11a Station Way, Peckham Rye Station, Peckham
The Coal Rooms is the latest in a slew of openings cementing Peckham’s unlikely status as London’s new gastro hub. The place is named for the charcoal used to cook the food and, (we imagine) an homage to the train tracks above the restaurant. The dining room is peaceful and sleek in a clean, stripped-back Scandinavian way—blonde-wood everything, even the fireplaces stacked with chopped wood. The food is smoky, and the plates are small: roasted cod heads, grilled zucchini and zesty yogurt, grits on the side. The Sunday roasts—an institution in Britain—are a thousand times better than the hunks of meat and soggy Yorkshire puddings served elsewhere. The slow-roasted shoulder of lamb with crispy beef-dripping spuds and coal-roasted cauliflower, rounded off with a glass of Sauternes, is weekend lunch done to perfection.
119 Consort Rd., Peckham
Peckham Bazaar is still relatively undiscovered, which is bizarre given it is some of the best food in the city. Nestled in a residential square behind Rye Lane, the restaurant specializes in Balkan cuisine, coupled with Turkish and Greek influences. The menu changes frequently, but standouts, like the beetroot and chestnut manti (Turkish dumplings similar to tortellini) and zucchini fritters, are usually available. All the meat and fish have a strong, smoky flavor thanks to the charcoal grill in the open kitchen. Reservations are essential given the small size of the bright dining room. Start with a glass of sparkling Bulgarian wine, the perfect precursor to a spicy, smoky dinner.
Peckham Refreshment Rooms (Closed)
12-16 Blenheim Grove, Units 3 & 4, Peckham
Just as much a community hub as it is a restaurant, Peckham Refreshment Rooms is a hard one to beat, perennially packed with locals who wish the place would stay a secret. The space has an industrial skeleton, warmed up by the ochre tabletops, stacks of cookbooks and bitters lining the shelves, mellow golden lighting, and most importantly, an electric crowd. The food is what we think of as new British: deliciously assertive in flavor and usually served on a wooden board. Many of the dishes—like the chargrilled sea bass slathered in seaweed butter and doused in burnt lemon, or the pancetta bacon sandwich (the best in the city) served between two crusty wedges of potato bread—are of the dig-in-and-get-your-hands-dirty variety. This is the type of restaurant where the OJ is always fresh, the newspapers are stacked haphazardly on the counter, and the staff rarely changes. It’s also affordable, and run consciously, sustainably, and with gusto by owner James Fisher.
Unit 18, Coldharbour Ln., Peckham
This mini chain started out as a supper club hosted by Beijing native Ning Ma, who wanted to bring authentic Beijing Chinese food to London. A quick success, she started her business at Brixton market, bringing her parents, the original Mama Lan included, in on hand rolling the dumplings and developing the menu.There's a choice of street food-inspired noodle soups and salads, too, and these are worthwhile, though a few orders of fried or steamed dumplings really make the meal here. Don't expect dim sum rolled out on trays, though, instead, get into the casual street food vibe here, which makes it all the better as a takeout/delivery operation. With 5 more mini locales across the city, from Clapham to Shoreditch, the authentic, home made quality of the dumplings remains.
95a Rye Ln., Peckham
Ever since 2008, Frank's Cafe—a bar located on top of a parking garage in Peckham—has been the neighborhood's main hub for summertime drinking. It's fairly bare bones when it comes to drinks and presentation—cocktails are pretty standard and you dine at shared picnic tables—but the sunset views across South London make navigating the always crowded concrete rooftop worthwhile. There are a lot of good up-and-coming galleries in the area, too, including Hannah Barry and The Sunday Painter. This means that the best nights to head over are after the gallery openings, when many of the neighborhood's young artists and curators head out for a celebratory drink, and this installment of the pop-up's light, Mediterranean-inspired fare.