Itinerary Location: Camberwell | Duration: 11 Hours
How does one Camberwell?
Well, with so many charming independent cafés, pubs and a history of avant-garde art to explore, it’s pretty easy, actually. Especially if, say, you happen to have a guide to the perfect day out in Camberwell to hand. Which you do.
We’ll stop at one of South London’s biggest cultural institutions, reconvene with nature, and bop to live jazz in a subterranean crypt, swinging by for some of London’s best bakes, coffee and regional Chinese cuisine along the way.
Hop on board, we’re beginning at:
➊ SOUTH LONDON LOUIE | 12pm
Andy Stagg Photography
Adjoining the South London Gallery on Peckham Road is their café and restaurant space, which is currently under the benevolent instruction of Elephant & Castle’s Louie Louie. During the week, this airy, neutral space is home to freshly baked pastries, toasties and coffee from Redemption Roasters (and an unfeasibly good Wednesday happy hour, with 2 for £10 cocktails between 6 and 9pm). But at weekends this is all bolstered by cooked brunch dishes, from eggs royale to bacon & blueberry pancakes – and when the weather gets warmer, you’ll be able to take it all outside.
Egg needs fulfilled, head right next door to the:
➋ SOUTH LONDON GALLERY | 1pm
This majestic Victorian building opened as a free gallery for locals in 1891, and has longstanding connections with the Camberwell College of Arts next door. Now a standalone gallery in its own right (and still free to visit), the South London Gallery plays host to a roster of avant-garde exhibitions from up-and-coming artists. It houses permanent collections of both historic and contemporary artwork – from 17th century textiles to body etchings by Anthony Gormley – while temporary exhibitions include artist solo shows and the annual Bloomberg New Contemporaries, which shines a light on 75 or so emerging artists to watch every winter.
If you’re thirsting for more art, you can see what’s on in the gallery’s annexe, set in a former Fire Station across the road, or pop your head into its brutalist neighbour to check out the free public exhibitions of work by current college students – who knows, you might clock the next Michelangelo in there. When you’re ready, head right out of the galleries (or left out the fire station) to continue up towards…
➌ TOAD BAKERY | 2:30pm
Formerly known as Frog (but forced into a name change by another restaurant), Toad remains one of our favourite bakeries in London, warts and all. The line-up changes daily, but the team are a dab hand at all kinds of baked treats – from crusty sourdough loaves to elaborate cakes and pastries, which frequently take inspiration from Nordic and Asian flavours. Look out for apple, pine nut & custard ‘sun buns’; rhubarb, coconut & pandan croissants; and their soy sauce chocolate chip cookies, studded with sesame.
Take your treats on a stroll up Havil Street and then Wells Way towards…
➍ BURGESS PARK | 3pm
It’s the Goldilocks of London parks: not too big, not too small,
and surrounded by bears. Once the site of factories and close-quartered housing, it’s now a beautifully manicured stretch of 56 acres of greenery (where BBQs are even allowed during the summer). It’s also home to one of the most picturesque lakes in London, with the Shard and the skyscrapers of the City just peeping over the trees.
There are tennis courts you can hire out for just over a fiver, or just enjoy a stroll along the rolling parkland. Of course, if the weather’s being particularly British, you might prefer to get moving indoors instead – in which case, we’d recommend staying on Peckham Road and carrying on from Toad Bakery to –
➎ CAMBERWELL LEISURE CENTRE
Easily one of the grandest swimming pools in London, these Victorian public baths were given a £4.7m facelift in 2011, and still don’t look a patch on their 131 years. The cathedral-like vaulted ceiling and the original ironwork balcony have been beautifully restored, while the rebooted 25m long pools have plenty of space for you to stretch out.
Once you’ve diligently built up enough of an appetite for your pastry, tuck in as you stroll back along Camberwell Church Street – stopping off to finish your snack on Camberwell Green if the weather’s picked up – and get ready to hit the shops on:
➏ CAMBERWELL CHURCH STREET | 5pm
Camberwell Church Street is the neighbourhood’s own lively high street, where almost every shopfront is home to an independent business or restaurant representing almost every corner of the globe. The Young British Artists got together at the College in the 80s, and Camberwell’s never really lost that sense of radical artistic energy. Shops to look out for along here include Dash The Henge, an indie vinyl store that recently replaced the dearly departed Rat Records. Founded by one Zsa Zsa Sapien of the band Meatraffle, it’s a joy to flip through – and even if you don’t own a record player, you can stock up on essentials here like pagan football scarves, and zines exploring supernatural phenomena at regional crazy golf sites. Plus, there’s live music here every Saturday at 5pm which – if this itinerary pans out correctly – is right now.
Dash The Henge
Slightly less left-field is Gladwell’s, part of the new vanguard of fancy groceries with a cornucopia of fresh produce from Natoora; heavenly shortcrust vessels of joy from Willy’s Pies; and cured meats from Crown & Queue (you might have tasted their stuff at Padella). You can also pick any of their ciders, beers, of bottles of vino off the shelves and drink them in for zero corkage. And just round the corner on Denmark Hill is The Nunhead Gardener, a brilliant little independent plant shop with pots, plants, and candles (why not) galore.
The evening’s approaching, and by this point you’re probably flagging a little – so return to the main road, and seek out the Church Street hotel…
…then stop about two doors before, under the sign of the big eye, and head downstairs to –
➐ MAMA FUNKI | 6pm
Yes, the fun literally doesn’t stop on this itinerary (yet). Mama Funki is the extremely new sister (mother?) bar to Funkidory in Peckham, a bar which has won itself legions of fans thanks to its stellar cocktails and music taste. This new addition is much bigger than the original, but is just as warm and welcoming. It’s closed on Sundays, though, so if you’ve found the place shuttered, carry on to The Camberwell Arms for a pint (and, if you so choose, one of their excellent Sunday roasts). Otherwise, drink up and head to –
➑ SILK ROAD | 7pm
It’s impossible to talk about ‘Camberwell’ without also mentioning ‘Silk Road‘, a legendary Chinese restaurant specialising in dishes from the northwestern province of Xinjiang. That translates to dumplings and skewers – with lots of lamb – doused in the aromatic spices of the eponymous trading route, with a fiery kick for good measure. The star dishes, however, are the stews – as you near the bottom, you’ll be bestowed with hand-pulled noodles to soak up the rest – and you can eat for under a tenner. Service is friendly but pacy, too – and just as well, because you’re zipping off to your next stop.
➒ JAZZ LIVE AT THE CRYPT | 8pm
Deelee Dubé | Credit: Daniel Devlin / Susak Press
Hidden in the subterranean crypt beneath St. Giles’ Church is one of London’s best jazz bars. Jazz Live at the Crypt has been taking over the space on Friday nights since 1995, with both established performers and exciting new acts (as in, BBC Young Performers of the Year) taking to the stage each week. And you can expect any kind of sub-genre to be represented – from jazz quintets bringing in hip hop influences to Blue Note era bebop, and tickets usually hover around the £10 mark. Of course, the fact that it’s only open on Fridays means that you might have to skip this step of the itinerary and head straight for the finish line – no bad thing though, as you’ll find it at:
➓ VERAISON WINES
Veraison is less a wine bar than a wine library. Shelves are packed with their hand-picked range of bottles, which tend towards the quirky and biodynamic, while the rest of the space is given over to cosy little tables and antique furnishings. With its mottled terrazzo floor, vintage lighting, and faint waft of cheese toasties, it’s how you’d imagine 1920s Paris to do natural wine bars, and it’s staffed by a knowledgeable team who seem to genuinely love being there, even though they’re not the ones drinking. Pick out a bottle, maybe order some charcuterie to pick at, and settle in for the night…
…and just don’t think about the transport links.
➊ South London Louie | 67 Peckham Road, London SE5 8UH
➋ South London Gallery | 65–67 Peckham Road, London SE5 8UH
➌ Toad Bakery | 44 Peckham Road, London SE5 8PX | Closed Sundays
➍ Burgess Park | St. George’s Way, London SE5 0AL
➎ Camberwell Leisure Centre | Artichoke Place, Camberwell Church Street, London SE5 8TS
➏ Camberwell Church Street | London, SE5 8QU
➐ Mama Funki | 29-33 Camberwell Church St, London SE5 8TR | Closed Sundays
➑ Silk Road | 49 Camberwell Church St, London SE5 8TR
➒ Jazz Live at the Crypt | St Giles Church, Camberwell Church Street, London, SE5 8RB | Fridays from 8pm
➓ Veraison Wines | 78 Camberwell Church Street, London SE5 8QZ
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