Peckham Area Guide
Quite possibly London’s coolest quarter, Peckham has a deep history, some beautiful houses and a truly vibrant community. The arts scene is achingly hip while food and drink offerings have exploded, in a good way. Despite its new groove, Peckham has held onto its identity, remaining awash with African grocers, Chinese supermarkets (very good ones too) and superbly cheap fruit and veg traders. With all this excitement comes a huge array of nail bars too.
Peckham’s bones are ancient. Historically, it was a wealthy spot with Georgians taking up residence in beautiful homes in the Holly Grove Conservation Area. With the arrival of trains and the rise of the middle class, houses shot up and out-of-area Victorians piled into Peckham at weekends to shop, with Edwardians continuing this tradition until war broke out.
Post-war Peckham suffered from bomb damage, economic distress and became home to some of the most depressing social housing across the UK. Recent years have seen the ghetto estates in north Peckham torn down and replaced with well-designed abodes. As rents remained cheap, artists’ studios survived, flourished and multiplied amongst a mixed and engaged community. Everyone in Peckham has something to say about the area and there are various community organisations such as Peckham Vision intent on providing a dialogue that improves, without sanitising, this buzzing part of town.
Post-war Peckham suffered from bomb damage, economic distress and became home to some of the most depressing social housing across the UK. Recent years have seen the ghetto estates in north Peckham torn down and replaced with well-designed abodes. As rents remained cheap, artists’ studios survived, flourished and multiplied amongst a mixed and engaged community. Everyone in Peckham has something to say about the area and there are various community organisations such as Peckham Vision.
You can visit edgy art exhibitions, attend orchestral concerts in a (reimagined) car park or eat an incredible variety of food in SE15. Its posh bits are truly beautiful, the worst spots have been redeveloped and the demographic is a superb mix of Afro-Caribbean, South American, Asian and Chinese communities
Homes in SE15
Most fortuitously, some fabulous Regency, Georgian and early Victorian architecture dodged the Blitz. Look to Holly Grove Conservation Area, at the north end of Bellenden Road, along Elm Grove, Holly Grove, Lyndhurst Way, Lyndhurst Square (early Gothic Revival), Lyndhurst Grove, Choumert Road, Chadwick Road and Choumert Square for finely assembled architecture. On the opposite of Rye Lane, Consort Road has Regency villas that may still, if you’re very lucky, have their original wrought iron verandas and atriums with globe skylights still in place.
Victorian terraces are abundant, while excellent modern homes have been springing up over the last 20-years. Deco lovers can head for The Pioneer Centre, a gated development that has been refurbished and extended, providing huge apartments and modern townhouses. Well-designed family homes and flats stand west of Peckham Hill Street, itself lined with Georgian wonders built by the Hill family. The stunning cornucopia of homes along Asylum Road include colossal Georgian and early Victorian homes.
For those after warehouse-feels, Peckham’s best modern developments deliver in spades. Penny Black Court along Queen’s Road, South City Court on Peckham Grove and two incredible school conversions (Grenier Apartments and Assembly Apartments) are all powerful new builds. Budget-buyers can snap up ex local flats or houses, or go for any of the plentiful 1960s places on offer.
Where to eat and drink
Filled with excellent cocktail joints and restaurants, Peckham has a massive choice of excellent hangouts. Head to Bar Story in the arches, Peckham Springs just behind it or Pedlar along Peckham Rye. In the summer, Frank’s Campari Bar opens at the top of the reused multi-storey car park, the flagship event run by Bold Tendencies. Forza Win serve exceptional Italian in industrial surroundings, Artusi is well-reviewed, being accomplished in modern Mediterranean while Ganapati is one of the best (and cosiest) south Indian restaurants you’ll try. If you’re after homemade food with flair, try Petitou and Persepolis, they’re both superb. Melange is an artisan, award-winning chocolatier, with a closely guarded hot chocolate recipe that’s voted one of London’s best.
Find authentic Thai fare at The Begging Bowl on Bellenden Road, just opposite Anderson & Co, who serve great coffee alongside Brick House Bakery bread (the company behind a fab, award-winning loaf—The Peckham Rye). Along Bellenden Road, The Victoria Inn has boutique guest rooms and around the corner is the The Montpelier, a divine boozer with 30-seat cinema. On the Nunhead side of Peckham Rye, The Rye has ping pong in the garden and shows sports inside. Across the park is the traditionally-styled White Horse. Eat delicious bao buns at Mr Bao or Vietnamese inspired by a grandmother’s recipes at Banh Banh . Burger-heads will adore Slow Richies and Honest Burger, while pizzerias rarely come as hip at Voodoo Ray’s or Pizza Pickup. Everyone digs Miss Tapas and oh-so-fash Copeland Social . If you’re after something really different, head to YADAS or the significantly ace Peckham Bazaar. The redevelopment of Queen’s Road has attracted the best new local businesses.
Even the multi-storey car park has been reimagined as Peckham Levels and filled with creative spaces, independent businesses and places to eat and drink.
The high street, Rye Lane, includes a mixture of international supermarkets, Holland & Barrett and useful chains such as Boots, Superdrug, Primark, Argos and WH Smith. Every now and then a creative pop-up shop will flash-up. There’s a Lidl, Morrison’s and Asda and a farmers’ market every Sunday.
Bellenden Road has a brilliant butcher Flock and Herd, who specialise in free range meat. Forget cornershop ‘meh’ and instead head for the General Store, who stock fruit, veg, cheese, bread and speciality dry goods. Review bookshop is thoughtfully put together with unusual stock and a great kids’ section. Other Bellenden stores include posh vintage clothes and furniture stores, a dog groomer, an excellent hairdressers (Kuki) and a Paul's Custom Cycles.
Stuffed full of it. Peckham has long been a home to artists looking for cheap studio space, offering converted factories, warehouses and railway arches. The art scene has grown so much its attracted big names at the cutting edge of the London art scene and created visionary groups to form and develop ideas that integrate with its immediate community, such as Bold Tendencies. This organisation is behind orchestra performances in the multi-storey car park, afro-Caribbean music events held in new, contemporary spaces and fringe theatre aimed at attracting a new generation.
If you want to eat food blessed by revered critics, practice yoga on a rooftop, watch arthouse films in The Montpelier or again on a rooftop, Peckham is the place. The art, music and food scenes are thriving and making this one of the most exciting places in south east London. If you want to dance, try The CLF Art Café in the Bussey Building, visit exhibitions at Copeland Park, take a wander around open studio events at The Arches or check out new additions such as Bo.lee gallery.
Peckhamplex is an independent multi-screen cinema and, at £4.99 for a ticket, London’s best-value. There’s a farmers’ market every Sunday, Peckham Library won the Sterling Prize in 2000 and work has started to transform Peckham Rye station into a vibrant public square.