Area Guide: Camberwell
Just Opened London’s Area Guides cover a combination of recently opened venues and established London favourites, to make sure you get the full lowdown on where to spend your time and hard-earned cash.
Camberwell is a leafy corner of south east London that has seen many new restaurant openings in recent years and is fast becoming one of London’s most desirable areas.
Here, we give you the lowdown on the best places to eat and drink.
Best for… coffee
Daily Goods or Spike and Earl
Daily Goods was Camberwell’s first trendy coffee shop, and it continues to fly the flag for those who like their coffee cold brewed among a collection of succulents, printed canvas totes and locally made pastries.
Spike and Earl is a newcomer on the scene and a sister site to the original on Peckham Rye. They serve their own Old Spike coffee plus sandwiches (made with slightly sweet, crackly Dutch crunch buns), brunch and cocktails later in the day.
Best for… Nigerian food
I Go Chop
I Go Chop does something completely new for Nigerian food in the area, which is to serve it in a thoroughly modern takeaway restaurant.
We love their tomato-rich Jollof rice and satisfying beef stew, which comes either as it is or folded up into a ‘Nigerian burrito’.
If you like heat, get their house-made hot sauce – it’s punchy alright, but the flavour is exceptional too.
They also sell boozy slushies, which are packed with artificial colourings and alcohol – we’re into that.
I Go Chop, 46 Camberwell Church Street, SE5 8QZ
Best for… pizza
It’s a good job pizza cooks in minutes because the demand for tables at Theo’s is incredibly high. We’ve loved them from the start for their dedication to the specific Neapolitan style (there’s actually a strict definition set out in an 11-page document by the Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana).
The quality of ingredients is excellent, with Strianese San Marzano tomatoes and their own Camberwell scotch bonnet ‘nduja (made in collaboration with The Camberwell Arms over the road), topping the pizzas.
The menu is short and sweet, and there are no bad choices. As well as the pizzas, we love the mortadella with gnocco fritto, which are small, puffy fried breads from Emilia Romagna, great for stuffing meat and cheese into.
Oh, and their panuozzo, sort of like calzone, are great for lunchtime.
Theo’s, 2 Grove Lane, SE5 8SY
Best for… working on your laptop and eating cake
Lumberjack took over the space that was once House gallery and transformed it into another succulent-strewn coffee shop. We like it best for slices of squidgy, iced carrot cake and huge wedges of towering sponge topped with crazy arrangements of sweets and biscuits from Cat Food Cakes in Lewisham.
It’s a nice light room and generally quiet on weekdays, so you can happily bed in and bust through those e-mails. To be honest, one of those humungous cake slices will easily last a couple of hours.
Lumberjack, 70 Camberwell Church Street, SE5 8QZ
Best for… dinner or a Sunday roast
The Camberwell Arms
The Camberwell Arms is basically a perfect local restaurant. The kitchen is headed up by Michael Davies – a fantastic chef whose food has gone from strength to strength since the place reopened in 2014.
They do plates of seasonal food that are deceptively simple but feature lots of cured things and pickles made in-house, as well as carefully sourced meat, fish and veg. We can recall countless beautiful dishes eaten over the years, from whole crabs to lamb flatbreads and a banoffee pie that was so gigantic it defeated two people.
The Sunday roast is one of the best in London, too. Whole chickens come for the table to share with killer roasties, a sharply but luxuriously dressed salad and a pot of aioli for good measure. There are sharing steaks, joints of slowly cooked meat and some of the best suet pastry topped pies in existence. Go.
The Camberwell Arms, 65 Camberwell Church Street, SE5 8TR
Best for… a Turkish feast and late night grills
FM Mangal is famous around these parts, in particular for its grilled bread, smothered with spices and served with a pomegranate dip, grilled onions and garlic cloves. Doesn’t sound like much? Ask anyone from Camberwell about it and they will know exactly what you mean.
The rest of the meze are pretty standard to be honest, but their chopped salad with white Turkish cheese is always fresh and bright, a great accompaniment to the Adana kebab or chicken you’ll be having to follow.
Where we think they excel, however, are the wraps. Visit the takeaway counter at the front of the shop, where you will be able to order an Adana which comes in an impossibly thin yet sturdy flatbread with a yoghurt and chilli sauce, grilled veg and salad. It’s one of London’s best sandwiches if indeed you feel a wrap qualifies as a sandwich in the first place (it does).
FM Mangal, 54 Camberwell Church Street, SE5 8TR
Best for… a good value lunch
Falafel and Shawarma
This place has been on Camberwell Church Street for years and has queues out of the door at peak times. The falafel wrap isn’t anything special, really, but it’s strangely addictive – the lightly spiced, crumbly falafel pressed into a toasted wrap with hummus, chilli and garlic sauce and salad is just very satisfying.
It only costs a few quid, it’s massive and you can get one of their sweet, freshly made carrot juices to sip alongside.
Falafel and Shawarma, 27 Camberwell Church Street, SE5 8TR
Best for… craft beer
Stormbird specialises in craft beer with a staggering range of options to choose from so be warned, it will take a little while to absorb them all.
We love their hand-drawn pump clips and the all-round vibes, including the fact that they’re relaxed about people spilling out onto the pavement at the side. Despite the traffic, it’s a lovely spot when all the doors are flung open in summer.
Stormbird, 25 Camberwell Church Street, SE5 8TR
Best for… something different
Tafe Belayneh has been running a business in this spot on Walworth Road since 1993. Although she started it as an English café, it soon became clear that customers wanted the classic Eritrean and Ethiopian food she cooks so well.
She expertly makes the huge, bubbly injera that come with every meal in Ethiopia and Eritrea. On top go the various stews and other dishes which make up this fascinating cuisine.
Two important ingredients are berbere, a rust red spice mixture which defines the flavour profile of many dishes, and niter kibbeh, a seasoned, spiced butter. We can spend hours in here, sipping St. George beers and nibbling at the injera which, by the way, she sells to take away.
Zeret Kitchen, 216-218 Camberwell Road, SE5 0ED
Best for… meze and baklava
Nandine is a family-run business tucked away on Vestry Road, owned by the same people who run Yada’s Kurdish Kitchen in Peckham. Mum Pary Baban is the star here, cooking her own Kurdish meze recipes, which are fresh, healthy and excellent. She collected them from the many people she met during her time fleeing the Gulf War in her home country, faithfully recording them in a tattered notebook.
We love her handmade börek, made using a special kind of pastry called galgali, and her baklava is world-class – just sweet enough, with the layers of crackly pastry and nuts soaked in perfumed syrup.
They also do delivery, FYI.
Nandine, 82 Vestry Road, SE5 8PQ
Best for… regional Chinese food
This no-frills restaurant, serving the food of Xinjiang, China, has won numerous awards and continues to be hugely popular with, well, pretty much everyone.
Some of the dishes here are London classics now, like the middle plate chicken which is a vat (yeah, it’s really big) of star anise-scented broth swimming with chicken, potatoes and flappy, handmade belt noodles.
The lamb shish skewers, too, are a must (eat them fast, before the shimmering chunks of fat cool down), along with the home style aubergine (sweet and soft) and the home style cabbage, which is the best cabbage you will ever eat. Everyone has tried to recreate it at home, with zero success.
It’s also great value, which is why it made it into our round-up of London’s best cheap eats.
Silk Road, 49 Camberwell Church Street, SE5 8TR