02 September 2016

A Refreshing Brunch at Peckham Refreshment Rooms

My girls' brunch club and I had all been wanting to check out the Peckham Refreshment Rooms for an age but somehow never quite got round to going until last Sunday. The restaurant, located just off frenetic Rye Lane on the calmer Blenheim Grove, has won plaudits for its seasonal, regional food and for its bustling but relaxed atmosphere.

The lunch and dinner menus focus offer a cornucopia of small plates, including creative combinations like the confit duck leg, pickled cherries, bitter leaf salad. There is a weekend brunch menu too but we were also able to order from the breakfast menu, which is served until 3:30 at the weekend. If you are in the mood for a more traditional brunch dish, the breakfast menu is probably the best place to start, although even there, you will usually find a continental twist to a classic dish — Burford Brown eggs with Merguez sausages or Alsace bacon, for instance. The brunch menu, meanwhile, featured the very-tempting culaccia ham, pickles and sourdough, and the grilled mackerel with Ratte potato salad. NB, if you are a philistine like me, you will probably need to look up at least one ingredient in every dish!

In the end, I decided to go classic and ordered the fried eggs with Alsace bacon (£7). Served with a good portion of delicious sourdough bread and a hunk of butter, the eggs and especially the bacon tasted great. The bacon was just crispy enough and was very flavoursome. I could have eaten a whole loaf of the bread and luckily, one of my friends ordered a basket o'bread, which we all 'helped' her with. Most of the other ladies went for the salt beef sandwich (£7) from the brunch menu, which was, by all accounts, good, although the portion size was a little smaller than expected. Given the price, though, we agreed that the dishes were good value — especially compared to what you might pay for similar dishes in Shoreditch or Soho.

You won't find anything as obvious as a bloody mary or Bellini on the brunch drinks menu at the Refreshment Rooms. I really wanted to order the lavender honey lemonade (£3), because although lavender in food can be divisive, I love it; unfortunately, though, they were all out of lavender syrup. Instead, I 'settled' for a pink grapefruit juice with Campari (£5), which was tart, refreshing (no pun intended) and followed Bex's First Law of Cocktail Ordering (if in doubt, choose the pink drink). The other boozy drink on the brunch menu — white port and tonic — wasn't really my thing, but there's also a bigger cocktail list on the main menu.

The restaurant itself is bright and airy and the décor casual with an artsy twist. Stools surround the central counter and in the restaurant's main room, there are small wooden tables and church chairs. It's a lovely all-day neighbourhood restaurant with excellent food and great ambience. I hope to return again soon for dinner.

We wanted to go for a post-brunch cocktail at Frank's but as it was a bank-holiday weekend, the weather was legally obliged to be inconsistent and so we sought refuge in John the Unicorn, a newish pub on Rye Lane. They have a great gin list — I stuck local and had a Little Bird G&T and then a Jensen's G&T — as well as funky décor...and unicorns! It's always great to discover another fun but relaxed neighbourhood watering hole.

Peckham Refreshment Rooms. Unit 3 & 4, 12–16 Blenheim Grove, London, SE15 4QL (Peckham Rye Overground). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

John the Unicorn. 159 Rye Lane, London, SE15 4TL (Peckham Rye Overground). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

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