Having a meal at Bonnington Café feels a bit like going for dinner at a friend’s house, thanks to the comfortable, homely setting and delicious home-cooking. The cafe occupies two floors of a converted house and has plenty of charm and character: dried flowers, old clocks, knick-knacks, paintings on the colourful walls and a piano in the corner, make it a warm and welcoming space.
The cafe isn’t run by a single person but a collective of member cooks who also maintain the space. While some of the cooks do have recurring shifts, the arrangement means no two days are the same and what’s on offer is truly international.
There’s always a starter (£3), a main (£8) and a dessert (£3). Each usually has two options to choose between, and will likely include a vegan and gluten-free dish. At least one night a week, the menu is entirely vegan. The cafe is unlicensed, but you’re encouraged to bring your own alcohol. There’s no corkage fee, but there is a 50p charge for a glass.
The bohemian spirit of the cafe is squarely linked to the history of Bonnington Square, in which it sits. In the 1980s, the square was left vacant. Houses were scheduled for demolition, but squatters moved in, occupied the buildings and, over time, came to own them. The squatters formed a housing collective and established a community garden. They set up Bonnington Centre and, inside, a vegetarian cafe providing a good, cheap meal for the community.
Today, the centre offers yoga and pilates classes, provides counselling and hosts film nights and community events. And, after more than 30 years, Bonnington Café remains one of south London’s unique treasures. It’s popular and busy, so book a table in advance by contacting the chef through the cafe’s website.
Don’t forget to bring cash — cards aren’t accepted.