Food & drink

A Foodie's Day Out In...Peckham

We’re certain to have your mouth watering at our very own food tour of the bustling London neighbourhood, Peckham.
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Spiralling rents in Zone 1 have been squeezing the vital creative juices out of central London for some time, but over the last year or two that process has accelerated to something approaching warp speed. The West End’s loss is everywhere else’s gain, however, and you can see this best in Peckham, a place that has both a vibrant multicultural community and a new wave of cool, young creatives. 

Peckham has always been a hotspot for artists and had a bustling nightlife scene. And while there have been a few dining treasures for those in the know, it’s fast becoming one of the best neighbourhoods for eating in the entire capital. What used to be thought of as a run-down corner of south east London is today a place where cultures come together and good things happen, a place where, in the space of a day, you can eat your way round the world – from Spanglish breakfasts to pillow-soft Taiwanese Bao.  So, what better time to give this new foodie heaven a try?

9.15AM No. 67

The Full English is tough to beat as a way to start the day, but No.67 is having a good go. Tucked away in a leafy corner of Peckham, next to the renowned South London Gallery, this cafe has an impeccable local reputation. There’s no showing off required. Amid busy tables, we order the Spanglish – a tweak on the British classic where smoky chorizo stains the plate with its juices and a perfectly crumbly Morcilla blood sausage bests any black pudding thanks to Iberian spices and a pungent hit of garlic. Cold brew Peruvian coffee and a crisp, cold-pressed kale, apple and cucumber juice also hit the spot.

11.00AM Persepolis

After a nose around the South London Gallery, it’s a short stroll past the buzzing barbershops of Peckham’s high street to Persepolis. The boundaries of obscure don’t stretch sufficiently far to cover this café and store, owned and run by legendary local character, Sally Butcher. It is a former corner shop and Aladdin’s Cave, stuffed from floor to ceiling with exotic tins, jars and packets that represent the many flavours of Persia. The well-priced café – otherwise known as Snacistan – does a roaring trade day and night but given that this is a marathon not a sprint we go for a single sticky baklava, perfumed with rose syrup, and an invigorating cup of mint tea.

13.00PM Mr Bao

Bao buns are big news across street food markets and countertops of London. Long-present in varying quality in Chinatown, these fluffy white pillows of joy and their meaty fillings have been elevated to an art form by places like Bao London and the place we stop for lunch – Mr Bao. The space is beautifully appointed: all clean lines and muted tones with a big window looking out on to Rye Lane. From a small but perfectly formed menu we sample Bao Diddley, an umami hit of brined and fried chicken thigh, house-made kimchi and wasabi mayo. Elsewhere there’s a fried tofu Bao with ginger and perhaps the finest example of the classic pork belly, peanut and pickle Bao that’ll pass your lips in London – simply titled Mr Bao. Cocktails are again drawn from a very short but ever-changing selection. Perfect counterparts for the spicy flavours include a clove-infused Old Fashioned and a classic daiquiri made with sour, fresh, citrusy yuzu fruit. Service is quick and friendly; the perfect place for an informal bite.

14.30PM Baba Juice

Baba is the undisputed spot for juice in Peckham. Having started life like several other fine institutions around here – i.e. down an unprepossessing alleyway – it now inhabits a light, bright shop on Blenheim Road. We order the Everything Green juice in the hope its digestive powers lay the groundwork for an evening of more indulgent eating. Bunches of fresh herbs, kale, spinach, apple and more go in to a hefty juicer while we inspect the intriguing jars of pickles and preserves that line the shelves. When it arrives, the juice is pure, green joy. 

18.00PM Peckham Bazaar

It’s early at this legendary neighbourhood eatery but the place is rammed. On entry we are hit with a welcoming lungful of heady charcoal smoke; Greek music plays gently in the background; all feels relaxed and charming. It’d be easy to imagine we’d just stumbled into a simple, traditional Greek place, but don’t be fooled. The kitchen here is busily transforming the fundamentals of eastern Mediterranean cuisine into something magical. A custom-built wood grill takes centre stage and out of respect we start with a perfect plate of octopus, hot off the coals, blackened just the right amount with a cooling slick of tarama fish roe and a handful of capers and parsley. A modern take on the funky Greek classic Retsina from Gaia offers a delicious, clean contrast to the salty food. Next comes a plate of tender lamb from the grill, charred but still pink, served with gigantes (giant butter beans) and a tangy scattering of lightly pickled red onion. A glass of Okto from Crete marries spicy Syrah and native Mandilari grapes, bringing to the taste buds hints of juicy cherries and plums. Dessert is similarly simple and delicious. Baklava makes its second appearance of the day, this time lighter, crisper and served with slices of honey-poached quince and an oregano ice cream, bringing deep layers of flavour that extend well beyond the sum of their parts. We leave begrudgingly, thinking that Peckham Bazaar justifies a trip to the area all by itself. 

21.00PM The Four Quarters

A nightcap calls and The Four Quarters answers. It is a rare beast; equal parts craft beer kingdom and vintage arcade machine museum. We wash down refreshing Brooklyn Summer Ales with chasers of Knob Creek Bourbon, watching an assembled crowd of mostly men relive teenage fantasies on classic arcade shooters, driving games and chiming pinball machines. A perfect kind of madness.

22.30PM Asian Takeaway

It’s true. We really have eaten enough for one day. But then a hot tip was whispered in the bar that Asian Takeaway – found in an arch under Peckham Rye station’s railway bridge – is an absolute must at this time of night. It doesn’t sound, or look, much but the freshly baked naan breads are just one more Peckham revelation to add to the growing list. Spectacular food in unspectacular surroundings – it could be a metaphor for the whole day, making Asian Takeaway a fitting way to end it.  

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