Positives: Bonnington Square is brilliant – a tropical oasis of calm just yards from the Vauxhall gyratory, but with Bohemian party vibes where desired, and a unique recent history rooted in squatting. Italo Deli is at the heart of Bonnington Square. They serve fresh pasta, delicious salads, fruit and veg (some of which is grown by residents of the square), Kennington’s own Rococo Chocolate, and two of our favourite products: Kernel beer and Gelupo gelati.
Negatives: All their seating is outside so if the weather’s bad, takeout is the way to go. The menu is short so check their Twitter page before heading there to make sure there’s something you want. It’s not the fastest food in Kennington; we once arrived there at 1pm to find them not taking lunch orders for another 15 minutes, but that was a weekend – we suspect they’re more on it on weekdays.
* You may be wondering why Italo Deli is no. 4 when we already posted Elephant Shack as no. 4 last week. Well, Elephant Shack have rather inconsiderately “pivoted” and are now making bread for supermarkets or some such, and no longer serving lunch to Kenningtonians. As it happens we already had our top ten selected and Elephant Shack were a last minute addition – a no. 11 if you like – so now we’re back to the original ten.
Positives: Ingenious use of outside space bringing several new street food options to the area. Sometimes they offer free filter coffee. They’re open weekday day times from 11.30am to 9.30pm, but tomorrow is the start of their last week for the year due to inclement weather. See our original review here – but all the stalls have changed since then. Here were the menus on our recent visit:
Zingle Food – North African cuisine
Naughty Roti – Indian inspired burritos
Argentine Steaks & Burgers
Negatives: There’s no escaping the fact that this is the outside area of the Lightbox nightclub and not actually a garden by any stretch of the imagination. There aren’t too many veggie options. In fact there aren’t as many stalls as when the “garden” opened last year, and those that are there haven’t taken as much trouble over their appearance.
It’s a supper club bonanza in Kennington this week, with two separate pop-up dinner events taking place mere streets away from each other in North West Kennington.
On Thursday August 27th, The Ragged Canteen are hosting their inaugural dinner event, at an extremely reasonable price of three courses for £15 (tickets here). Expect robust, imaginative vegetarian fare, and some ‘small surprises’. We’re not in on the secret of what the unexpected element of the evening might be – as long as it’s not an appearance from local resident Peter Stringfellow, who we saw being turned away rather incongruously from the Tea House Theatre on Sunday (it was a rainy afternoon and there wasn’t space for his Bugaboo alongside all the others). If you book, you’ll be sure of a table at The Ragged Canteen.
Beaconsfield, home of The Ragged Canteen
On August 28th and 29th, Roots and Shoots are bringing back their Magpie Kitchen, with a menu that’s an interesting cocktail of Middle Eastern, Indian and Mediterranean influences. The Roots and Shoots garden should be looking particularly verdant after Kennington’s recent deluges, too.
Roots and Shoots
Brunswick House have also been hosting their own supper clubs in recent months, but they are rather more elite affairs. For restaurant staff, they run the Sinning on Sundays dinners, with entrance strictly restricted to trade only, and at the other end of the spectrum was this summer’s Brunswick House Ball (dress code: Black Tie with a Napoleonic Twist), for those who like their supper clubs with a hefty side order of Georgian grandeur.
Positives: They transformed a former pub into a tea house with a lot of personality. A convivial setting, on what is now called Vauxhall Walk Square, on the edge of Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. At lunch, they do a good Welsh rarebit, a kedgeree, and just about every type of tea you could think of. Sometimes there’s live music, and it’s an events space at night, for everything from poetry to ballroom dancing to, yes, theatre. It’s Kennington’s most baby-friendly venue – they will roll out the red changing mat for you and your little one.
Negatives: About those babies – if you don’t want to eat lunch surrounded by NCT groups, you’re in the wrong place. Being militant about tea, they don’t serve coffee. There’s a big choice of cakes but they are all intensely creamy and rich.
A good rule of thumb for pop-up dining experiences – the longer a pop-up runs, the more likely it is to be a professional outfit. We will never forget a visit to a very short-lived pop-up in Bethnal Green that involved drinking Aldi own-brand lemonade from water cooler cups while waiting for our undercooked stew to arrive. Po’ Boys, a journey through New Orleans cuisine set in a hidden steelyard in West Kennington, is running until September, and it shows. The venue – The Yard on Durham Street – has hosted a handful of food events since it opened last year, and while it’s no Creole townhouse, it felt a long way from the fringes of the West Kennington gyratory on a balmy Friday night.
Draped with Mardi Gras beads on entrance through a small speak-easy style door, guests are offered a potent New Orleans Hurricane cocktail in the cobbled hackers yard. Dining is at communal tables – Sathnam Sanghera was sat on ours; perhaps you’ll find Will Self trying another local dining option after his saddening time at Dirty Burger?
When the food came, it was tasty without exception – Jalapeño Poppers pegged up on a steel washing line (above), sticky sweet Dr Pepper-doused ribs, tiny mason jars filled with pickled crawfish, an authentic-tasting gumbo (below), and a very heady Mississippi Mud Pie (further below). All to a soundtrack that stretched from the Kygo remix of Sexual Healing through to Bayou anthem Proud Mary.
Tickets for a few of the dates are already sold out, but there are still plenty left with good availability.
Dates: Friday nights, Saturday nights & Sunday lunches on selected dates to 27th September. Cost: £35 for five courses plus cocktail.
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:
The Agincourt, “An open crumb white loaf similar to a French Pain au Levain. But better.”:
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:
Oh, and we like their flier, clearly inspired by Peter Saville’s work for Factory Records:
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:
Positives: It’s the one Kennington restaurant we want to go back to time and time again. It always feels like a treat, partly because of the crazy (and crazily expensive) reclaimed goods and antiques all around, but also because the cooking is so creative and the ingredients are so fresh.
Salsify, cauliflower and olive at Brunswick House – kenningtonrunoff.com
Negatives: Not withstanding the presence of Aesop hand-wash, the toilets belong in an architectural reclaim shop rather than a high end restaurant. (Brunswick House’s Jackson Boxer informs us the toilets have recently been refurbished.) It’s not cheap, but they do an express menu at lunchtime and from 6-7pm which is £16 for two courses or £19 for three. We have a lingering fear that an antique chandelier is going to fall onto our heads. But it’s worth it.
The Harleyford Road Community Garden Open Afternoon is on Sunday 14th June from 2pm-5pm with teas, music and plants for sale. For more on the magical place that is the Harleyford Road Community Garden, see our piece here.
Harleyford Road Community Garden
The Friends of Vauxhall Park’s Summer Fair is on Sunday June 21st from 2pm-5pm, with donkey rides, motorised go karts, a rodeo bull, teas and delicious homemade cakes, hot food, ice creams from a vintage ice cream van, not just one bouncy castle but also a giant inflatable slide, Punch and Judy, Crazy Golf, musical entertainments including Valentinos Jazz Band, football training by Chelsea Football Club, giant tea cups, a dog show, and dried lavender and lavender oil for sale, harvested from the park. More info here.
Sadly Counter closed down in June 2017. Let’s hope they reopen.
Positives: Great food at brunch, lunch and dinner. Friendly service. There’s always a nice buzz in this huge new restaurant right next to Vauxhall station, plus live music and art. And, uniquely for a Kennington restaurant, Counter is almost always open (Monday to Thursday 7am to 12.30am, Friday 7am to 1.30am, Saturday 8am to 1.30am and Sunday 8am to 12.30am).
Negatives: Their aesthetic is esoteric – they served us coq au vin in an awkward shaped bowl which was worthy of We Want Plates. We’ve had various minor issues with service including the “lunch rapide” taking forever to arrive, but it’s nothing you wouldn’t expect from a busy, large-scale new opening, and we’re confident all this will be resolved before long – they seem like they care a lot.
Hygiene rating: TBC.
Address: Arch 50, 7-11 South Lambeth Place, London SW8 1SP.