Tag Archives: Bonnington Square

two of Kennington’s finest institutions are under threat

Read more about the threat to Bonnington Cafe and sign a petition here.

Read more about the threat to the Cinema Museum and sign a petition here.

Both of these institutions are magical, unique and irreplaceable. The area will be much worse off without them.

See our original piece about the Bonnington Cafe here.

Bonnington Square Cafe - kenningtonrunoff.com

See our original piece about the Cinema Museum here.

The bar and shop at the Cinema Museum - kenningtonrunoff.com

The Top Ten Best Restaurants in Kennington – no. 7 – Bonnington Cafe

Positives: It’s cheap and BYOB. All the food is vegetarian and freshly cooked that day. The atmosphere is invariably great. There is often live music. It’s situated just off Bonnington Square, the most unique and vibrant of London’s residential squares, which, like Bonnington Cafe, has its roots in the squatting movement. There’s nowhere else like it.

Negatives: The quality of the food depends on which of the many volunteer chefs is cooking that night, and the service can be somewhat emotional, but it’s all part of the fun of the place. It’s cash only and you should call the chef to book a table – the rota is on their website.

Hygiene rating: 4 out of 5

Address: 11 Vauxhall Grove, London SW8 1TD

Bonnington Square Cafe - kenningtonrunoff.com

Come back next Sunday to find out the number six.

Italo Deli

The final stop on our tour of Bonnington Square is one of West Kennington’s finest and most important shops. It was a Turkish shopkeeper whose legal action saved Bonnington Square from demolition in the late 1970s. Since 2008, those same shop premises have been occupied by Italo Deli which has also had a big part to play in the flourishing of Bonnington Square.

Italo Deli - kenningtonrunoff.com

The deli is run by Luigi di Lieto, formerly of Di Lieto’s bakery and shop, and Charlie Boxer. Charlie is the son of food writer Arabella and father of Jackson (Brunswick House Café) and Frank (Frank’s Campari Bar in Peckham). Just don’t mention the errant son who’s the fruit and veg buyer for Tesco.

If you shop at Borough Market or Whole Foods, you will recognise some of Italo Deli’s products but hopefully not the prices – Charlie told The IndependentI have a very strong dislike of expensive food shops and that whole Borough Market thing – the effect where quality translates into high prices and exclusivity. People can feel excluded from the food revolution going on.”

Italo Deli shelves - kenningtonrunoff.com

Kennington Runoff’s favourite beer is Kernel, brewed at one of the first London craft breweries in nearby Bermondsey. We’re a little obsessed with it, especially the Amarillo Pale Ale. Italo Deli is the Kennington area’s only stockist of Kernel (although Greensmith’s on nearby Lower Marsh also have it).

Italo also sell a good range of fresh seasonal vegetables, some grown by residents of the square.

Some, but not all, of what they sell is Italian, including homemade fresh ravioli, and they do hot food at lunchtimes.

Tommy Adams and Jamie Berger, the founders of Pitt Cue Co, met at Bonnington Café then worked together at Italo Deli, and Chantal Coady, founder of Rococo Chocolates, is a big fan (and long-time Bonnington resident).

The place is beautiful, like an old village shop, which makes the abysmal aesthetics of their website all the more surprising. Their Twitter feed is pretty good though, and they like the Flying Burrito Brothers so they’re alright by us.

Italo Deli counter - kenningtonrunoff.com

Bonnington Cafe

Bonnington Cafe has been a mainstay of Bonnington Square since the squatters moved in in the early 1980s. At that time, many of the houses didn’t have functioning kitchens, so members of the community took turns to cook for each other in the communal cafe, using ingredients either bought from or scavenged from the nearby Covent Garden food market.

Bonnington Square Cafe - kenningtonrunoff.com

The cafe still operates in this way, run as a co-operative, with a different chef cooking every day, but it’s now open the wider public as well, and it’s a truly magical place to spend an evening. Needless to say, the food can be a little hit and miss depending who’s cooking, and there are generally just two choices of starter, main course, and dessert, all vegetarian and some vegan. But the food is cheap, it’s BYOB with no corkage charge, and the atmosphere is invariably great, with candles, occasional live music, a wood fire on cold nights, and above all, a real sense of community (the cafe doubles as a community centre). Just don’t ask for the “special stuff”.

Here’s a video about the Bonnington Square squatters, including plenty about the cafe (thanks to @taxbod for the link):

Harleyford Road Community Garden

West Kennington has not one but two lovely community gardens. Harleyford Road Community Garden is adjacent to Bonnington Square, on what was wasteland until 1984 when the community once again stepped in and turned it into something beautiful. They are remarkably peaceful and lush considering their location. Keep an eye out for the invisible waterwheel.

Harleyford Road Community Garden - kenningtonrunoff.com

More photos and information on the South Kennington Partnership website.

Bonnington Square

Imagine if a community took over an abandoned square and restored its houses and communal areas to their former glory, planted mimosa, beech and mulberry trees, lavender, vines, ferns and palms where there had been a derelict playground, and turned the whole square into an oasis of peace and beauty. Imagine they started a café and community centre where volunteers fed the residents vegan food while they rebuilt the kitchens in their derelict homes. Then imagine one of London’s finest delis and cafes opened on the square. Imagine no longer – this is Bonnington Square in West Kennington, a magical, tranquil yet vibrant area, just yards from the noise of the Vauxhall gyratory. The only thing you might have to imagine is the part where Coalition politicians make the short walk from Parliament to Bonnington Square, then have an epiphany about the positive side of squatting.

The square was built in the 1870s, and was earmarked for demolition in the late 1970s, until squatters moved in. This video from The Guardian’s website tells the story of the remarkable work the squatters carried out.

Here’s the community garden in the middle of the square, dubbed Bonnington Square Pleasure Garden in honour of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens:

Bonnington Square Gardens - kenningtonrunoff.com

Not bad for a former WWII bomb site. Channel 4 gardener Dan Pearson was amongst the residents responsible for it.

In 1998 the squats were legitimised when the housing cooperative the squatters had formed was allowed to purchase the buildings. Nowadays Bonnington Square is one of the most desireable addresses in London thanks to its beautiful houses and gardens, its location, the Bonnington Cafe, and Italo Deli. Oh, and there’s a ley line running directly through the square, which also takes in Brunswick House, Sally White and lane seven of the Palace Bowl in Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre.

Bee Ridgway writes evocatively about her time staying on Bonnington Square here.