Category Archives: Central Kennington

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.

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

Sidsel Meineche Hansen: SECOND SEX WAR at Gasworks

We rather like visiting Gasworks since their refurb. It’s a lovely building, open on the weekend which suits us, and we’re generally the only visitors.

The current exhibition won’t be to everyone’s taste, and is definitely not suitable for children. SECOND SEX WAR is a solo exhibition by London-based artist Sidsel Meineche Hansen, which “explores the commodity status of 3D bodies in X-rated digital image production, while also reflecting on the artist’s working conditions and relationships”.

The exhibition provides a chance to try an Occulus virtual reality headset, showing a CGI animation called DICKGIRL 3D, or you can watch it on a flat screen TV hung from a “DIY BDSM” structure:

DICKGIRL 3D at Gasworks - kenningtonrunoff.com

There’s also a CGI animation called No Right Way 2 Cum, a feminist ‘cum shot’ video, which features EVA v3.0, a stock 3D model made for computer games and adult entertainment. This was made in response to the British Board of Film Classification’s recent ban on female ejaculation in UK-produced pornography. We don’t want an X certificate on this blog, so here’s a huge clay relief instead, called Cultural Capital Cooperative Object:

Cultural Capital Cooperative Object at Gasworks - kenningtonrunoff.com

We think these laser cut drawing are called iSlave (non-dualistic) and Wannabe Dickgirl:

iSlave (non-dualistic) and Wannabe Dickgirl - kenningtonrunoff.com

During our visit there was something going on in another room at Gasworks marked “participatory” or some such, but we were too scared to enter.

SECOND SEX WAR was commissioned by Gasworks in partnership with Trondheim’s kunstmuseum, which seems appropriate. It runs until May 29th at Gasworks, 155 Vauxhall Street, London SE11 5RH.

Opening times: Wed–Sun 12–6pm or by appointment.

Kennington Tandoori weekend breakfast & brunch

The Kennington brunch revolution continues! As of the weekend just gone, Kennington’s finest Indian restaurant Kennington Tandoori is serving breakfast and brunch from 9am to 4pm every Saturday and Sunday.

Kennington Tandoori breakfast & brunch flier

Naturally we were there on the inaugural day to see where the KT ranks in the league of Kennington brunches, and the answer could be straight in at number one. If we compare it to our previous favourite The Tommyfield, the food is as good – maybe better – and the menu is longer and more adventurous. It’s a “white linen” brunch which feels very civilised, and the room smells nicer than the Tommyfield.

KT offer three items under “fruits, grains and seeds” – granola with yoghurt, passion fruit coulis, plum compote and honey for £7.95, Madagascan vanilla porridge with mixed berries and a side of honey, also for £7.95, and these moist, flawless blueberry pancakes with caramelised bananas and maple syrup for £8.95:

Kennington Tandoori homemade blueberry pancake with caramelised bananas, blueberry, maple syrup - kenningtonrunoff.com

The Indian influence shows through more in the mains, which range in price from a paneer salad for £7.95, up to black truffle folded eggs with wild mushrooms on sour dough for £14.95. More unusual options include The KT Octopus Temptation (we weren’t tempted) and Lamb Shank Nihari (we were very tempted but managed to resist for now). They also offer Eggs Florentine and Royale, a beefburger, and this avocado and sourdough toast with poached egg, feta cheese and KT tomato salsa for £10.95:

Kennington Tandoori avocado and sourdough toast with poached egg, feta cheese and KT tomato salsa - kenningtonunoff.com

Full menu here, which says “We’ve loads of ideas for future brunches. Why not tell us yours?” via their Facebook or Twitter. As KT are renowned for their love of feedback, there is just one thing we’d change – they should serve what is surely the ultimate Indian breakfast drink – mango lassi.

Kennington Tandoori is at 313 Kennington Rd, London SE11 4QE.

Kennington Christmas shopping guide

Having never understood the excitement of buying Christmas presents in July, we launch our Christmas gift guide today, with the luxury of at least four shopping days left to purchase thoughtful local items for your nearest and dearest.

Edible gifts

Sally White Christmas baskets - kenningtonrunoff.com

Sally White is bursting at the seams with packages of Christmas foodstuffs,  trussed up with ribbon and sprigs of tasteful non-sparkly tinsel. From a whole box filled with their Kennington-famous brownies (a gift to oneself if ever we did see one), to bags of excellent cinnamon stars (which we can confirm are much tastier than the Konditor & Cook version, having tasted both). They are also doing a range of seasonal hand-made chocolates in a squirrel theme, praline Santas, stollen, mince pies, Christmas pudding and Christmas cake, and the ever-wonderful three nut crackers. We ate the seasonal pralines before gifting them when they first appeared, so are perhaps consider buying two lots. They also have healthily sized hampers with much of the above contained within.

Italo Deli would make another good one-stop shop for a hamper – Kernel ales, Rococo chocolates, and lots of fine jams, chutneys, meats and cheeses, plus good chat while you peruse.

Our most frequently visited Kennington shop,  the Super Store at 161 Kennington Lane, have really gone to town with the Christmas window display this year (below). In addition to the biggest box of Guylian we have ever seen they also stock a wide variety of Lindt.

Prime Super Store Christmas window display - kenningtonrunoff.com

What better gift than the gift of food to someone who actually needs it? Donations can be made at the Vauxhall Foodbank, 105 Tyers Street, Vauxhall, SE11 5HS any time during office hours, Mon-Fri 9.30-5pm (Wickham Street Entrance). If you are bringing a larger donation (more than a couple of shopping bags), or if you need help unloading a donation, call them on 07586 258991 or email so that they can ensure they have someone who can help you. If you would prefer to donate money you can do that online here. Waterloo Foodbank is at 1 Kennington Road, London SE1 7QP and on 020 7921 4205.

Oddbins are open until 7pm Christmas Eve, stock a good selection of craft ales, and occasionally local brewer Orbit, and Havana cigars.

Oval Farmers’ Market are going all out for Christmas. They have the usual market on Saturday 19th from 10 to 3, and a panto in St. Mark’s Church alongside the market on the 19th as well. Tickets include a Christmas party after the panto with Christmas elves, story telling, games, balloon modelling and much, much more. Book your places as soon as possible at panto@weareccfm.com. Children £4 each, parents go free. Then a special Christmas market from 2pm – 7pm on the 22nd. Expect your favourite Oval Farmers’ Market stallholders plus live music from The Peas and Dai & The Ramblers, mulled wine & cider, handmade crafts for the perfect gift, and festive treats.

Local biscuit couturiers the Biscuiteers, who have their workshop on Stannary Street marked with a fetching illustration of their dog mascot, are offering free delivery if you order from them by midnight tonight (enter code CHRISTMASJUMPER). We are holding out for a hand-iced Kennington Runoff logo.

The gift of relaxation

Yogabelle, who offers yoga and massage in the uplifting surroundings of the Siobhan Davies Studios, will provide gift vouchers so that you can give someone the gift of wellbeing. Her massages and classes both come highly recommended.

Homewares, flowers, art and other stuff

The Boule-In are open until the 23rd, as are Brocket Gallery.

Shalimar will be open this Saturday as a one-off, to cater for all the people flooding there following our recent blog post.

The Damien Hirst shop Other Criteria, adjacent to the Newport Street Gallery, for Harland Miller beach towels, butterfly plates, and a box of Pharmacy branded matchbooks for £75.

Brunswick House for a pair of 19th century French cast iron urns, or a substantial Scottish pond yacht. Open until 2pm Christmas Eve.

Vanilla Black is open until this Sunday, with new and used books for sale.

Imperial War Museum has at least three different shops under its newly redeveloped Foster & Partners roof. If you’ve never been, the shops offer surprisingly high end products, including some nice jewellery outside the Lee Miller exhibition.

Jamjar Flowers, Tomorrow’s People or Windmill Flowers for bunches of flowers that will please everyone. Windmill Flowers also have Charbonnel et Walker chocolates, alpaca scarves, succulents in coconut shells, and are open until 2pm Christmas Eve.

 

Shalimar (formerly Soma Books)

Long before Vanilla Black and Finishing Touch, and decades before even Kennington Bookshop (RIP), Kennington already had a bookshop – Shalimar, formerly Soma Books:

Shalimar shop front - kenningtonrunoff.com

They’ve been at 38 Kennington Lane, SE11 4LS for around 30 years, and the proprietor appears to have been growing his beard for that long. He remembers the days when Jamyang Buddhist Centre was a courthouse, and Shalimar was part of a cluster of shops including a greengrocer – but apart from that, he says the area hasn’t changed that much.

mobile, cushions and books at Shalimar - kenningtonrunoff.com

They started out selling children’s books, which they still do, but they have diversified into African, South Asian and Caribbean books on a variety of subjects including spirituality, many of which you won’t find anywhere else in the UK.

Nowadays their core business is distributing Indian books to UK shops, which probably explains why Shalimar isn’t open on weekends (on weekdays, you have to ring a bell then wait some time to gain entrance).

pots and books at Shalimar - kenningtonrunoff.com

They also sell folk craft and art from India and beyond, and a selection of greetings cards.

toys at Shalimar - kenningtonrunoff.com

It’s a real gem packed with intriguing items, and not quite like any other shop we’ve been to. Let’s hope it stays open for another few decades.

coasters and books at Shalimar - kenningtonrunoff.com

Finishing Touch bookshop and barber shop

Finishing Touch exterior - kenningtonrunoff.com

The day before the Kennington Bookshop was reborn as Vanilla Black Coffee and Books, another bookshop also opened just up the road. Finishing Touch, which flung wide its doors to the public on 1st November with a Day of the Dead celebration, is a bookshop, gallery and project space based in an old barbershop on Kennington Lane.

Finishing Touch launch event - kenningtonrunoff.com

the opening event at Finishing Touch

It will remain until February 2016, at which point, presumably, the person who bought the property will start converting it into something less exciting. The barbershop which preceded it operated at the extreme end of ‘by appointment only’ (we never saw a single client in there for well over five years), but this new incarnation is playing host to the very welcoming Open Barbers, hairdressing for all genders and sexualities.

Finishing Touch hairdressing chair - kenningtonrunoff.com

Finishing Touch will programme a series of events, screenings, exhibitions and performances, inviting artists to work with them in the spirit of the ‘salon’.

Finishing Touch publications on display - kenningtonrunoff.com

Run by the team behind Luminous Books, it supplies a well-curated selection of art and theory books and is perfect for a highbrow gift or two.

Finishing Touch books - kenningtonrunoff.com

They even sell tasteful marbled paper to wrap it all in. Oh, and tote bags of course.

Finishing Touch tote bags and wrapping paper - kenningtonrunoff.com

As a pop-up opening hours may change from week to week. You are advised to check their Facebook page for up to date opening times.

Address: 147 Kennington Lane, London SE11 4HQ

hello@finishingtouchshop.org.uk

openbarbers@gmail.com (Greygory – 07712090553 Felix – 07920832320)

Finishing Touch The Thing - kenningtonrunoff.com

Vanilla Black Coffee & Books

When Kennington Bookshop closed down, we campaigned for Daunt Books to take over the site, at 306-308 Kennington Road, SE11 4LD. We even polled the people of Kennington and they unanimously supported this (except for four contrarians who we suspect are estate agents from Clapham). Daunt Books, on the other hand, completely ignored us.

But no matter, because today something better opened on the site – Vanilla Black Coffee & Books (no relation to Vanilla Black the vegetarian restaurant near Chancery Lane).

Vanilla Black counter - kenningtonrunoff.om

As well as Allpress coffee and some swanky looking teas, they serve a variety of cookies, croissants, cakes and muffins including some dairy and gluten free options, and some delicious Portugese-style blueberry custard tarts.

Their breakfast options range from £3.50 to £4.20 and include rolls, croissants, porridge, yoghurts, sourdough toasts, and Scottish smoked salmon and cream cheese.

We went for lunch and, in customary Kennington Runoff style, started eating before we remembered to photograph our food, which was a hearty portion of spinach and feta filo pastry quiche with a mixture of salads for £8 (veggies beware – one of the salads contained bacon).

Vanilla Black spinach and feta quiche and salads - kenningtonrunoff.om

They also do a beetroot quiche which is really good. We’re convinced it contains plums although they don’t mention that. And they serve toasted sandwiches and a soup of the day, plus some delicious freshly blended juices.

We said the downstairs would be a surprise – and the surprise is that it’s decorated like someone’s living room, probably in Chiswick, complete with a roaring gas fire.

Vanilla Black downstairs - kenningtonrunoff.om

It’s the kind of place you could spend hours, and there’s now a toilet downstairs to help with that (also decorated like someone’s house).

As for the books, they have a small selection of new ones, including some for children, but with less of a literary emphasis than Kennington Bookshop (Game of Thrones, Dan Brown, Dawn French….):

Vanilla Black new books - kenningtonrunoff.om

They have a much bigger second hand section:

Vanilla Black second hand books - kenningtonrunoff.om

The second hand section continues downstairs where there are sections on cookery, art and photography.

You can order books from them and if you’re lucky they will get them the next day. email info@vbkennington.co.uk

They sell some very nice wrapping paper. If they could add tasteful greetings cards then we could start doing what we did with Kennington Bookshop and buying all our gifts from there (December 2015 edit – they are now selling Christmas cards). But this is already better than Kennington Bookshop, who never served blueberry custard tarts, and better than we’d dared hope.

Their opening hours as of November 2015 are Tuesday to Friday 8am to 6pm, Saturday 9am to 5pm, and Sunday 10am to 4pm (closed on Mondays).

The Top Ten Best Lunch Spots in Kennington – no. 1 – Cafe at Jamyang

The Courtyard Cafe at Jamyang Buddhist Centre - kenningtonrunoff.com

Positives: Any of our top six could lay claim to serving the best lunch in Kennington (in an establishment that doesn’t normally open in the evenings), but what edged it for Cafe at Jamyang is the setting. Where else can you have a delicious vegetarian quiche in a peaceful, green courtyard beneath a giant gold statue of the Pairnirvana Buddha?

Golden Buddha in the courtyard of Jamyang Buddhist Centre - kenningtonrunoff.com

Negatives: It’s better when the weather is good and you can sit in that courtyard. Sometimes they run out of quiche. Try not to think about the fact that the Buddha may have died of food poisoning (not from a vegetarian quiche though). They’re only open on weekdays.

What, no quiche?

What, no quiche?

Hygiene rating: 5 out of 5

The counter at Jamyang Buddhist Centre Cafe - kenningtonrunoff.com

Address: The Old Courthouse, 43 Renfrew Road, London SE11 4NA

Jamyang Buddhist Centre - kenningtonrunoff.com

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