Category Archives: pubs and bars

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

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

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.

Orbit Beers brewery

Kennington is well known for its gin distillery but did you know we also have a small but increasingly popular brewery? Orbit Beers was founded in 2014 under a railway arch in East Kennington with the slogan of Hi-Fidelity Brewing (and we can now answer Nick Hornby’s question about what the main character of his book High Fidelity would be doing following the closure of his record shop – he’d have started a craft brewery).

Orbit open their doors to the public on the third Saturday of each month in winter, so that means this coming Saturday. We went along last month to have a look.

Orbit Brewery beer sign - kenningtonrunoff.com

If you went to the beer hall at Kernel Brewery when they used to serve beer on  tap on a Saturday then, well, this is a little smaller scale, with just one table.

Orbit Brewery exterior - kenningtonrunoff.com

Orbit have outgrown the space, hence all the boxes below, and they’re hoping to expand into the arch next door.

Orbit Brewery interior - kenningtonrunoff.com

When we visited, they weren’t serving anything on tap, but were offering their full range of bottled beers at £2.50 each or less if you buy bulk.

Orbit Brewery counter - kenningtonrunoff.com

We took two bottles home to taste. The Orbit Peel session blonde ale looks like this and has a bit more of a real ale edge to it than a Hoegaarden or Blue Moon:

Orbit Beers Peel session blonde ale - kenningtonrunoff.com

Orbit’s most unusual beer is probably their Altbier, a style popular in Düsseldorf that tastes somewhere between and an ale and a lager:

Orbit Beers Neu Altbier - kenningtonrunoff.com

If you head down to the brewery on Saturday and the table is taken, you can always head around the corner to The Beehive for a pint of Doom Bar.

Alternatively, several Orbit Beers are available from Oddbins on Kennington Road, and if you want to try it on tap, one of their beers is a permanent fixture at the Old Red Lion.

Address: Railway Arches 225 & 228, Fielding Street, London, SE17 3HD.

The Beehive

Once upon a time, we lived in East Kennington, and The Beehive was our local. We recently went back for the first time in years and it was every bit as special as we remembered it.

The Beehive exterior - kenningtonrunoff.com

Why so long in between visits? It’s the kind of place you have to seek out, being tucked away down a side street, but plenty of people do seek it out, and let’s be honest, there isn’t too much competition in terms of decent pubs in in East or North Kennington.

The atmosphere is calm but not sedate – it’s the perfect pub for a Saturday afternoon pint.

The Beehive bar - kenningtonrunoff.com.JPG

They have a wide selection of single malt whiskies, but they could do better on the real ale front, especially as the Orbit Brewery is just yards away. They also serve a huge selection of burgers and some other pub classics, although we can’t comment on the quality of the food right now as we last tried it around the turn of the millennium. Food served Wed/Thu/Fri 17:30-22:00, Sat 13:00-21:00 and Sun 12:00-20:00.

The interior is tastefully decorated, including this image of the now-demolished Heygate Estate, or is it Aylesbury? How quickly we forget!

The Beehive local art - kenningtonrunoff.com.JPG

There’s a beer garden in a classic East Kennington setting:

The Beehive beer garden - kenningtonrunoff.com.JPG

Like a lot of East Kennington, The Beehive has a rich history – read more about it on their website. Last year the Walworth Society were involved in a successful bid to have it declared an asset of community value, and rightly so.

Address: 60 Carter St, London SE17 3EW (not to be confused with the Beehive at the junction of Durham Street and Harleyford Road).

Bar 48 wine bar and Eritrean restaurant

A wine bar seems quite a weird concept in 2015, let alone a wine bar that’s also an art gallery and music venue, serving Eritrean “tapas”, next door to what is probably London’s best Eritrean restaurant, Adulis.

Bar 48 exterior - kenningtonrunoff.com

We thought Bar 48 must be a new opening from Adulis but it turns out it’s neither linked to Adulis nor new – it has been going for years and has been in its present incarnation for around two years – we just hadn’t noticed it till recently. It’s also rather dark so excuse the photography.

Bar 48 interior - kenningtonrunoff.com

Someone on TripAdvisor says “You know how people say that Londoners are unfriendly bastards who never make conversation? Well not here! I don’t know how they do it, but its the kind of place where strangers were striking up conversations with one another all night.” Indeed this was our experience – both the barman and the table next door struck up conversation with us.

And there’s a lot to talk about. They have the kind of events programme that is bound to see Jeremy Corbyn visit sooner or later (unless he heads to i’klectik instead). Plus a grand piano:

Bar 48 grand piano - kenningtonrunoff.com

The owner Fiyori Belay has Eritrean roots and runs the kitchen, while the (bar)man behind the art gallery concept is Joshua Vaughan, who also teaches at City & Guilds. When we visited the art had rather a Dystopian, William Gibson-ish feel.

sculpture at Bar 48 - kenningtonrunoff.com

should have chained the wheels to the bike

art at Bar 48 - kenningtonrunoff.com

If you’re only interested in the food, you should probably go to Adulis instead, which offers pretty much the same dishes (meat and vegetable platters served on injera), at least as well prepared, and many others besides. Bar 48’s wine list is also quite short for a wine bar, but reasonably priced. They do serve an Ethiopian lager, St George Beer (he’s the patron saint of Ethiopia as well as England), which seems more exotic than the Kenyan one they have next door, as well as Brixton beers (should have gone for Kernel, or failing that, Kennington’s own Orbit).

St George Beer at Bar 48 - kenningtonrunoff.com

But really, you should go for the welcoming atmosphere, and because you will never have been anywhere quite like it. Tonight could be the night – they’re open and have a duo playing covers and originals, then, as far as we can ascertain from their reservations tool, they’re not open again till February 1st.

Address: 48 Brixton Road, London SW9 6BT

The Artworks food courtyard

The Artworks box park has switched its focus to food outlets – a great move in an area that was previously lacking in lunch options, despite having plenty of office workers. Elephant Shack is no more, but our favourites Marcel & Sons have moved next door into Elephant Shack’s old premises, and are joined by a number of newish arrivals.

This week is due to be another mild one so a good time to visit while it’s still warm enough to eat outside at lunchtime.

The Artworks food court - kenningtonrunoff.com

We had the £5 half pizza lunch deal at Elephantastic Pizza which was as good as it looks:

Elephantastic Pizza lunch deal - kenningtonrunoff.com

Elephantastic Pizza - kenningtonrunoff.com

Unit 4 Kitchen is from the people behind the Balham Kitchen and they specialise in serving classic British dishes in chapattis. Unlike some of their neighbours, they’re open on Saturdays and Sundays until after lunch:

Unit 4 Kitchen - kenningtonrunoff.com

We’re trying to be vegetarian, else we would have had a biodynamic, organic burger in a toasted brioche bun from Black Acorn, who stay open for dinner on Friday nights:

Black Acorn - kenningtonrunoff.com

We’ve heard great things about Tasty Jerk, the Caribbean take away. Likewise Love Fresh Vietnamese. And we’ve had an evening meal at The Frenchie Bistro which was great – more on that soon.

As well as the food options, there’s The Six Yard Box – a sports bar for people who wouldn’t be seen dead in sports bars. They sell local craft beers including our beloved Kernel. As you can see, it gets very busy when there’s a game on:

crowd at the Six Yard Box - kenningtonrunoff.com

Long Wave Bar & Cafe is the place to hang out and work on your laptop, plus they’re licensed to sell alcohol, unlike many of the food outlets:

Long Wave Bar & Cafe - kenningtonrunoff.com Long Wave bar - kenningtonrunoff.com

One of the juicers at Spark juice bar has won an award for his juicing but he needs to spend more time and training the others – we’ve been twice when they haven’t been able to make a juice to order because they don’t know how:

Spark juice bar - kenningtonrunoff.com