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.