20 March 2018

Levelling Up: An Afternoon at Peckham Levels

A disused multi-storey car park turned creative and foodie hub couldn't sound any more Peckham if it tried, could it? And yes, of course I've been wanting to visit Peckham Levels since the revamped complex opened in late 2017. An unseasonably cold and snowy March Saturday turned out to be the perfect time to sequester myself away with a bunch of friends in the lively, brightly coloured zones.

If you're arriving from Rye Lane, turn off at the Peckhamplex and follow the murals round to the Peckham Levels entrance. You can take the lift to the top but it's more fun to walk up the stairs through level after colourful level. And in case you were wondering, this is indeed the same car park whose rooftop is the summertime home to the excellent Frank's Cafe.

We arrived around 1:30 pm on Saturday and the main food and drink areas — levels five and six — were just starting to fill up. The crowd included a lot of young families, and there's a kids' play area on level five, which was being well used. By the time we left, some hours later, there were fewer kids and more groups of young Peckhamites enjoying a night out.

As for food and drink, there are diverse options. I started with a cortado and an energy ball at WEST, a California-inspired wine bar and kitchen, which would make a good brunch spot. The coffee is from the always excellent Assembly, and although my cortado lacked latte art, it was nicely prepared. From WEST, there is a fantastic view over the distant central London skyline. Note: WEST and most other places in Peckham Levels do not accept cash. Typically, I managed to leave my debit card in my running jacket at home, so it was lucky I had a credit card with me — and some friends!

Next to WEST is the beautifully designed — and Instagram-ready — Near & Far cocktail bar, which was booked out for a private event on Saturday afternoon. There are a couple of other bars serving craft beer, wine and a few more basic cocktails too.

Finally, there are various more casual street-food vendors at the far end of level six. I had heard great things about the dumplings from Hao Hao Chi, but in the end ordered the honey butter fried chicken sandwich from Other Side Fried. The chicken was perfectly juicy with gorgeous crispy batter, and the accompanying fries were just spicy enough to have a bit of a kick. The wings were epic too. And from duck poutine, to Kurdish falafel and vegan pizza, there's enough choice to satisfy most palates.

Elsewhere in the complex, there are small creative businesses, from film makers to jewellery designers, and yoga to ceramics. I didn't get chance to explore beyond the central two levels, but would like to go back to see what else is going on — and to try some more of the food!

Peckham Levels. Levels 1 to 6 Peckham Town Centre Carpark, 95A Rye Lane, London, SE15 4ST (Peckham Rye Overground). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

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