Peckham: A Cultural Guide

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Image © diamond geezer via Flickr

The best things to do in Peckham, south London, including contemporary art, drinking spots and restaurant recommendations.

The south London district of Peckham is home to some of the most important emerging contemporary art in London, spearheaded by the South London Gallery, an early champion of artists such as Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and Gilbert & George. You can also find delicious world cuisine, eclectic local bars and amazing summertime spots in the area.

What to eat

For weekend brunch, go to No.67, the restaurant attached to the South London Gallery. It serves treats such as waffles with crispy bacon and bourbon syrup, the ‘Full Spanglish’ (eggs with a chorizo and morcilla twist) and a variety of toppings on sourdough toast. They have a pop-up espresso bar Saturday-Monday, which serves doughnuts from St. John Bakery. They also offer a dinner deal on Wednesdays and Thursdays (3 courses for £22), so it’s worth a visit just for that.

For a coffee date, head to Lerryn’s, which serves tasty coffee and ‘stuff on toast’. The Peckham Pelican also do great pots of coffee, as well as D.I.Y. bagels, and in the evening they serve craft ales and nice wine.

Melange Chocolate Shop is a tiny, unassuming shop owned by a French chocolatier, which serves the best hot chocolate you will drink in London, together with rich chocolate fondant cake and chocolate truffles. The owner creates slabs of chocolate with amazing combinations - coriander and grapefruit, bergamot and cinnamon, ginger and lime - and generous samples are available before you purchase any to take home.

For dinner, try Ganapati, which serves south Indian food and is a local favourite. If you like Thai food, go the Begging Bowl, which is consistently rated one of the best restaurants in Peckham. New Taiwanese restaurant Mr Bao has just opened, serving classic Bao steamed buns, with intriguing twists on dessert (Bao S’Mores anyone?). The ever-popular Peckham Bazaar, which serves Eastern Mediterranean charcoal-grilled food, is definitely worth a visit.

Where to drink

Bar Story’s cocktails are normally £5/£6, but in happy hour, they do a two for one deal, making it one of the cheapest places in south London to get delicious drinks. Opposite Bar Story is Peckham Springs, which is a gallery as well as a bar space, and usually full of art students from UAL, and new drinking hole John the Unicorn has just opened on Rye Lane.

At Four Quarters, you can play vintage arcade games whilst eating pub food and drinking craft beer: they run deals such as Mac & Cheese Monday, which offers the dish for £5 all night.

In the summertime, Frank’s Café is a great rooftop bar to spend an afternoon or evening: they close for the winter but can be found on the 10th floor of the Peckham multi-storey car park, serving decently-priced cocktails, grilled meat and fish, and small snacks.

Nights out

Canavan’s Pool Hall is a functioning pool hall and local place to drink on most evenings, but they also host electronic, house and dance nights, often with local up-and-coming DJs.

The Bussey Building hosts a range of eclectic nights out, from the South London Soul Train to a Hawaiian Bop to grime queen Madam X. Pre-booked tickets are from £5.

Things to do

Families can visit the Peckham Pulse centre, which has a soft play area for children, and London Borough of Southwark residents who are under 18 or over 60 get free gym and swim, a scheme which Southwark Council are hoping to offer to all residents by July 2016.

Fans of vintage clothing can visit Vintage Threads on Bellenden Road to snap up some bargains.

The independent Review Bookshop has a great selection of books: it welcomes dog owners and has a nice outdoor space where you can sip coffee. It also hosts many of the events for the Peckham Literary Festival

The Peckhamplex is a much-loved independent cinema offering tickets for just £4.99 all day - head there to catch the latest flicks.John Boyega, a Peckham local, is rumoured to have gone there to watch the latest Star Wars instalment that he starred in.

The Peckham Rye Music Festival happens in May, with over 40 artists performing across ten well-loved Peckham venues.

Cultural highlights

The Bussey Building is a cultural centre that hosts the well-known Rooftop Film Club in the summer. Its packed event programme includes comedy nights, fringe theatre, dance performances and film screenings, usually for very reasonable prices.

The South London Gallery is a free contemporary art gallery, with an exciting programme of live art and film, as well as lots of local outreach and educational projects. In 2016, they will be hosting the Guggenheim New York’s blockbuster Under the Same Sun exhibition of Latin American art, which will be an unmissable show. The SLG are currently renovating the former Peckham Road fire station, in order to transform it into a new space for their vibrant programme.

Smaller galleries to visit include the Peckham Platform, an independent gallery space promoting visual art from the local community, and Asylum, a newly opened collective project space, which includes a stripped back Victorian house and AMP gallery on Acorn Parade. AMP’s first exhibition of contemporary art will be on 24 March 2016, so head there to see what the fuss is about.