Having arrived back from five years in Australia and an additional twelve months in Asia, we’ve now moved into Camberwell and are spending much of our time exploring the surrounds, it’s restaurants and craft beer components. Much has changed. I remember coming to Frank’s Campari Bar when it first opened it’s garage doors around sox or seven years ago and they was the main reason anyone visited Peckham. It was just a bunch of white pople wandering around outside the station all asking each other where the entrance to the car park could be – and upon finding it, only half the top level carpark was being used. Nowadays there’s some sort of pop up on each level and there are massive lines winding down the ramps.
You’ve changed South London. You now have Brick Brewery under the railway arches, Artusi doing some great Italian blackboard menu action, The Begging Bowl with a chef from David Thompson’s Nahm in Bangkok, the Blenheim Forge – young blacksmiths producing Japanese inspired knives, an arcade game bar with craft beer – the list goes on and so do our jaunts to the area. But that influence has spread out to an area I visited for the first time this week – East Dulwich.
Prior to dinner I heard that the best place to find craft beer in East Dulwich was The Flying Pig. Indeed it was – a cosy bar with outdoor seating, couches in the window, bar tables at the front and more traditional tables out the back. The selection of craft beer was decent, stocking many a local brew and those from further afield such as Manchester and Liverpool. They seemed to know their stuff and after reading a review in Root and Bone Magazine I will be back to see what their Josper oven can do to meat. I did find their beer to be on the more pricy side and I’m not too sure why that is. Maybe because they have the corner of the market to themselves down here.
Coming from Melbourne I found that the Aussie city has a high concentration of very decent restaurants an the strike rate of stumbling onto a decent London restaurant at the moment quite low.I like to dine casually – ideally pitching myself for the £40-50 for two people is my sweet spot. I found no value for money at Forza Win last week when one of the three courses was eaten by the rest of the table before the ‘sharing plate’ arrived in front of us. Seems the supperclub mentality is eat or be uneaten.
So imagine my surprise when I scored two fantastic meals in the space of two days. The sharing plate revolution seems to be where it’s at in London and that is also where you’ll find the best value for money. No – I’m not talking tapas either where you generally find substandard fare for too much hard earned cash. I’m taking about proper British fare plated by talented chefs.
Toast(ed) is a breakfast, lunch, dinner and drink establishment taking up two shopfronts in East Dulwich and by a first pass from the front of the joint sees one room with the bar and kitchen with the adjoining room with more tables and their own wine tanks. It’s the first place that I’ve found that has a similar feel to Gerald’s Bar in Melbourne – good wine with a team that aren’t in any way winewankers, top tunes and simply cooked food. Our selection of homemade fresh cheese; pork an apricot terrine; roast cauliflower, brown butter, yoghurt and mint to name to few of the standout dishes went down a treat.
They also own Soif and Terroirs and have a few Aussies in the mix so expect a very decent Flat White. Wine is available to be purchased to take home but I encourage you to visit on a Monday where you can score a selection of their best bottles at retail price to enjoy with your meal. I’m also going to be using them as my bottleshop as their house wine from their vats next door were tickety boo.
After a tip off from @GingerGourmand we backed up this meal with a visit to Peckham Refreshment Rooms. Again, a very similar setup – two frontage space with a bar splitting the room and an open kitchen with chefs on show. I never got a look at the wine menu so can’t say how it compares with Toast(ed) but we were sitting on 500ml Kernel Table Beer bottles – and for £5 that’s super value. But it’s worth sitting on with some great cheese and truffle honey.
The sardines at £3 for a pair were again great value ( I think I’m going to just keep repeating myself) and were well seasoned and popped with flavour.
It’s an eat with your hands type of affair – and isn’t that the best! There’s no plates and just a paper tablecloth. It’s like they knew I was coming. The prosciutto that had been packed in paprika had a nice spin to it and the beans dressed in garlic and olive oil had that fresh crunch you hope for when eating cooked greens.
I saved some space for the dessert special of Amaretto tiramisu which worked well with the addition of the booze.
What I love about these places is that they have a menu that changes daily. It keeps us and them on their toes and you know there’s chefs in there stretching their culinary muscles. I will definitely be back to sample more of the wares from these guys and I suggest you do too!
Peckham Refreshment Room: Unit 3 & 4, 12–16 Blenheim Grove,
London SE15 4QL. Ph. 020 7639 1106. Website.