Aug 5 2013

Peckham Refreshment Rooms

This was a wonderful discovery my boyfriend and I made totally by coincidence. I went to Pekcham for the first time in my life as my boyfriend’s university friend who had been in the Master chef final was doing a “pop up” of Thai barbecue and I was super keen to try it. We went to the bar in Peckam where this Thai barbecue was taking place only to find out that the place was totally overloaded by orders and just to take our order we had to wait an hour. As I was starving I decided not to wait for this and try to find alternative food, which initially for me seemed quite hard to do in Peckham. However, on our way to this Thai barbecue we had passed what looked like a nice, small and buzzing restaurant - Peckham Refreshment Rooms – and so we decided to go back there to try it out and have dinner there instead.

The place was very small and had 2 communal high tables and stools around it as well as places by the bar, and the seating and tables were not comfortable but were trendy. At first it looked absolutely packed despite the fact this was a Monday evening in Peckahm where I did not expect this, but after a closer look we did manage to find the last 2 seats on one of these high communal tables squeezed in between some other people. Peckham Refreshment Rooms is named after a local hostelry, now long gone and serves sharing sized dishes, both smaller ones (at around £6) and larger ones (around £7/8) as well as a selection of charcutterie and cheese dishes and side dishes. The menu has a southern influence with some dishes influenced by France, Spain and Italy but you can also see Modern British dishes.

At first we did not know what to chose as when I see this sort of menu full of strange names like “bavette” I am always a bit lost, and I sort of find it a bit annoying, as having been in the UK for more than 14 years I should know most of the food terms, but still restaurants manage to find ways to call their ingredients in ways I have never seen before. In the end we decided to order “white anchovies, shallots and butter” from the small dishes section and “finocchiona and tapenade” from the charcutterie selection as well as a few larger dishes. My boyfriend does not like anchovies at all, and I ordered this, but the dish they brought us was so cute with a little piece of toasted bread with some butter, shallots and topped with a small piece of anchovy, he did try it, and he absolutely loved it and was surprised himself how much he liked it, but as I explained to him the white anchovies don’t have a strong anchovy taste. I also very much enjoyed this little nibble. The finocchiona is a type of salami usually from Tuscany and this one had fennel seeds and you could eat it with a small bread with tapenade on top of it. Both of us once again really enjoyed it. On the menu these 2 items seemed quite ordinary but were absolutely wonderful and totally exceeded our expectations.

We also had some main courses (all the dishes were brought to us randomly by lovely smiling waitresses) and we had a “poussin, grilled lemon, ailoli”, “whole sole, leeks, brown shrimp “heritage tomato and mint salad” and a side salad of “little gem and radish”. The poussin was nice and I loved how the lemon had also been cooked and it was all jam like when you squeezed it over the pouissin which was tasty, but I was surprised how small it was for £7.50 and I don’t think it really needed the aioli. Loved the creativity in the whole sole and it was tasty, although overly salty. After my meal I read a review by Jay Rayner who had gone there and written that some of the dishes did not have enough salt, so I am thinking maybe they read the review and tried to correct this and then went a bit too far and over salted the food, like this sole. I loved the brown shrimps on the sole and also the leeks were extremely delicious. My boyfriend usually does not like leeks and he loved these and I also think a restaurant that can make leeks tasty and great to eat deserves great praise. I loved the heritage tomato salad, found it interesting how it was served with mint, and this is a perfect tomato salad and other restaurants that do this dish should steal this recipe. Little gem and radish salad was simple yet very good with a very pleasant and tasty dressing.

After these dishes we were still feeling a bit hungry and decided to order two more dishes. The girls next to us were having some sardines and we liked how they looked so we ordered “Cornish sardines and gremolata” as well as the “12 month Parma ham”. The sardines were big, sort of tasted a bit like mackerel and were also quite salty but overall I really liked them. My boyfriend, just like with leeks, does not really like sardines and he loved these, and he was saying how this restaurant is making him like things like anchovies, sardines and leeks, that he would normally not like at all. The Parma ham was lovely and served with a great toasted piece of dark bread.

I think Jay Rayner summarized this restaurant brilliantly when he said “this is a good restaurant where you would least expect to find it”. After our meal we started chatting to one of the young and approachable waitresses and she said they have only been open for 3 months and it got really busy for them after this Jay Rayner review came out and now every day the restaurant is totally full, even on a Monday like we witnessed. If you are ever in Peckham, this is a very good place for a meal and I even think it could be worth traveling there for this. The only criticism I have is that I thought the prices were a bit too high and resembled more zone 1, prime area restaurant prices, and you could have easily found this restaurant in Soho with these dishes and these prices, and I wish they would have passed on the cheaper rents of Peckham to the customers and rewarded us in some way for traveling all the way there, but nevertheless amazing restaurant that as I said serves food in such a delicious way you would not expect and made my boyfriend eat things he does not eat.

Date: 05/ 08/ 13
Price for 2 people with 2 glasses of wine and service charge: £69
Location: Peckham

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Peckham Refreshment Rooms
Unit 4, 12–16 Blenheim Grove, SE15 4QL
United Kingdom
Peckham Refreshment Rooms Reviewed by Hungry Bee Maija on . Rating: 4