Establishment neighborhood
Level 5, 95a Rye Ln., Peckham
Peckham is a neighborhood deep in Southeast London, and it’s experiencing an urban renaissance. And Peckham Levels—a multistory creative space that addresses the working needs of the modern multihyphenate—embodies this breath of fresh air. Wildflower is the Level’s canteen, where global vegetarian food is served—the type beloved in this culturally diverse area. A typical menu includes coconut dal with fried eggs and flatbread for breakfast, locally baked sourdough, all manner of roasted and glazed vegetables, and affogatos for dessert, spiked with Frangelico, a hazelnut liqueur. As is the case with most spots in this area, the décor is simple and utilitarian, with long tables for communal dining and plenty of greenery. Wildflower’s health-driven menu is affordable, too, which means those communal tables are always heaving with a loyal, local crowd.
119 Queen's Rd., Peckham
South Londoners keep quiet about the food in Peckham. Its restaurants are so good (Peckham Bazaar), so affordable (Banh Banh), and so atmospheric (Artusi), locals want to keep this surprisingly-amazing gastronomical post code to themselves. Kudu fits right in. South African-inflected dishes like braai lamb loin with smoked yoghurt, salt-baked carrots with kefir, vegetable potjie, and spiced biltong (South Africa’s answer to charcuterie) make up the menu. The décor matches the food in terms of detail—mauve walls, chevron wood floors, and intimately small, glass-topped tables. It’s a worthy addition to the already-great Peckham neighborhood.
Review Bookshop
131 Bellenden Rd., Peckham
Review is one of those independent bookshops that makes us all wish we read more. It’s staffed with novelists always willing to lift up their heads from the page and offer a suggestion or four. Books are thoughtfully divided—not by traditional categories but into tongue-in-cheek colloquial genres, like “wimmin” for women, making a casual browse substantially more enjoyable. Literary fiction is the preferred genre here, with the best of the new bunch always stacked on the table by the door. Interspersed among the titles are cookbooks, pretty greeting cards, Moleskine journals, and the occasional candle.
Bold Tendencies
7th-10th Floors Multi-Storey Car Park, 95a Rye Ln., Peckham
Bold Tendencies founder Hannah Barry is responsible for much of Peckham’s transformation into a culture—and counterculture—hub. At this point there are few corners of this diverse, buzzing neighborhood that Barry and her organization haven’t touched. Take the parking lot: The rooftop you walk over is covered in undulating lines of weather-reflecting paint by artist Richard Wentworth. The once-grimy stairwell has been transformed by Simon Whybray into a trippy, bubble-gum-pink tunnel. The Derek Jarman roof garden converts drab concrete into a lush, landscaped escape. And we would be remiss not to mention the multistory orchestra, a collective of accomplished musicians hosting folk and classical performances in unexpected places (like that parking lot).
South London Gallery
65-67 Peckham Rd., Peckham
Somewhat off the beaten path, the South London Gallery is in a stretch of South London—straddling Camberwell and Peckham—that is known for pushing the envelope. It’s a multifunctional space that has created a community with its interactive programs (for adults and kids), a garden, and an excellent café that’s reliably packed with creative types and local mums tucking into baked eggs. After coffee, wander into the shop for a great selection of books, magazines, jewelry, and ceramics from local artisans.
Bussey Building, 133 Rye Ln., Peckham
Yoga is big in London (as it is everywhere), but there are few places we have enjoyed practicing more than Yogarise. Held on an upper floor of a South London warehouse, classes are large, but the experience feels incredibly intimate. This is no run-of-the-mill Ashtanga. Classes are taught to music that stretches from classical and instrumental to traditional Indian. The yin class, taught by Emma Peel, not only focuses on stretching out the hips and lower back but is a meditative experience unlike any we’ve had. Peel recites poetry, the music seems to ebb and flow with the stretches (which you hold for up to five minutes), and the room smells comfortingly—never overwhelmingly—of incense. Mats, blocks, and blankets are freely provided, and the relaxation area, filled with art house magazines, herbal teas, and works by local artists, is a space you could spend hours in.
The General Store
174 Bellenden Rd., Peckham
One goop staffer visited this tiny but mighty, absolutely perfect general store every weekend while she lived in London. Shelves, baskets, and crates are stocked with produce: heirloom tomatoes from Italy, mangoes from India, lettuces, herbs, and dairy from the English countryside. Everything has been thoughtfully chosen by Merlin and Genevieve, the owners, and every last heirloom tomato and wedge of English Cheddar is the highest quality money can buy. Despite the size of the store—it’s teeny—all the pantry essentials, like pasta, flour, spices, bread, and eggs, are here, as well as an incredible selection of cheese, farm-fresh eggs, good wine, and pastries. The General Store hosts regular wine tastings, and the line is out the door most days.
The Montpelier
43 Choumert Rd., Peckham
One of the most verdantly beautiful pubs in London, the Montpelier is painted a regal navy blue with flower baskets cascading down every corner and lush plant boxes on every windowsill. Inside, the same deep navy covers the walls, creating a warm, cozy feeling enhanced by the perpetually crackling fireplace. The Montpelier is a local spot filled with young creative types and the more settled crowd (often with their kids) seven nights a week. The traditional Sunday roast—complete with gravy and towering Yorkshire puddings—is even more excellent when accompanied by live jazz. The pub has its own screening room; head there on the weekend, and follow it with heated conversation and a few drinks at the bar.
161 Bellenden Rd., Peckham
Peckham has become London’s new neighborhood of reckoning, and Artusi—a small, sleek dining room on a Bellenden Road corner—leads the pack. The food is modern Italian; instead of big, heavy, saucy dishes, expect small neat plates of seasonal vegetables and twirls of house-made pasta. Try the sunchokes with hazelnuts and gorgonzola to start. And follow that with Artusi’s interpretation of pasta, which is the opposite of boring: fresh bucatini with chard, or Taleggio with the unexpected addition of raisins goes down surprisingly easy. Wine-wise, the list leans heavily on organic and biodynamic wines, sadly still a rarity in London. And across the board, the chef takes provenance seriously, listing all suppliers on the menus, which change daily. Reservations are essential.
Banh Banh
46 Peckham Rye, Peckham
When five first-generation siblings decided to bring 1940s Saigon to London, they weren’t messing around. The menu, inspired by their Vietnamese grandmother, is short and to the point. The prawn pancakes are unlike anything we’ve had: puffed turmeric pancakes, a king prawn embedded into each one, served in a piping hot skillet with a plate of fixings (you wrap each pancake in lettuce and herbs and douse it in fish sauce). And on a cold day, there is nothing better than the salty, spicy beef pho. The exposed-brick walls, simple wooden seating, and sprinkling of plants feel thoughtful. The servers always remember you like extra hoisin sauce, the Vietnamese coffee is better than any dessert, and walk-ins are generally accommodated.