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The Crooked Well (Restaurant)

Picture of The Crooked Well in Peckham & Camberwell, London

16 Grove Lane, Peckham & Camberwell, London, SE5 8SY
Cuisine: British
Tel: 020 7252 7798 | Email to The Crooked Well | Transport: Denmark Hill | Write review

The Crooked Well Review

Best for: cocktails, catching up with friends, and lively nights.

Great: gastropub, atmosphere, pints, parties, and cocktails.

There are some things that are always going to divide people, like raw celery, Thatcher and whether life is better north or south of the Thames. While people across the capital can agree on flat whites (good) and flat Coke (bad), few will willingly head to the ‘wrong side’ of the river.

With its loop around the city now completed, the shiny Overground is making such trips infinitely more likeable and the Crooked Well pub in Camberwell is a great incentive to break free from your shire.

Instead of enduring a siren-filled bus ride, I skip off the train at Denmark Hill, amble the few steps to the pub and see the surroundings in a whole new light.

Of course, very few things are universally likeable – cute cat pictures seemingly excepted – and almost as soon as I’m through the door, I find my verdict hangs in the balance.

LIKE:
The décor. Someone, somewhere, has decreed that there are things we expect to find in a gastropub, and the Crooked Well has almost all of them. It feels very familiar with its ornate wallpaper and intimate atmosphere; in fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen those white Victorian tiles on the wall at the Avalon in Balham.

DISLIKE:
All this leaves me sure it’s another chain offering, but just then manager Hector pops up to tell me that he set up the venture with his friends from university. Not only do I love an independent pub with a back story, but turns out one of these founding friends is in the kitchen, which makes me dislike what I’m going to say about the food.

LIKE:
Looking around, I note that everyone seems to like their dinners. In fact, they don’t just like them, it looks like they are loving them. All around us, diners are carving, savouring and chatting over glistening hunks of roast meat to share; perhaps they ordered more wisely than my guest and I.

DISLIKE:
In fairness, the pigeon breast was felled by the hardware: the confit exterior was too tough to cut with the standard knife provided, turning it into a palaver that the moreish chorizo couldn’t salvage. The accompanying Salamanca lentils were a touch overpowering, a theme that was carried through by the much-too-peppery crisp salt and pepper squid. Against this piquant onslaught, the spiced mayo didn’t stand a chance.

LIKE:
Moving on to the mains, and again sauce was the source of our troubles. The gnocchi was the perfect consistency and size – these were charming fill-the-mouth globules of carbs – and you couldn’t argue with the peas, mange tout and dried herb tomato.

DISLIKE:
But the fennel pesto and goat’s curd produced a slightly sour taste that dogged the dish without any sweet top notes, leaving it in much the same boat as my sea trout. Cooked to perfection, the fish was flakey and fabulous, while trendy vegetable du jour samphire played the perfect partner. Yet the fennel purée failed to be sweetened by the orange and olive oil dressing, leaving the whole barely distinguishable from the gnocchi.

LIKE:
Ultimately, I have to finish on the positives because overall the Crooked Well is brimming with them. The Bonfire Marguerita’s seasoned rim pops and crackles in my mouth, doing this rather wonderful pleasure/pain thing as the salt and pepper hits my taste buds before being soothed by the drink itself. Then there’s the cheese board, which arrives theatrically on a vast wooden platter lugged over by an obliging member of staff. Finally, there are the waiting staff themselves: they’re friendly, they’re attentive without being intrusive, and they know their onions and all other foodstuffs besides.

Looking around the room as I go to leave, I’m struck once again by how much fun people are having: I can practically see them hitting their proverbial ‘like’ buttons. So did I miss something here? Quite possibly, but at least it wasn’t my train home.
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Loved

"Love the place, the food and the coffee, but most important is the staff and their happy smiling faces every time I go in. Would recommend this to anyone in the area, or if not - get in your car, drive..." Which venue is this?

Hated

"I have been there a few times over the years. The girls are great, there are usually about 5-6 there at any one time. All are attractive and usually there are at least one or two busty ones (my preference,..." Which venue is this?

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