Spending a few weeks working on a really interesting in-house client project recently, I swore to myself that I would explore their office area properly, instead of just sitting at my desk during lunchtimes aimlessly scrolling through the internet. Exploring the Oval and Kennington area was a lovely change from my own office walls – and made choosing a lunch spot rather a lot more fun.
There is a real community vibe to the area around the famous Oval Cricket grounds; family-run cafes vastly outnumber coffee store chains. My absolute favourite kind. Now, I realise that this is an incredibly geographically specific blog post, but if you’re like me, and have never spent much time in the area, it’s a good one to scratch beneath the surface. Luckily I had a few local tip-offs combined with a little internet magic keeping me busy.
The land around Oval was used from the seventeenth century for a market garden, and the name “Oval” emerged from a street layout which was originated in 1790 but never completely built. The Montpelier Cricket Club leased ten acres of land from the Duchy of Cornwall in 1844, and Surrey County Cricket Club was formed soon thereafter at a meeting at the Horns Tavern (since demolished) on Kennington Park Road.
In no particular order, these were my favourites:
Cafe Van Gogh Cafe
As a social enterprise, Cafe Van Gogh reinvests its profits back into dedicated programmes that share their expertise with the local community through on-the-job training & food nutrition workshops. As a cafe, they have set up a popular vegan sanctuary in partnership with their neighbours at Christ Church, which is just around the corner from where Vincent Van Gogh lodged in the 1870s. And boy it was good. My lunch date and I both had the Tofu Rancheros – Tofu scramble, smokey beans, homefries, salad, lime, jalapenos and toast – and not a crumb was left at the end.
88 Brixton Road – London, SW9 6BE
Not actually a cafe as such, Buzz Coffee is a little man & van operation parked in the corner of St Mark’s Church just across the road from Oval Station, and come rain, hail or snow, the owner is grooving to his favourite tunes as he pours out excellent coffee to sleepy commuters. Better yet, he keeps everyone’s (handmade) loyalty cards in a sweet filing system on the van so they are impossible to lose!
St Mark’s Church Courtyard, 337 Kennington Park Rd, London SE11 4PW
About a 5/10-minute walk from Oval station, Livewire Kitchen is a modern cafe tucked into the Vox Studio buildings, where the team promise ‘nutritious, tasty, inventive dishes, packed with ingredients with benefits’ which they certainly delivered on. We bumbled in, grabbed a coffee and a sarnie, and almost didn’t leave again. The atmosphere was electric (excuse the pun), the tables were nicely busy and the barista was so committed to her art that she had Italian coffee pot tattoos. Respect.
Vox Studios, 1-45 Durham St, Vauxhall, London SE11 5JH
The Sugar Pot
The Sugar Pot is a lovely little family run place overlooking Kennington Park, complete with a La Marzocco machine brewing up organic locally roasted coffee, and a board full of delicious sourdough toasties. There are only a few tables, but they were full for the entire time we were there, always an excellent indicator of quality – not to mention proudly brandishing Timeout’s Love London 2016 Cafe/Coffee Shop Award. Our toasties were delicious – rich, full of cheese and I hear that the banana bread is excellent, so a return trip is definitely in order.
248 Kennington Park Rd, London SE11 4DA
Tucked under St Mark’s Cafe, Stream Cafe offers a simple menu and an incredibly friendly welcome. On a cold winter’s day, I dipped into a plate of Oxtail Stew with mixed veggies, basmati rice, and a fiery ginger beer, and it warmed me from the tips of my toes to the crown of my head. You won’t find any foams or unnecessary flourishes here, but I’d definitely be back to try other dishes on the menu (they have set daily specials.)
St Mark’s Church, 337 Kennington Park Rd, London SE11 4PW
Used a lot for informal meetings in the Kennington Business Park development (containing 11 buildings that date from 1924), there wasn’t a moment that Mimosa didn’t have a nice hum of atmosphere. Every time I popped in it was always filled with the smiles of the team who run it – even at 7.45am when the birds are barely out of their nests in nearby Kennington Park.
1-3 Brixton Road, London, SW9 6DE
Aw, this place was too cute. With a cracking BLT, sweet potato fries and a friendly pub dog who was more than happy to accept scritches (that’s the official term, ok?) The Kennington is a proper pub with a good kitchen that cranked out our celebratory lunch in quick smart time.
60 Camberwell New Road, London, SE5 0RS
Kennington Park Cafe
Sadly the lease is coming up for sale on this community space, but the Kennington Park Cafe is a welcoming hub to Kennington Park that has kids art, a lovely feel and a simple but delicious toastie menu. We enjoyed our lunchtime repasts – mine an artichoke and cheese combo, my lunch date selecting the tuna and mayo.
Technically the address is 4 St Agnes Place, Kennington Park, Kennington, London, UK SE11 4BE, bu just head for the centre of the park.
Do you have any favourite local cafes?
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