Category Archives: shops

G Baldwin & Co. (AKA Baldwin’s)

G Baldwin & Co. – better known as Baldwin’s – is London’s oldest herbalist store and one of the city’s most interesting and welcoming shops.

G Baldwin & Co shopfront -

The Baldwin’s website says “We have come a long way since George Baldwin first opened his doors on 77 Walworth Road, South East London in 1844”, but that’s not true in the geographical sense – they’ve just moved a few yards down the road to 171-173 Walworth Road, as well as building a successful mail order business and website. The current owners are the Dagnell family, who took over in the early 1900s!

The old Baldwin's

The old Baldwin’s

To step into the right side of the store – the apothecary and herbalist – is to step back in time.

G Baldwin & Co Tonic & Nerve Mixture sign - G Baldwin & Co apothecary glass shelves - kenningtonrunoff.comG Baldwin & Co apothecary jars -

It’s always busy, with all kinds of people coming into to discuss their ailments.

G Baldwin & Co apothecary counter -

The left side of the store is a standard health food shop, albeit well stocked and with very well informed staff:

G Baldwin & Co health foods shelving -

They also offer all kinds of demonstrations and work shops, from occasional free hand massages to soap making, and they always have a recipe up on their blackboard. But even if you’re not into any of that, it’s still fun to visit Baldwin’s.

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 -

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 -

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 -

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

toys at Shalimar -

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 -

Finishing Touch bookshop and barber shop

Finishing Touch exterior -

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 -

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 -

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 -

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 -

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

Finishing Touch tote bags and wrapping paper -

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 (Greygory – 07712090553 Felix – 07920832320)

Finishing Touch The Thing -

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 -

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 -

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 -

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 -

They have a much bigger second hand section:

Vanilla Black second hand books -

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

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).

Earl of Bedlam, king and queen of Kennington

London 2015’s answer to Tommy Nutter, fashion house the Earl of Bedlam reside down a little mews off Walnut Tree Walk, having previously occupied a shop in South Kennington:

Earl of Bedlam flier -

Tailors to some of Kennington’s slickest suited and booted (including Mark Hill of Antiques Roadshow and Counter Brasserie fame), they also dress musical luminaries from across the spectrum – Nile Rodgers, Simon Le Bon, Goldie, Bez and Roger Daltrey have all been spotted in Earl of Bedlam garms. Nile is such a fan that he had the Earl head down to the studio to give Bedlam t-shirts  to the band and Mark Ronson when he was making the most recent Duran Duran album.

Earl of Bedlam staff, clients, models, friends & family by Jill Furmanovsky for Jocks & Nerds in Bedlam Mews with horses from Vauxhall City Farm, (Mark in the hat front right, Lady C next to him)

Earl of Bedlam staff, clients, models, friends & family photographed by Jill Furmanovsky for Jocks & Nerds in Bedlam Mews, with horses from Vauxhall City Farm (Mark in the hat front right, Lady C next to him)

We are still waiting for our Kennington Runoff-inspired three-piece suit crafted from baby llama wool shorn off the latest arrivals at Vauxhall City Farm, but we are indebted to Lady C and Mark at the Earl of Bedlam nevertheless for their endless supply of local tips and information. More ferociously networked than any other Kenningtonites we can name, they are true pillars of the community. Running  social media for the Duchy Arms when they relaunched, creating limited edition Bastille Day t-shirts for the Boule-In, designing the uniform for Counter staff, hosting jazz gigs, and propping up the bar at the Royal Oak (otherwise it would fall over) – these are all in a day’s work for the Earl of Bedlam, and still they find time to field stalls at both the Kennington Village and North Lambeth Parish fetes.

Earl of Bedlam t-shirts at Kennington Village Fete -

Read more about their interesting story here.

JamJar Flowers

Where do Stella McCartney, Nick Knight and the Chiltern Firehouse look to for supplies of London’s chicest flowers? Kennington, of course. JamJar Flowers is based in a picturesque Victorian shop on the Pullens Estate that could be straight out of a World of Interiors shoot:

Jamjar Flowers exterior -

The JamJar flower fairies send out their blooms in a variety of receptacles, including enamel buckets, kilner jars and their signature jam jars:

Jamjar Flowers window - kenningtonrunoff.comJamjar Flowers arranging -

The JamJar HQ is accessible to visitors twice a year when Pullens Yards host their open studios, although they do say knock on the door at other times and if they’re there, they will take your order. During the open studios (the next one of which will be in December), you can pick up floral offerings at far cheaper prices than their standard fare – succulents in French yoghurt jars for a fiver, pot plants, and handfuls of sweet peas in pretty little vintage glass vases for a tenth of the price of their normal deliveries.

Jamjar Flowers succulents -

If you ever want to butter us up, an antique apothecary bottle filled by JamJar is a good place to start.

Plants in front of Jamjar Flowers -

Kennington Bakery

Butcher, baker, candlestick maker? Kennington has them all, and now we have a baker of organic sourdough breads as well – Kennington Bakery.

Kennington Bakery contact details

John will bake your choice of loaf to order then leave it for collection in the afternoons from various locations around Kennington. They’re also stocked by Italo Deli, Sally White and the Kennington Coffee Shop.

His full range of breads is here, and will expand over time. As you can tell from his descriptions, John really knows his bread, and if you can describe it, the chances are he’ll be able to bake it for you flawlessly.

Our favourites so far are the Saratoga, a “San Francisco-style” sourdough:

Kennington Bakery Saratoga -

The Agincourt, “An open crumb white loaf similar to a French Pain au Levain. But better.”:

Kennington Bakery Agincourt with organic stoneground flours, wheat leaven and Cornish sea salt -

The Blenheim is great too for fans of caraway, and for those avoiding wheat, some of his breads are 100% rye.

John is primarily a baker of bread but he also did some mean hot cross buns earlier in the year:

hot cross bun from Kennington Bakery -

Oh, and we like their flier, clearly inspired by Peter Saville’s work for Factory Records:

Kennington Bakery image of bread

This morning (Saturday) you can meet John and sample his wears on a stall outside Sally White. This was his stall at the Kennington Village Fete:

Kennington Bakery at the Kennington Village Fete -


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 -

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 -

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 -

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 -

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.

Old Paradise Yard

Old Paradise Yard painted sign -

We finally visited Old Paradise Yard for the first time after a tip off from the Earl of Bedlam. What an interesting hive of activity!

Old Paradise Yard and Kinks lyrics -

It used to be a school for the children of the families of Lower Marsh traders, then became a Tibetan Buddhist centre. Now it’s a community of artists and creatives such as these:

Old Paradise Yard residents -

From cycling clothing to sewing lessons to 3D printing to an Academy of Electronic Music, plus two places we’re planning to write more about soon: i’klectik – a vegetarian cafe and live music venue – and Gabriel Fine Art gallery.

Old Paradise Yard planter and sculpture -

Whoever is based in this building, we are jealous:

Old Paradise Yard hut -

There will also be a church-affiliated community farm soon, for at least five years until the extension of a children’s hospital is built on the site:

Oasis Community Farm Waterloo coming soon -

Old Paradise Yard is located along the north side of Archbishop’s Park, at 20 Carlisle Lane, SE1 7LG, the other side of Lambeth Palace Road from St Thomas’s Hospital.

poll: what would you like to replace Kennington Bookshop?

Welcome to the first ever Kennington Runoff poll.

what would you like to replace Kennington Bookshop?

View Results

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The question is a simple one and, being realistic, there may be only two possible outcomes. Which would you prefer?

Vote now by clicking above and we’ll pass the results on to Daunt Books and any estate agents we spot eyeing up the site.

Daunt Books