A Peckham Restaurant Crawl


Vegetarian Street Snacks

When Jonathan suggested starting up some regular local restaurant crawls recently, I was so excited, I stepped up to the challenge of leading the very first crawl around my manor, Peckham. The idea is that our group of five would order a starter in one restaurant, a main in a second followed by dessert in a third and then finally drinks in a bar. This particular crawl was scheduled to take place on a Thursday night and I was worried we might not fit everything in but it turned out my fretting was needless as the evening was a blinder. We’ve divvied up the posts between us and so I’ve inserted write-ups of each place visited below. After meeting in Bar Story (more of that later), we moved onto Ganapati for starters. I’ll hand you over to Lizzie

“Ganapati is a South Indian restaurant on a leafy street in the heart of Peckham. When we arrived, I was surprised by the interior; bare wooden country home-style tables were well spaced out and it was light and airy, atypical of the generic curry houses that I’m used to. Pretty sprays of flowers made the place look homely, and there was a pleasing waft of curry leaves. We were welcomed to our table warmly and we explained our plans for the evening to our rather bemused server. While perusing the A4 laminated menu, we were brought a jug of tap water to share. Instantly and rather predictably for me, the ‘aubergine bhurta’ appealed – a smoky aubergine salad with chilli and spices. This was delicious, and even the aubergine sceptic of our party loved it. The smoky flesh of the aubergine was both creamy and slightly tart, with a subtle chilli hint. We also had the crab thoran, which was suitably crabby and had delicious chunks of coconut in it. A masala dosa drew gasps of incredulity from the sheer size of it. Given it’s a pancake stuffed with potato, we wondered how much one would struggle if following it with a main course.

Vegetarian street snacks were extremely moreish and I wish we’d ordered two lots of these, and done away with the vegetable achar, which was simply just pickled vegetables. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge pickle fan but these were a little unexciting whereas the street snacks were expertly fried, light and grease-free. We accompanied our starters with a Cobra beer, and I was a touch taken aback when the bill weighed in at a hefty £45, including service. Perhaps I am too used to the ample delights of Tayyabs. Nevertheless, I am still keen to sample their main courses… I spotted a spicy aubergine masala that caught my attention.”

38 Holly Grove, SE15 5DF
0207 277 2928

Ganapati on Urbanspoon

For the main course I decided to play a wild card. Sure, we could have gone to Il Giardino for Italian (I’ve never been but it’s recommended by mates) or The Gowlett for pizza but that just didn’t feel very, well…Peckham. So, I picked a Nigerian restaurant just down the road, crossed my fingers and hoped for best. Here’s Chris’s account of our meal…

“I’m not proud of it, but I have been known to occasionally turn a blind eye to the ethical sourcing of meat and fish in favour of a better meal. This is the curse of the food-lover, sadly – it may be cute and fluffy with huge brown eyes and one of only a handful in existence but if it tastes good fried and served with a tomato salad then the choice is unfortunately made for me. Out of my hands, sorry – nothing I can do. You can give me all the statistics you like about the world’s cod supply and how over fishing is slowly bringing about Armageddon but the fact remains cod has a gorgeous, flaky flesh and rock (which fashionable foodies will try and tell you is the “new cod”) has all the flavour and texture of a bag of sand. Natural selection, innit.”

“That said, even I flinched at the sight of Dodo on the menu at the Delta Tavern, our main course stop on the Peckham Restaurant crawl. I weighed up the options in my mind – greatest scientific discovery of the last 500 years, or the chance to try a dish before Dos Hermanos got to it? I would have ordered it too, if it wasn’t for the fact it turned out to just be fried plantain. So instead, we ordered the worryingly non-specific “Assorted meat” and “Spicy Fried Fish”, each accompanied by a generous portion of fried rice for a measly £5 a dish.”

“In common with other African cuisines I’ve tried (and I have Cadbury to thank for my introduction to Ghanaian cuisine a couple of months back), it’s about making the most out of cheap flesh and still ending up with a filling – and most importantly spicy – plate of food. The meat was largely gelatinous and fatty, with some tripe in there too, but doused in the onion and bell pepper sauce it was pleasantly fiery and with an interesting range of textures. The fried fish was overcooked in parts but was a charmingly simple preparation – the whole back end of a fish coated in spices and dipped into boiling fat. It was nicely crunchy and was washed down very well with the £2 cans of Stella (see if you can get them cheaper at your local offie!). It was a perfectly decent and very, very cheap dinner. Well done them.”

Delta Tavern
58 Rye Lane, SE15 4RJ
0207 450 7048

Delta Tavern on Urbanspoon

Last but by no means least we headed to Frank’s Campari pop up bar (which also serves cake and therefore could provide us with dessert), situated on top of Peckham’s delightful multi-storey car park. Here’s what Jonathan had to say about it…

“We approached Frank’s Café and Campari Bar with fear and trepidation. Sinister red paint trickled down the ammonia scented concrete stairs and made us feel as though we were in a prequel to an episode of Waking the Dead. When we emerged on the roof of the multi storey car park we were silenced by the most awe inspiring view over London you will find anywhere in the capital. From the Dome in the east, past Docklands and into the City the lights twinkled and our jaws ached from gaping.

With a beer in hand, we ignored the sign saying no drinks beyond this point and explored the two top floors which were filled with rather bizarre, but fun, works of art.The highlight was a chauffeur driven ride, by one of the artists, in a futuristic looking golf buggy/go-cart which used the sculptures as its obstacle course. Just imagine a combination of Mad Max, Back to the Future and a tour around the Whitechapel Gallery.

Frank’s serves drinks and food from their BBQ until 10pm.”

Frank’s Café and Campari Bar
10th Floor, Peckham Multi-Story Car Park
95a Rye Lane, SE15 4ST

We wound up the evening with a few drinks in Bar Story. Here are local gal Jassy’s thoughts…

“Stuffed into the back of a railway arch, and with a junk yard vibe out front, Bar Story used to be where Peckham’s art set gathered to admire each other’s fixed wheel bikes and vintage hats. Now it’s where everyone goes once Frank’s is shut. They must be looking forward to October 1st.

The decoration is minimal – they have painted walls, communal tables and doors on the toilets – and the atmosphere is relaxed. We started and ended our evening there. I noted that they have a huge cocktail menu, which we didn’t try, and a food menu that runs the gamut of contemporary pub favourites, from houmous and pitta to chicken curry, pizza and chips. We didn’t try that either. In fact, all we did was drink lager and cider, drop a glass and cheer the firemen that wandered through, possibly to tell off the staff for letting people sit round a large bin of fire in the front yard.

For the firemen, the friendly bar staff and the fact that they often play Tina Turner’s greatest hits, I’m going to give them two thumbs up. Not as good as Frank’s, obviously (gnash your teeth Bar Story), but the best we’ll have once Frank’s is gone.”

Bar Story
213 Blenheim Grove, SE15 4QL
T: 020 7635 6643

So there you have it – the inaugural restaurant crawl. I’m delighted I took the plunge as the night was an absolute stonker. You know by now how I feel about Peckham so I won’t bang on too much. Yes, it has problems but it’s also bursting with energy and personality. I love a bit of a gritty, smelly edge to my neighbourhood. I love the pumping beats which accompany me on my walk to the station and I love the fact I can buy African land snails…you know, if I wanted to. I recently read a comment on a review site that described Peckham as an, “unadulterated shithole” and went so far as to ask, “who the hell lives in Peckham?” Well, apart from an estimated 26,000 people, numbskull, I do thanks very much, and I love it.

Thank you to Lizzie and Jonathan for some of the photos.

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  • Avatar
    Reply Jonathan September 16, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    I’m so pleased this worked out! And simply can’t wait for the next one. I’m already bouncing around with ideas for what to do in Brixton and Balham!

    And I can’t even begin to explain how sorry I am for being so late! Whoops. At least I get to catch up on it all here.

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    Reply Jess September 16, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    Fantastic – what a concept. Jealousy abound here with the midnight go-karting. Anyone try the pepper cow’s leg at the Delta Tavern?

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    Reply Sharmila September 16, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Looks like a lot of fun! I go past Delta Tavern every day, but have never thought to go in.

    Having spent many a drunken night (and my engagement party) in Bar Story, I can safely say their mojitos are very very lethal.

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    Reply Helen September 16, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Jonathan – No worries, you did your best! I can’t wait for all the crawls to follow. SO exciting!
    Jess- Well we wanted the pepper cow’s leg but they had sold out so we ordered some kind of mixed meat which had the cows leg in it. VERY gelatinous. A bit like eating a pig’s trotter but more, well, beefy.

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    Reply Helen September 16, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    Sharmila – I shall have to get myself down there for a mojito! Can’t believe I hadn’t been in earlier. The Delta Tavern was funny. It wasn’t the greatest food in the world but it was tasty and it was cheap.

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    Reply Mathilde's Cuisine September 16, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    Very creative concept and a great way to enjoy and discover new places. It must have been an incredible night

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    Reply ginandcrumpets September 16, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    Brilliant night! Thanks for organising it, Helen. Food highlight for me was the cow’s foot in the assorted meats at the Delta Tavern, although the tripe was a bit like spicy flannel. We tried to order the pepper cow’s leg, but they didn’t bring it. Suspect they thought we couldn’t handle the pepper cow’s leg. The night may have ended very differently if we’d been allowed pepper cow’s leg.

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    Reply Lizzie September 16, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    It was a brilliant night! One of the best I’ve had in ages. Roll on New Cross…

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    Reply Kate (londoneating) September 16, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    What a great night! Such an exciting concept too – looking forward to the next crawl. (If you’re heading north of the river, give me a shout!)

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    Reply Ollie September 16, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Was so sad to miss this one – it sounds even better than I’d thought. I loved Chris’s dodo meat comment!

    Can’t wait for New Cross.

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    Reply Helen September 16, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Mathilde – It was brilliant! I highly recommend crawling 🙂
    Jassy – Ah yes they are two different things aren’t they. Wow, that foot was gelatinous. You made me laugh out loud with ‘spicy flannel’
    Lizzie – I can’t wait! mmmm, jerk.
    Kate – Will do! It was such a fun concept. I was nervous we wouldn’t fit it all in but you just need to be a bit strict about timings.
    Ollie – I love that comment too! I am SO looking forward to New Cross. I have sampled some of the delights there already and I have to say – delish.

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    Reply tehbus September 16, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Sounds like you guys had a great time, good on Peckham! After your new New Cross escapade, I definitely think I should introduce you to the delights of Camberwell. Beware though, grilled meat may well be involved.

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    Reply Kim September 16, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    Such a great idea… I sometimes just go out for pudding after dinner somewhere else or at home… but this is even better – and local to me to! Nice one guys!!

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    Reply Kerri September 16, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    Sounds like a lot of fun and a really interesting idea, too. The more I read about Peckham, the more interesting and vibrant it sounds. Great way to learn about a particular area.

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    Reply Gourmet Chick September 16, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Wow Helen this sounds brilliant. Also I haven’t had a chance to comment on it yet but LOVE the new blog design – that looks like you hanging off the bus as well!

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    Reply Tracy September 17, 2009 at 9:26 am

    Who lives in Peckham? I do too! And i love it too! Great to read these reviews and to find your blog. Keep it up!

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    Reply canelvr September 17, 2009 at 10:15 am

    Local restaurant crawls – what an amazing idea! From what I’ve seen I’d say you’re on the money with your love of Peckham too.

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    Reply Helen Yuet Ling Pang September 17, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    What an excellent idea! I’m trying to remember where I read about a crawl in NYC, which also sounded really fun. Peckham or NYC, both just as interesting I think!

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    Reply Krista September 17, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Firstly, LOVE the new blog design.

    Secondly, I love this idea and can’t wait for the next one! I could do Clerkenwell if people don’t feel like they’ve already done it…

  • Avatar
    Reply Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen September 17, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    Sounds like so much fun! What a great way to hang out with friends and be introduced to new places as well!

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    Reply The Ginger Gourmand September 21, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    I was so sorry to miss out on all the fun anyway, then (to make me feel even worse..) Lizzie told me what a top night it was and now I’ve read this. I so missed out on all the fun. Bring on New Cross!

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    Reply Pete September 27, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    I’ve been to Franks 3 days in a row. It is blinkin brilliant. Apart from having to pee in a stairwell, but I guess it is in a multistory carpark! I got people from trendy East London down to Peckham at last. Result

  • Avatar
    Reply Polprav October 16, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    Hello from Russia!
    Can I quote a post in your blog with the link to you?

  • Avatar
    Reply Helen October 16, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    Polprav – Sure you can!

  • Avatar
    Reply Katrina October 29, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    Now can you go further afield and reveal some of the best kept secrets of Brixton??

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