What’s it named after? The Fox Under The Hill, an 18th-century pub further down Denmark Hill destroyed in World War II. This pub was built as a replacement, first opening its doors in 1959. It became a Wetherspoon pub in November 1993.
What’s the carpet like?
Sit on top of the bus from Camberwell to Herne Hill and you can’t miss the The Fox on the Hill. It’s an impressive and imposing building, with a big beer garden at the front boasting impressive views into central London. There’s another beer garden at the back, too. Ruskin Park, over the road, extends the unexpectedly rustic feel. This post-war giant is very much of its time – even boasting a car park.
They don’t make pubs like this any more. If this was on a 1950s council estate, like The Tiger’s Head in Catford, it’d have bitten the dust years ago. Or it’d have become a Toby carvery. But the Denmark Hill triangle’s a bit more upmarket, and the Fox sits in splendid near-isolation as a local landmark.
The Fox’s size, though, is its downfall. The gloomy main bar is full of middle-aged men in little groups on our weekday teatime visit, and feels intimidating. It was difficult to catch the eye of anyone behind the bar. To be fair, it’s a probably a pain to work out who’s been waiting where the longest. But the service is indifferent, and the beer – Adnams’ Ar Reet – not much better. (We swapped the wine for a G&T this time around – probably for the best.)
At least you can escape the eyeballs of the main bar by sneaking off to the “family area” at the back – basically, the dining area. We weren’t the only ones. There are also plenty of snugs to hide in, too.
The only problem with being in a family area soon made itself apparent when a baby started bawling its eyes out. And kept on bawling. The group of suited chaps who’d come in for a meal gritted their teeth.
This is an old-style Wetherspoons – dark wood, sticky tables, and dim lighting, like being stuck under old sodium street lamps. To quote Deserter.co.uk, it has “all the soul of an airport departure gate”.
It has the immediate area almost to itself – just the Phoenix at Denmark Hill station and George Canning on Grove Lane nearby, and both are relatively upmarket boozers these days. If they don’t appeal, then Camberwell Green and and the rapidly gentrifying Loughborough Junction are a fair old trudge away.
It’s a handy stop-off point for Dulwich Hamlet football fans on their way to Champion Hill and people coming home from work. And for half the year, you can sit out in the garden and gaze across the capital.
But the inside needs some attention and love. The Fox on the Hill could be a bushy-tailed, sparkly-eyed thing. But it feels like it’s been left to survive on scraps. At the very least, they could sort out the lighting.
We want to love the Fox. And maybe we will in the summer. It’s one to save for warmer days, we’d suggest.
Address: 149 Denmark Hill SE5 8EH
Buses: 42, 68, 468 to the door; 40, 176, 185, 484 to Denmark Hill station
Train: Denmark Hill (Zone 2 – Overground, Southeastern, Thameslink)
Social media: The Fox on the Hill is on Twitter (where they’re lovely, which makes us feel awful for not being nicer about their pub) and Facebook.