What links Vauxhall and Elephant & Castle? For many years, that uninspiring question had an equally uninspiring answer: ‘the A3204’. But given that road nowadays connects Voho, Vauxhall’s flourishing gay village, with the resurgent cultural hub that is the Elephant, it’s high time to revert to its proper name, the rather more refined ‘Kennington Lane’.
The teetering Victorian chimneystacks to the north, familiar to the young Charlie Chaplin, soon give way to grand Georgian terraces peppered with florists and cafés. It’s a corner of Kennington that feels more like Kensington. Then again, SE11 was something of a royal borough itself: it was once the location of a long-vanished palace. Parliament was even held here in medieval times, and this road is still popular with MPs, since you can just about hear the chimes of Big Ben from here. (You know – when they’re actually chiming.)
If that’s all sounding a little square, head to the Triangle: a dining and drinking enclave created by the Lane’s junction with Kennington Road. It’s all Mediterranean and Middle Eastern places, with delis and bars spilling down side streets and buildings painted every colour of the LGBT+ rainbow. By the time you’ve reached Vauxhall, with its pubs and pleasure gardens you’ll be truly in the pink.
London-brewed beers at the eccentric, comfy, taxidermy-filled pub The Dog House. You’ll have no bones to pick with this place.
A crisp G&T to round off a tour of the Beefeater Gin Distillery, just off the Lane. The recipe has hardly changed since the 1800s.
A few cold ones in the beer garden at The Pilgrim, a lively corner boozer favoured by cricket fans spilling out of the nearby Oval.
The veggie sharing platter at Kennington Tandoori. This high-end Indian restaurant delivered David Cameron his last takeaway at 10 Downing Street.
Sizzling seafood skewers from Little Lisbon on the Kennington Triangle, which draws plenty of Portuguese Londoners up from their Stockwell enclave.
A humongous full English ordered off the blackboard at Kennington Lane Café: a cheap ’n’ cheerful, family-run greasy spoon.
Go out on a school night to The Eagle, which hosts the legendary Horse Meat Disco every Sunday.
Swing by the Toulouse Lautrec jazz bar and brasserie for some smooth live sounds over dinner.
Book a guided tour of movie memorabilia at the Cinema Museum, just off the Lane in an old Victorian workhouse that once put up the young Charlie Chaplin. While you’re there, sign their petition to stay open beyond March 2018.
Meet alpacas, horses and a whole menagerie of strokeable creatures at the kid-friendly Vauxhall City Farm, just up Tyler Street.
Bouquets, potted cacti and other colourful curiosities from Windmill Flowers.
Gift-friendly arts, crafts and literature from the Indian Subcontinent at Shalimar Books.
Spanish almonds, Canadian maple syrup and more international produce at Sally White – just down Kennington Road.
And if you only do one thing…