Peckham has changed a lot over the decades, but an “everyday segregation”, as Yvonne Maxwell puts it, has persisted. There’s a pervading sense that the South-East London neighbourhood is being gentrified too rampantly and too rapidly, and others think that, while regeneration is inevitable, it could be responsibly controlled to even benefit the community, as the short documentary This is Peckham suggests.
Food writing about Peckham over the years tells you so much about the importance of not isolating restaurants from their urban context. On Rye Lane, the dominant sensory rhythms are the sound of south Asian vendors selling cassava, plantain, and dried fish to West African residents, wafts of meaty smoke from suya and jerk filling the air, reggae and afrobeats on full blast. You simply cannot sip your glass of natural wine without taking some of this in.
Peckham is still uniquely placed in terms of its genuinely diverse food scene – straddling ethnic and class lines. It is home to a multiplicity of West African cuisines, perhaps the highest density of good jerk chicken in London, a family-run Vietnamese restaurant serving up some of the best Viet food in the city, a collective of modern South African-influenced restaurants, London’s most Jura-focused wine list at Levan, and one of the city’s most beloved neighbourhood Italian restaurants at Artusi. I spent nearly two years living on Rye Lane, and this is something of a love letter to the culinary pleasures to be found in my erstwhile neighbourhood.
This guide covers Peckham’s restaurants as well as a selection of favourite takeaway counters and street stands.