Category Archives: cafes and restaurants

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

Burger Craft Diner at The Steam Engine

You could live in Kennington for many years and not know where The Steam Engine pub is (we know because one of us did) – Cosser Street, behind the Days Inn Hotel, is not the kind of location that gets much passing trade. It was only thanks to a tweet from @Faye_W that we discovered the pub had been refurbished and Burger Craft were now providing the food.

The Steam Engine exterior - kenningtonrunoff.com

This is their Cheesy One burger for the reasonable price of £8, living up to its description, and to Burger Craft’s promise to serve the juiciest burgers around. For us, this was better than Dirty Burger and therefore the best burger in Kennington.

Cheeseburger at the Steam Engine - kenningtonrunoff.com

One quibble – the chips were too salty. Why do restaurants do that? If we wanted loads of salt on our chips we could add it ourselves.

We also tried to order the Pleasured by Veg burger but they were out of caramelised garden vegetable patties, so we had to settle for a very tasty portion of mac & cheese.

This is the kitchen:

kitchen at The Steam Engine - kenningtonrunoff.com

The renovation is another one on the theme of “looking like someone’s living room”:

The Steam Engine living room - kenningtonrunoff.com

There was a good selection of real ales, both on tap and in bottles, a cheap wine list, and a warm cider option:

Side of the bar at The Steam Engine - kenningtonrunoff.com

They also have a beer garden if that’s not stretching the meaning of “garden” too far:

The Steam Engine beer garden - kenningtonrunoff.com

Burger Craft is open every day from midday to 10pm, and the pub stays open till midnight every night, or 1am on Fridays and Saturdays. They also have a hostel on site.

Address: 41-42 Cosser St, London SE1 7BU

Sugar Pot – NEW CAFE ALERT!

Kennington Park Parade is taking over from the stuttering Windmill Row to become Kennington’s latest hot spot for shopping. First QueArts opened up there, and now, in the former premises of Peter’s Shoe Design Studio, there’s Sugar Pot, a brand new, rather lovely cafe that’s already doing great business, especially when the sun comes out:

Sugar Pot exterior - kenningtonrunoff.com

Sugar Pot is run by a local family and many of the clientèle seem to be their friends – or perhaps they’re just good at befriending their customers. Either way, everyone is very friendly, staff and customers.

Counter at The Sugar Pot - kenningtonrunoff.com

n.b. If you weren’t aware, San Pellegrino is very salty.

Their menu is getting steadily longer. So far it doesn’t include fresh juices or smoothies but watch this space. The bread is by… who else but the wonderful Kennington Baker.

Sugar Pot menu - kenningtonrunoff.com

We had the banana bread (they’re right, it is lovely warmed with butter), and a fresh mint tea served in vintage crockery. The daffodils came with the table:

Daffodils, vintage crockery and warm toasted banana bread - kenningtonrunoff.com

So far they’re not open on Sundays but we hope that will change in the future – it’s the kind of place we’d like to visit on a Sunday.

Address: 248 Kennington Park Road, London SE11 4DA

If you’re thinking of opening a shop in Kennington, it’s not too late to jump on the Kennington Park Parade bandwagon – these premises are to let a few doors down from The Sugar Pot:

premises to rent near Sugar Pot - kenningtonrunoff.com

Pharmacy 2 with Ronnie O’Sullivan

We weren’t overly excited when we heard the restaurant at Newport Street Gallery was going to be Pharmacy 2. Damien Hirst is an artist whose reputation is built on great ideas, so why recycle one from the nineties? (The original Pharmacy opened in Notting Hill in 1998, closing in 2003.)

Medicine cabinets at Pharmacy 2 - kenningtonrunoff.com

Then we heard the food would be by Mark Hix, longstanding friend of the (not young anymore) Young British Artists. We are fans of Mark’s cooking but it tends to be rather meaty, and the two times we went to Hixter Bankside it was almost as quiet as Gordon Ramsey’s place round the corner on Great Suffolk Street.

The bar at Pharmacy 2 - kenningtonrunoff.com

Also, our solicitation came to naught – we did not receive an invite to Pharmacy 2’s opening. But to make it up to us, they arranged for the most talented and compelling sportsman of his generation, Ronnie O’Sullivan, to be dining there with Damien Hirst during our first visit (Ronnie had the steak).

Ronnie O'Sullivan and Damien Hirst at Pharmacy 2 - kenningtonrunoff.com

From the moment we entered and saw Ronnie, we had a great time. The decor may not be a new idea, but it’s fun to look at, and at least it’s not a Polpo rip-off. There are no other restaurants remotely like this in the area, and it seems to be doing well, being close to capacity for both our visits.

As for the food, most of it was great. Struggling to find a vegetarian main course, one of us had two starters instead, although we’ve since seen there is a vegetarian menu on their website (perhaps you have to ask for it). Anyway, these shaved winter squash with trevisano and Graceburn cheese cost £7.50 and went down very well:

Shaved winter squash with trevisano and Graceburn cheese at Pharmacy 2 - kenningtonrunoff.com

As did these heritage beets with walnuts and chickweed, also £7.50:

heritage beets with walnuts and chickweed at Pharmacy 2 - kenningtonrunoff.com

Your other correspondent went for a flawless brunch option of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs for £9.95 (they serve brunch from 10am to 6pm every day except Monday when they’re closed):

Scrambled eggs and smoked salmon at Pharmacy 2 - kenningtonrunoff.com

On our second visit we had some tasty waffles with Yorkshire rhubarb for £7.95, but the brunch portion sizes are not large – more of a mid morning snack than a full meal.

The desserts are also small but cost just £4 so no complaints there. This pineapple upside-down cake was deliciously moist and nostalgic. So nostalgic that we went right back to the days when you just started eating instead of taking a photo first:

Pineapple upside down cake at Pharmacy 2 - kenningtonrunoff.com

The only disappointment was a side of creamed spinach, which tasted like a pie filling without the pie, and was far too salty.

Nonetheless we can wholeheartedly recommend Pharmacy 2 for brunch, lunch, dinner or drinks. It’s great fun.

They’re open Tuesday–Saturday 10am–midnight, and Sundays 10am-6pm.

Address: Newport Street, London SE11 6AJ.

Leños & Carbón Colombian tapas restaurant and bar

Leños & Carbón is a Colombian tapas restaurant and bar, serving “Latin international cuisine”. It recently relocated from north of New Kent Road to Elephant Road, right next to the Elephant & Castle train station entrance, and it could now claim to be the best Latin restaurant in London’s Latin Quarter.

It’s large and generally busy, with a great atmosphere, especially on the weekends (we last went on a Thursday night and were rather surprised to be asked to leave at 10pm – seemingly the Latin American reputation for late dining doesn’t apply on weekdays):

Lenos & Carbon from the entrance - kenningtonrunoff.com

This is the best part of the restaurant, underneath the railway arch, not least because of the dramatic noise when a train goes overhead:

Lenos & Carbon high ceilinged room - kenningtonrunoff.com

There’s also a large terrace that is partially outside. You may have noticed it on your left if you enter the train station through the shopping centre:

Lenos & Carbon outside area - kenningtonrunoff.com

On to the food, not always our favourite aspect of Latin restaurants, but some of it is actually very good at Leños & Carbón, like this starter on the left of patacón con queso – deliciously ripe deep fried green plantain served with Colombian country cheese:

Patacón con queso - deep fried green plantain served with Colombian country cheese at Lenos & Carbon - kenningtonrunoff.com

This cazuela de pescado (fish soup) was also good, if very rich:

Cazuela de pescado (fish soup) at Lenos & Carbon - kenningtonrunoff.com

This main course was typically Colombian (we know because we went along with an actual Colombian person), but not to the taste of these Londoners – Tilapia Frita – red fried tilapia fish served with rice, deep fried green plantain, and salad. When they say “fried”, they don’t mean gently pan fried, they mean deep fried to a rock-like consistency:

Tilapia Frita - red fried tilapia served with rice, deep fried green plantain, and salad at Lenos & Carbon - kenningtonrunoff.com

As for the drinks, if you ask nicely (preferably in Spanish), they might serve you your Club Colombia beer michelada-style, with lime, salt and tabasco smeared around the rim of the glass:

Club Colombia beer at Lenos & Carbon - kenningtonrunoff.com

Leños & Carbón is exactly the kind of place that makes the shopping centre so vibrant. Whatever happens in the future, let’s make sure places like this live on.

Address: 113 Elephant Road, London SE17 1LB.