Category Archives: pubs and bars

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

Three Stags Pizzeria

Since our last visit to The Three Stags, they have converted their upstairs room into an open kitchen dining room with wood fired pizza oven:

Wood fired pizza oven at The Three Stags - kenningtonrunoff.com

The pizza was delicious – the best we’ve had in Kennington. They only do one size – twelve inches – and they make their own dough which is proved for two days “resulting in the most delicious light easy to digest base”. We had buffalo mozzarella and tomato which tasted wonderfully fresh although not cheap at £14.50:

Buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomato pizza at The Three Stags - kenningtonrunoff.com

There’s table service and the staff were particularly friendly and helpful. They’ve gone to a bit of trouble with the decor as well, with London-themed wallpaper by Timorous Beasties:

decor at The Three Stags - kenningtonrunoff.com

As befits a pub so close to the Imperial War Museum, they have war memorabilia around their stairs:

Careless Talk Costs Lives sign at The Three Stags - kenningtonrunoff.com

They serve food Monday to Friday 12- 4 and 6 -10, Saturday 12-5 and 6 – 10, Sunday 12-4 and 6-9 and they’re open till midnight except on Sundays (11pm). It’s a good summer pub thanks to all their outside seating, big windows upstairs and the adjacent Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park.

Here’s our original piece about The Three Stags if you’d like to learn more about their environmental credentials, their beekeeping or their Charlie Chaplin links.

The Three Stags - kenningtonrunoff.com

The Top Ten Best Restaurants in Kennington – no. 2 – The Duchy Arms

Positives: Some of the best pub food around, cooked by Prince Charles’s former chef. Great, hand cut chips. Get in quick before the hordes discover it.

Negatives: If you’re looking for a light bite, you’ve come to the wrong place. This is their fish pie for two:

Duchy Arms fish pie for two, with handcut chips and spinach - kenningtonrunoff.com

Hygiene rating: TBC

Address: 63 Sancroft Street, London SE11 5UG

Duchy Arms - kenningtonrunoff.com

Come back next Sunday to find out the number 1.

Oxymoron at The Royal Oak, Fitzalan Street – Kennington’s mystery pub

If you Google the Royal Oak Kennington, this pub at the West Kennington end of Kennington Lane will come up top. But there is another Royal Oak, at 78 Fitzalan Street. An earlier Kennington blog wrote about it here. Google suggests this is now a jewellery manufacture and repair business.

Then we saw this intriguing poster:

Royal Oak vintage sale poster - kenningtonrunoff.com

So we went along to what we thought might be a vintage sale in a derelict pub, perhaps squatted. We couldn’t quite believe our eyes.

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

In many ways it is a derelict pub – you feel the old wooden floorboards might collapse beneath your feet – but imagine a derelict pub if Tim Burton’s set designer had got hold of it:

Oxymoron at Royal Oak bar during vintage sale - kenningtonrunoff.com

We think we spotted TV’s Mark Hill, who we suspect has a lot to do with the look of Counter. He was trying to purchase various items, only to be told by the female proprietor “Oh no, my husband will never sell that.”

Oxymoron at Royal Oak vintage sale - kenningtonrunoff.com

We got talking to a regular, who informed us the Royal Oak is still a pub, and they had recently started serving food. We asked what kind of food and her description sounded like small plates.

We’ve also managed to track down a Facebook page for Oxymoron at the Royal Oak. From this we have learnt that they opened on Feb 27th, were planning to serve Kernel, and they were serving food on April 13th, They even have a 5 star hygiene rating, reassuringly showing that food standards officers don’t care about creaky floorboards.

If our curiosity needed piquing any further, there were these two reviews:

“Doubt you will find a place like this anywhere in London, ask if the silver fox is there to cook you supper and if you turn up on the right night you may get the chance to see Henry and the Hooray’s play. #hiddengem” – Freddie Scott

“One of the very few undiscovered gems in London. Amazing interior decor like nowhere else. The foods pretty cracking too. Head there, right now!” – Adam Knight

It sounds like the pub we have been waiting for all our lives.

Taking Adam’s advice, we went back to the Royal Oak on a Saturday afternoon. There were about seven people there, who looked like they’d been drinking there for decades. We asked the lady behind the bar if they serve food and she recommended trying The Ship.

Dear Oxymoron at the Royal Oak, please get in touch and tell us when you are serving food and Kernel so we can tell Kennington!

Update, November 2015: They are now serving food regularly on Friday, Saturdays and Sundays. More info from Facebook or Twitter.

Counter Brasserie

Sadly Counter closed down in June 2017. Let’s hope they reopen.

Counter is the biggest, most exciting restaurant opening in the Kennington area since Brunswick House. The founder Philip Reicherstorfer, a local resident, has been working on this for three years and was initially looking at the site now occupied by Nando’s, before deciding that a different set of railway arches would be better suited. The entrance to the Counter brasserie is on South Lambeth Place, next to the Sainsbury’s Local that is next to Vauxhall station, in what briefly claimed to be VX1 Gallery (we never found it open).

Counter location - kenningtonrunoff.com

Right now the brasserie is open for soft launch with half price food (you may need to book online to take advantage of this offer, which will last until Tuesday). Their advertising says “Fully open from February 14th” but we went on Friday and it was seamless, with excellent, friendly service and delicious food.

Counter Brasserie and Bar - kenningtonrunoff.com

They describe the food as “New York-style French” but it’s more diverse than that – we had a starter of chili blanco, warm tortillas, and avocado salsa (normally £6.50, currently £3.25) – very tasty.

The main course of sole with brown butter, capers, confit potato and spinach (normally £17, currently £8.50) was one of the most flavoursome, succulent fish dishes we’ve ever had – even better than The Lobster Pot’s skate wing equivalent. Thank-you, head chef Dan Blucert, formerly of The Big Easy in Covent Garden.

Butternut squash hotpot, tomato and ancho chili (normally £14, currently £7) was also full of flavour, although the cornbread dumplings were rather dry.

Counter butternut squash hotpot, tomato, ancho chili, cornbread dumplings - kenningtonrunoff.com

We had a decent desert of New York cheesecake with blueberry compote, and they do their own dark and sophisticated Counter lager, brewed in the Netherlands, plus a wine list that is exclusively American and French, and plenty of cocktails and mocktails.

The clientele was nicely mixed, from Friday night revellers to middle aged gay couples to a family with a toddler. The restaurant is big (175 capacity) but was already looking pleasantly full. Ask to be seated in a booth for extra privacy and comfort. The decor is “Deco meets Disco” and will not be for everyone, but if it’s not for you then Brunswick House and Bonnington Cafe offer polar opposites just yards away.

Counter bar - kenningtonrunoff.com

For the rest of us, Kennington finally has a quality restaurant that’s open just about any time you’d want to go – Monday to Thursday 7am to midnight, Friday 7am to 1am, Saturday 8am to 1am, and Sunday 8am to midnight. They do all day brunch on Saturdays and Sundays till 5pm – more on that soon. Counter already looks like being a great success and will contribute a lot to the revitalisation of West Kennington.

Also, Counter’s premises will soon stretch a mammoth 60 metres back, all the way to the other side of the arches near Dirty Burger on South Lambeth Road – BackCOUNTER will open on February 12th and will be open Thursdays to Sundays at least, plus private hire. It seems aimed at a gay pre-clubbing crowd but it’s still a building site at present.

Here’s an architect’s sketch of the whole premises:

Counter whole thing