Hidden away in the backstreets between Camberwell, Peckham and East Dulwich, and only a street away from the independent shops and Anthony Gormley street sculptures on ultra trendy Bellenden Road, The Montpelier is a stylish local pub with exceptional food, individual beers and wines and even a cinema.
It might look like a bog standard boozer on the outside, with a pebbledash garden and plenty of benches outside for smokers, but, inside, there‘s an air of faded 50s glamour - there’s an ancient stereogram, an assortment of wooden furniture and several leather-covered booths. Only the signed photo of Mike Tyson gives away that it’s still 2011. To the rear of the pub there’s even a mini cinema which regularly screens the latest art house flicks along with classics, with room for about 30 film-goers sat on church pews.
As you’d expect given that there’s some of London’s poshest areas nearby, but also some of its toughest, it’s mixed both in terms of ethnicity and gender but generally people are in the 25-45 bracket. Skate wear blends with post-work suits as groups of friends eat out and locals pop in for a quick one. There are also strong connections to the area’s creative types - Radio 1 jock and Bestival boss Rob da Bank lives close by and frequents the pub and their pop quiz has questions by music celebrities who frequent the pub. It’s also popular with many of the visual artists who work in the area too.
Laid-back and informal, it’s nicely noisy without being deafening and the staff are good fun without being distracting. There’s cool sounding jazz playing earlier in the evening, subtly picking up to funkier sounds later on, although you shouldn’t have to raise your voice too much to be heard over it.
It’s pub grub, rather than pretentious restaurant fayre, but with all the meat coming from organic Sussex farm Gill Wing and the fish sustainable and supplied by veteran local fishmongers Sopers, it’s top of the range stuff.
The goat’s cheese tartlet (£6.50) comes draped in rich tasting rocket, among a list of vegetarian friendly starters that also includes creamy garlic mushrooms (£4.95), crab cakes (£5.95), baby squid (£4.50) and minted organic lamb kofta (£5.50). Likewise, among the main courses, the generously portioned veggie sausage and mash (£8.75) or the falafel and hummus burger with hand cut chips (£8.50) are substantial enough to fill most gaps, and the steak burger (£8.50) or rib-eye steak (£12.50) cater equally well for the more carnivorous. Dessert is a simple choice of the succulent banoffee pie, apple crumble and rich, thick chocolate mousse (all £4.25). The pub also has a Sunday roast with everything from roast organic chicken, lamb or pork (all £12.50) and veggie sausage toad in the hole (£10) with all the trimmings.
A good variety of local bitters from the Sambrook’s brewery in Clapham Junction and the Meantime brewery in, yes, you guessed it, Greenwich. Try a pint of the lively London Pale Ale (£3.40) or a pint of hoppy Sam Brook’s Wandle (£3.30) as a relatively mellow starting point, before moving on to something darker and heavier like a pint of Junction (£3.40). There's also a good selection of organic European wines - the Domain Bergon Sauvignon Blanc is recommended at £14 a bottle or £3/£4.80 for a small or large glass.
The Last Word
Many pubs claim to ’just be a local pub’ but the friendly, approachable atmosphere at The Montpelier means it can genuinely lay claim to being one, even if what it has on offer is an (organic) cut above the rest.