The Camberwell Arms is the new pub-cum-restaurant from the guys behind Great Queen Street and the Anchor and Hope. Terrible as it might sound, I’ve never actually ventured to the area before but I’m pleased to report that Camberwell isn’t quite as rough as I’d once imagined!
Based inside a former pub, it was a large space with a pub style bar at the front and a dining room out the back complete with open plan kitchen. It was charmingly noisy; chatty diners, babies crying, chefs shouting “service!” – the atmosphere was great. The three of us were seated at a larger shared table which wouldn’t be everybody’s cup of tea but it didn’t bother us particularly.
Whilst we perused the menu, which was printed on a small piece of paper, some delicious, if not a little unevenly sliced house bread with salty butter got things off to a great start.
We decided to share three starters. The buttered shrimp, toasted crumpet and pickled cucumber (£7) was a truly brilliant blend of flavours. The homemade crumpet was excellent too – I do love a good crumpet. The ox tongue, beetroot, horseradish and pickled walnut (£6.20) was also delicious; the tongue was cooked perfectly and the slightly tangy beetroot with the aggressively fiery horseradish were brilliant accompaniments. The simplest starter however was my favourite; scotch bonnet and pork fat on toast (£4). It was less spicy than I imagined but seriously rich and well…bloody lovely.
Main courses were slightly disappointing to be honest; two of us decided to share the sausage and confit pig cheek gratin (£30). Served in a large ovenproof dish it was basically a sausage pasta bake in a tomato sauce with a couple of pig cheeks thrown in. It was the sort of pasta you get in minestrone soup, which seemed a bit odd as it didn’t mention pasta on the menu. It was also insanely hot which caused a few burnt mouth moments. It was served with a bowl of lettuce leaves which seemed like an odd companion for the sausage but it actually provided some splendid respite from the richness of it all. Not a horrendous dish, just not what we expected.
The ‘slow cooked spiced ox tail, corn bread and sour cream’ (£14.60) was a massive bowl of food. Two humongous chunks of ox tail drenched in a rich gravy quickly became a little too sickly for my friend alone – I gladly helped her out, mind. A side of buttery hispi cabbage (£3.50) was delicious and a welcome bit of greenery.
Desserts helped put things firmly back on track and ended things on a real high. The blood orange pot with amaretto biscuit (£5) was incredible; it was like an orangey lemon posset. The accompanying biscuit, which was seriously chewy, shall go down in history as my favourite ever biscuit. The chocolate and marmalade tart (£6) had the texture of a chocolate fondant centre yet wasn’t at all sickly – partly because of the chunks of marmalade running through it. These guys know how to make seriously good puddings.
Even though the mains were slightly disappointing it still wasn’t enough to ruin our evening, as when the food was good, it was insanely good. The really friendly and efficient staff and the lively atmosphere ensured we left happy bunnies. And it’s made me a Camberwell convert (sort of), so it can’t be bad!