Churchgoing in England has declined to indecent levels: less than 5 per cent of the population pass into holy sanctuary weekly for a word with the Big Man. But could the likes of Communion be what’s needed to herd the unbelievers back into the flock? Underneath the revered Angels & Gypsies tapas restaurant in Camberwell’s Church Street Hotel, this new cocktail bar looks the part, with enough backlit stained glass to get Richard Dawkins on his knees. Each table comes with a sample of the blood and body of Christ: a glass of communion wine, sickly sweet as a priest’s whispered inducement, and a wafer authentically dry as his old cassocks.
Leave these to the pious (or the pi-curious) and skip straight to the sacrament – the tapas shipped down from the restaurant are great, and as well as the usual sort (cured meats, croquetas, tortilla) the small Spanish platefuls include things like Kentish steak with horseradish aioli and fennel salad with feta and pomegranate.
The superb drinks show real invention too, with the menu claiming that they take inspiration from local south London. This means lots of rum (there’s a long list of sipping bottles), plus some little-seen ingredients like the Jamaican sorrel in a Likkel Rascal (as well as pineapple, nutmeg syrup and sugar cane, £7.50), or the Nigerian Guinness foam with Araku rum coffee liqueur in the Tannery (£8.50).
But what about the Grass Arena, served in a brown-paper-bag-wrapped bottle, park-bench style, and made with Carlsberg Special Brew, chilli-infused whisky, cranberry syrup and Buckfast tonic wine? Could anything potable be wrangled from such a cornershop collection? It’s named after a book by local reformed-alcoholic-turned-chess-pro John Healy, and wasn’t quite as bad as it sounds, but I didn’t make it to the end: it may be a tribute to SE5 too far.
From Thursdays to Sundays there’s live music in this unconsecrated undercroft – not Gregorian chanting or hymns, but that of the funk, soul and folk variety.
The theological theme could have been overbearing, but it works; plus it’s not just open on a Sunday and the food and drink is divine. High praise indeed.
A celebration of the vibrant South London culture that makes our small moment in space and time unique. At Communion Bar we pay homage to sacred beverages, mirroring the wondrous flavours from our community while sharing in the entertainment that makes our south London roots so special.