If you go to The Camberwell Arms expecting to eat fish and chips, or a steak and ale pie, or any standard pub grub, you’ll be sorely disappointed. If you go to The Camberwell Arms expecting outstanding contemporary British dishes, served in vast volumes and washed down with comforting ales and flavourful wines, you will be completely satisfied.
We dined here on a busy Friday night, entering from the freezing cold and walking past the busy bar to the large dining area. The space is large and noise carries – you’ll be half shouting across the table at each other. But after a few beers and a glass of wine this is standard protocol for us anyway. I think a bit of noise in a restaurant creates a sense of excitement and community, a vibe of a common enthusiasm for sharing drinks and food with friends. The hard seating is slightly uncomfortable, if you lack padding like me, and the cosiness of the restaurant could be improved with some warmer lighting. However the decor definitely evoked a classic British pub with a modern edge, perfectly complementing the style of the food.
And the food really was fabulous. We began with octopus with confit potatoes, pickled red onion, aioli and smoked paprika,
and caramelised shallot and vacherin vol au vent.
The octopus was tender and bathed the rich, garlicy aioli. What I loved about the food here was when they said the dish would have a flavour, it really delivered with bags of that flavour. The dish was packed with smoked paprika, creating taste of fiery, charred meatiness. The vol au vent married umami with sweet, crisp with soft, to produce a vegetarian delight.
For the mains we ordered beef and bone marrow pie (with lotso chips),
barbecued lamb, spinach, parmesan cream and crumbs,
and my unexpected favourite, Roast January King cabbage, fava bean hummus, zhoug, pickles and almonds.
The pie was fabulous, with a rich, decadent gravy and crisp, buttery pastry. The lamb was tender and sweet, but needed something sharp to cut through the creamy richness of the sauce. As for the cabbage, who knew cabbage could be so exciting. It was char-grilled to the point of bitter sweetness, and was a sheer delight when slathered in earthy, creamy humus and sweet sharp pickle. I can’t wait to try and recreate this dish at home.
A meal at The Camberwell Arms will set you back a bit more than a standard pub, with mains ranging from £10 – £20 per person and starters priced between £6 – £8. However the portions are ginormous (we couldn’t even tackle desserts, delicious though they sounded!), and of truly excellent quality. I left completely content and inspired to try and recreate some of the dishes – what more can you ask of a dining experience?
P.S. I’d also recommend this place for beer lovers. Me and sis found the beer went down a little too well …