So we were going to swing by on Friday night, but the rain poured and it was easier to take shelter under the arches at Camden Brewery. Then Saturday was even worse: heavy spikes, on and off, the respite more leaden skies. Poor Regent’s Canal Festival, we thought, and every other bastard who’s arranged a sodden outdoor event this grim ‘summer’. And so we put the kettle on, catching up on the Secret History Of The Streets.
But we finally shuffled down to the Roundhouse yesterday, suncream, airport novels and sunday paper packed in our day bag. The beach is on its huge terrace, as we reported on Thursday. And the combination of sand and palms against the backdrop of Camden’s industrial heritage – the curved splendour of the Roundhouse (a former steam engine repair shed) and railways lines beyond – is urban juxtaposition at its most effective. In fact, it recalled La Barceloneta, the urban plage in Spain’s party capital.
At midday we were surprised that almost every deckchair was already taken, mostly by extended local families celebrating birthdays. And yes it was nice that everyone there was determined to have a ‘day out’: kids all around us enthusiastically digging, playing badminton or building castles, parents sneaking in a large glass of wine as they pursued tiny offspring across the sand. And – hallelujah! – the sun actually shone; a particularly intense heat, in fact, although it was patchy all afternoon, to groans and disbelief from fellow campers.
Things we loved? The tiki bar, with its wooden stools on which you could perch and watch the action; the gold wristband offering 4 Sols for a tenner; the diversity of the crowd.
And the soundtrack? Deliciously Ibizan, our only tip being never to play more than one Jamiroquai ‘classic’ of an afternoon. Or better still, hire a DJ, Salinas-style.
Teething issues? The menu – much of it from a sizzling BBQ – has no relation to the wonderful Made In Camden downstairs, and our burger was rather perfunctory (falling way short of the gastronomic heights reached by the regular stalls in Wilkin Street Mews). Still, the chips were nice.
And the staff could perhaps smile a little more; we’re on holiday, right?
But Camden Beach is an ace temporary addition to the neighbourhood, the capital at its most urban yet unexpected. And, as it’s west-facing, we can’t wait to return on a true summer’s day for a glorious sunset, iced beer in hand.
The Beach runs throughout July & August 11am-11pm.
Words & Pics: Stephen Emms