Thirty Thousand Streets

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Hermits Cave, Camberwell.

Man, I love the hermits cave. Unashamedly spit and sawdust it sits on its corner of Camberwell church street, with the uncomplicated agenda of serving good beer in a unpretentious environment. There seems to be a trend these days, especially in London but equally true elsewhere, to gentrify anything that doesn't move. To give it some ersatz designer chic, hire some DJs, and serve 'gastro pub' style food drizzled in something and bedecked in rocket... which is all very good if you do this kind of thing exceptionally well, but just another hook to hang your hat on otherwise (hook probably bought at Habitat).

I suppose you could argue that this kind of environment is more modern, female friendly etc, but what is inarguable is that in any area in London, you'd be lucky to find a nice pub which isn't harbouring some bar-like aspirations, with one eye on the profit margins. In short, decent pubs are in short supply.

Into this vacancy steps the Hermits Cave, and as me and my friend Will mused over beers one Thursday it's pretty much the Platonic Ideal of what a boozer should be. Unpretentious and cosy, beery and smoky. It's also got a wistfull greek looking hermit on the sign, probably regretting the entire solitude gig and wishing he was in the pub.

Reasons to like the Hermits Cave:

First off, the beer in the Hermits is very well kept. I don't know much about whatever industry aracana describes the art of selling a good pint as, but they do it.

Second is the music policy: There isn't one, or indeed any music – which I actually find suprisingly refreshing. Let's face it, most people like music – who hasn't at one time written 'music' under interests on their CV.?* But it can ocasionally be somewhat trying when some aspiring mixmeister is drowning out your conversation with his 'selection'. The calibre of DJ's in bars in Camberwell is passable, but of somewhat unimaginative stock (If I hear 'Billie Jean' or 'Sex Machine' much more I'm probably going shit kittens out of my neck) so it makes for a nice change not having to shout above the soundtrack to a wedding reception circa 1970 onwards.

Thirdly, the decor – or lack of it. There's your usual amount of tat that any self respecting pub accrues over the years, and some nice cut-glass panels in the doors, but no zinc topped bar, no substandard art, no post-modern furniture garnered from a reclamation yard, just chairs and tables and a respectable amount too. And a fire. And no slightly menacing guy brandishing lollipops and cologne in the toilets.

As for the food.. well I haven't got a clue actually, it's probably alright, but who cares. I was slightly suprised to find a pub in London not yet serving Thai food, but I'll get over it. It's a pub and It serves crisps and nuts too, and I might petition them to start selling pickled eggs from a huge jar actually positioned on the bar.

Finally: the crowd who come here seem like a generally nice mix of young and old, professional and studenty, and nobody seems too fussed what trainers you're wearing. Basically what you've got right here is your quintessential local boozer, and it's proper.


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