Wednesday, 3 July 2013

The Crooked Well

Amble down from the madness of Denmark Hill station towards Camberwell and you might double take at your surroundings. The grandeur of Camberwell Grove, faded in parts, undimmed in others, is well-known, but parallel Grove Lane is more of a hidden gem. 

And believe me, having recently made the pilgrimage down to SE5 (responsible for your humble correspondent's brief hiatus), I ensure every single visitor witnesses it, hopefully distracted from the lively folk of the Maudsley, just behind.

That rarest of London phenomena; a pristine, un-Blitzed terrace of Georgian houses with a comfortable ten metres of croquet-ready lawn frontage, it should by rights be somewhere far more salubrious. By the same logic, so too should The Crooked Well, a relaxed yet upscale pub dining room – but they both seem to fit in just fine.

The term gastropub doesn’t mean anything much in 2013, and it’s lazy at best. In fact it’s odious. But I’m sure it would be bandied about here; ostensibly just a pub where dining comes before boozing. Perfectly ok here, as there are plenty of nearby boozers and often the contrast of ‘finer’ dining and quality service in pubby environs makes for a more relaxed experience. 

From The Oak in Notting Hill to Fulham's  Harewood Arms, it's evident that the exoskeleton of a pub can reassure many who'd sweat profusely in a stuffier venue about cutlery etiquette or how to react when that sign of quality, the metal crumb scraper comes out. Clue: it's less awkward than lazing around the house while the cleaner is grafting away. 

Food is modern British, not wildly adventurous but definitely a step up from a tarted up pub menu. There are three dishes for two to share; a fish pie, a Côte de Boeuf and the masterful rabbit & bacon pie. And yes, it really requires two people.

Other highlights included picanha steak, pata negra, a cocktail of the day with charitable donation and a list of strictly French apertifs, unique in eschewing those ubiquitous red and orange bitters of Milan. The cheeseboard is impressive too.

I’m trying to resist being too effusive, but it’s just really rather good here. Service is attentive and well-informed but laid back, warm bread is offered more than once, and the chips are bloody excellent. There is little more satisfying than well-executed simplicity, and The Crooked Well balances its uncomplicated quality with a hint of refinement to work for most occasions. Except perhaps a raucous knees-up.

Crucially both the (briefly) idyllic setting and the pub itself are absolutley perfect for that South East London parental charm offensive, when they’re wondering what on earth possessed you to move here. Cue astonishment and relief as they walk through the door; places like this are exactly why I won’t be going anywhere for a long time.

 Crooked Well on Urbanspoon

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