Hattie Lloyd 28/05/24

The Bear

A couple of Naughty Piglets alums have opened a pub in Camberwell – with a chef’s table casually tucked round the back – called The Bear.

And we have all the grizzly details.

But before we get to them, we’ll start by saying that if you’re based anywhere remotely near Camberwell, you’re going to want to get down there ASAP. Because the team are turning out some highly refined dishes in a relaxed, neighbourhood setting that nevertheless gives you the buzz of going Somewhere Very Nice for dinner.

So here’s the backstory. Chef Joe won praise and plaudits aplenty for his French cooking at Brixton’s Naughty Piglets, which he opened with Margaux Aubry back in 2015. But last year he struck out for pastures new with fellow Piglets chef Teddy Roberts, with the intention of reviving an old neighbourhood boozer that had been shuttered for the past six years. So in 2023 they cut the ribbon on The Bear, an expansive corner pub just west of Camberwell Green.

the bear camberwell

It’s a lively, unpretentious spot, decked out with bare plaster walls, some statement artwork (which changes every few weeks), and a vinyl booth in the corner where DJs play most nights (except for Wednesdays, which is Bring Your Own Bangers). There’s a Sunday night quiz, top quality cocktails, and a solid selection of beers on the taps. So far, so typical for a local pub. Until, that is, you venture past the DJ booth and find the chef’s table hiding out in the back.

This is The Counter, and it’s The Bear’s secret weapon. Open Tuesday – Saturday, this is where the real magic happens (though on Sundays, they serve a seemingly excellent pub-grub style menu in the main bar, too). The Counter is self-contained in its own little room, and has the look of a rustic starship, thanks to the mix of those plaster walls and the highly polished aluminium bar fronting the open-kitchen. Seating just 14 at a time, it feels like the kind of exclusive dining experience you’d get in a Michelin Star spot, but retains all the relaxed conviviality of a neighbourhood eatery. It’s not an easy balance to hit, but they absolutely nail it.

the bear camberwell

Once settled in with a well-pitched negroni or a glass of vino (like Naughty Piglets, wine’s a big deal here), you’ll peruse the menu of seasonally-inflected dishes. Five should be plenty to share between two, but it’s worth factoring in that you’ll get some of The Bear’s unbelievably delicious – and moreish – focaccia on the house. On our visit, highlights included the tender asparagus stems with curry leaf mayonnaise; the smoked eel, perched on blushing pink chunks of pickled forced rhubarb; and the treacle beef rump croquettes, served with black garlic and Chinese cabbage. The variety of influences in these dishes is impressive, as is the serene choreography of the chefs, who juggle the prep of multiple dishes simultaneously with total ease.

The finishing touch comes in the form of a dense slice of hazelnut tart with Earl Grey-soaked prunes, or the frankly irresistible lure of doughnuts, which arrive fresh out the fryer and swimming in a pool of zippy lemon curd and sour cream. They’re the perfect ending to a meal for two.

If you can bear to share them.


NOTE: The Bear is open Tuesday – Sunday, but The Counter is open Tues-Sat. You can find out more, and book, HERE.

The Bear | 296A Camberwell New Road, London SE5 0RP

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The Bear

296A Camberwell New Road, Camberwell, SE5 0RP

020 3015 5168

8.9 | Great