A Guide to Peckham
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How do you even tame a beast like Peckham? Dubbed 'the new Dalston' by busybodies and lo-fi house DJs, London's latest poster child for gentrification has enough enticing food spots, lively bars, and cool cultural spaces to overwhelm even seasoned city explorers like us.
There are very much two Peckhams at the moment - the 'old' and 'new', but we're happy to report that they are co-existing peacefully for now, and minimal dance battles have broken out between them. The old community is still repping strongly on the high street, rubbing shoulders with freelancer-filled cafes and rowdy boozers that entice thrill-seekers from every postcode. Interested? Follow us down saaf, then, we're 'avin it large.
Best for... a morning pick-me-up
After the runaway success of her (now closed) deli in Brixton Market and two cookery books, Rosie Lovell has amassed quite the following. Her fans were no doubt delighted when the plucky cook set up shop on Peckham Rye with the imaginatively named Rosie's - an indie cafe partially funded through crowdsourcing.
Homely and inviting, this charming little spot sees locals pile in for breakfast, brunch, or an afternoon coffee. A chorizo ciabatta with a fried egg and green mayo should kick start your day nicely, whilst a mouthwatering grilled cheese and kimchi sandwich will certainly do for lunch.
Best for... boundary-pushing art
The South London Gallery has been bringing forward-thinking art south of the river for well over a century. The original site - a peaceful, light-filled Victorian structure - has essentially remained untouched, but an extension was added in 2010, adding a cafe (The Habit - a Dojo brunch favourite) and a third gallery space behind its swish secret garden out back.
SLG has a history of launching young artists into the art world stratosphere. It became one of the main showcases for many of the Young British Artists - including Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas - in the early 90s. These days, its focus is on international and emerging artists, as well as nurturing the nascent talents of recent grads through its six-month residency programme.
Best for... Persian bites and eclectic vibes
This cafe-cum-deli is like a psychedelic shouk, an SE15 OG that’s long been serving the community with hard-to-find ingredients and veg-based Persian cooking. Opened in 1999 by Sally Butcher - whose wild cloud of red hair is instantly recognisable to any Peckhamite - Persepolis evolved from a shop to a DIY restaurant.
They’ve only recently been outfitted with a proper kitchen, having spent years making magic on three shoddy induction hobs. But that hasn’t stopped hungry students and long-standing locals from piling in, gorging on homely dishes that change daily based on Sally’s whim.
Best for... tasty tacos and lethal mescal
Taco Queen’s origin story is like a hipster Oliver! - a rags-to-riches tale where these tortilla-slingers rose from the up from the rabble and into a prime spot on Rye Lane. Owners Lucy and Ryan, sick of their jobs in the music industry, decided to make their mutual love for Mexican food a full-time gig.
We munched down a sweet and tangy marinated steak mulita that made our mouths water, whilst veggies are in good hands with their perfectly crunchy battered avocado number with coconut bacon. Wash it all down with some zingy mescal cocktails and you’re living, baby.
Best for... a browse and a boogie
Hidden underneath the layers of sloppy hedonism of the Bussey Building, Rye Wax has been rumbling with experimental electronic sounds since 2015. Repping the darker side of the Copeland Estate, this record shop/music venue plays host to boundary-pushing, left-field acts that stand in contrast to the middle-of-road disco that dominates other dancing spots.
Slink down on a Saturday to get weird with some black-clad art school kids. If all that feet shuffling leaves you feeling peckish, tuck into the grub of the moment from their kitchen residency - they have a reputation for being the last stop before a pop up goes brick and mortar.
Best for... fyah jerk chicken
Helmed by married couple Jennifer and Bill - Jamaican expats going 25+ years strong in SE15 - JB’s has garnered fans from far-flung postcodes who will travel far and wide to get a taste of their punchy Caribbean flavours (Bill told us that one customer regularly braves an hour long drive to scoop up some of their famous jerk).
The main event is, of course, the jerk chicken - a tangy, perfectly spicy number that does everything this humble dish should do. The curried goat is a banger too: tender meat with an aromatic kick that made our eyes water.
Best for... cheap beers and banging pies
A real Peckham institution of over 12 years, The Gowlett has been given a second life after a sudden closure caused mass pandemonium in the area. The pub's popularity is down to its super secret winning combo of two niche crowd pleasers: pizza and beer. Get down and have a bang on one of their delicious, thinly crusted stone-baked pizzas. If pizza gets you parched then you're in the right place: five cask ales feature on the taps and you'll find plenty of locals getting pints in on the regular.
Best for... banging Thai
Located in the bougie stretch of Peckham, Begging Bowl is an SE15 original: this stylish Thai restaurant opened in 2012 - before the flower shops and upmarket delis moved to the street. The passion project of ex-Nahm chef and New Zealand transplant Jane Alty, The Begging Bowl has amassed a diehard fan club for its creative menu and eclectic Thai flavours.
The constantly-changing menu is brimming with seasonal dishes that are meant to be shared (don't call them ‘sharing plates’, though - Jane says communal dining is just the Thai way). Whatever’s on the menu, expect bright, challenging flavours and creative tipples that'll keep you in B.B.'s clutch forever.
Best for... humble Italian in a warehouse
Forza Win started out as a roaming pop up but soon found a permanent home in a restored old grain store in Copeland Park, where it then morphed into a sumptuous set-menu affair. These days, it's a humble restaurant serving simple(ish) Italian dishes, with a modest price point to match - but don't underestimate the magic going on in the kitchen: the flavours here are devastatingly good.
Whilst the menu changes frequently, you'll always find an array of pasta dishes alongside some choice meat (and the odd veggie) mains. We slurped up tagliatelle topped with oven-blistered tomatoes that burst with sun-drenched flavours, as well as a sausage pappardelle that had the comfort factor and flavour of bangers and mash.
Best for... caj cocktails
Tucked underneath P. Rye station, the cool kids of Peckham (and some trans-borough pilgrims) congregate at this stripped-back cocktail bar for vibezy evenings fuelled by their killer cocktail list. On most nights, it gets rammed with shrewd merrymakers making the most of their cheap drinks and banging pizza specials.
Their happy hour is legendary - drop in between 6-7pm and bag two cocktails for £7 (even at the weekend) - everyone knows it's all about rollin' with one in each hand. When the sun's out, the action spills out back onto their ample courtyard space.