Both of these institutions are magical, unique and irreplaceable. The area will be much worse off without them.
Both of these institutions are magical, unique and irreplaceable. The area will be much worse off without them.
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.
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:
Downstairs the layout is the same but there’s lots of pale wood and bright red paint:
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):
And for the teetotallers they do Brewdog’s Nanny State:
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):
This was buffalo cauliflower (go easy on the Frank’s hot sauce):
Chicken schnitzel – no complaints here:
They do a good veggie burger with smoked cheddar:
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:
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.
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 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).
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 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:
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:
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:
But this beef shin lasagne more than made up for it – an awesome, mouth watering dish for £14:
Likewise this pappardelle with courgettes and parmesan, a bargain at £10:
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
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.
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. 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. 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: 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: They’re also rightly proud of Mahrez’ Greek Salad: 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
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:
Less exotic but even tastier were these bavette skewers, with smoked aubergine and green tahini:
This roasted freekeh with caramelised leeks and pine nuts was decent if rather expensive at £9.50:
This was a salad of shaved roots salad, feta, toasted almonds:
Louie Louie has already received a rave review from Kennington’s leading restarant reviewer Jay Rayner. We agree with Jay – this place is great.
It has been all change on the Kennington lunch scene recently.
The Hangout is a new cafe next to Papa John’s. The interior is lovely and the exterior will come into its own once the Northern Line Extension works at Kennington Green are finished. The chef and the proprietor were arguing throughout our visit, perhaps about our burnt toast and uninspired vegetarian brunch. We’ll give it another try once they’ve had a chance to get over their teething problems.
Vergies is now Cafe 303 but otherwise seems unchanged. A nice, light cafe, good for unusual sandwiches.
The only down side is the feeling that you’re eating your lunch in someone else’s work canteen.
Little Lisbon is a greasy spoon with added Portugese options like octopus salad, and very friendly service.
Louie Louie is a very exciting addition to the Walworth Road – more of that soon.
All this means that Sally White hasn’t been quite as busy as it used to be since reopening, but the advantage of that is you can often get a seat, and the brownies remain flawless as ever.
Firecracker, at the former site of Thai Ming on Windmill Row, has been open as a takeaway business for months now, and doing a roaring trade through every delivery service you could think of, which might explain why they’ve been relaxed about opening the restaurant to eat-in customers. But it finally has opened, albeit with temporary chairs.
Their tagline is Modern Oriental Dining and their extensive menu features Thai and Chinese favourites, including Dim Sum.
This Pad Thai was great comfort food:
Their butternut squash red curry wasn’t quite as successful, and isn’t suitable for strict vegetarian as it contains shrimp paste. Also we’d like to see them add coconut rice to the menu.
For vegetarians we recommend the veggie crispy duck (actually deep fried soy skin) and pancakes. We also had some tasty chicken and spinach gyoza, and a Tsing Tao beer.
The staff were very friendly despite the constant rush to get takeaway orders out of the door, and we’ll be heading back before long – we prefer the food to Oaka.
Address: 1-5 Windmill Row, London SE11 5DW.
Sadly Counter closed down in June 2017. Let’s hope they reopen.
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. Address: 50 South Lambeth Place, London SW8 1SP opening hours:
Monday to Thursday 7am-12:30am
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).
The decor is every bit as stylish as their other two establishments, with vintage coffee machines scattered around the place.
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.
They bake sourdough bread and roast coffee on site, all organic:
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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.