulgent. And this was a hearty risotto of radicchio & balsamic vinegar, with mature cheddar grated on top:

Risotto - radicchio & balsamic vinegar, with mature cheddar at Oxymoron at Royal Oak - kenningtonrunoff.com.

They have an uninspiring selection of beers on tap including Meantime Pale Ale, but we’ll forgive them as they make a point of serving our favourite Kernel by the bottle.

this is an old photo of the bar, which looks about 10% less chaotic now

this is an old photo of the bar, which looks about 10% less chaotic now

There is so much going on in this pub we almost forgot there was a jazz/blues guitarist playing live. Before the guitarist came on, the music choices included Decades by Joy Division (one of the darkest pieces of music you’ll ever hear, requested by one of the Dundee contingent), and Topknot by Cornershop, which William informed us featured M.I.A. before she was famous, or as he called her in the manner of an old friend, Maya.

As you can probably tell by now Oxymoron is not your average pub, and it might just be our favourite.

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Address: 78 Fitzalan St, London SE11 6QU
Phone: 07515 878976