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A range of dishes from Nigerian restaurant Lolak Afrique, with jollof to the right, suya to the bottom left, and ewedu and gbegiri with fufu
Jollof, suya, and at the centre, ewedu and gbegiri
Lolak Afrique [Official Photo]

Where to Eat in Peckham

Expert grill and barbecue cookery from Jamaica and Uganda joins Salone stews, Yorùbá staples, a whole lot of wraps — and pie and mash

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Jollof, suya, and at the centre, ewedu and gbegiri
| Lolak Afrique [Official Photo]

To describe Peckham as a ‘melting pot’ would be like putting egusi into a blender and calling it a smoothie: It gives managed chaos a smooth and palatable consistency. It might be the kind of diversity that can be sold by estate agents, but Peckham has always had its fractures, long before gentrification, long before complaints from yoga teachers over the noise from neighbouring white garment churches. They were there when Manze’s pie and mash shop was symbolically burnt down in the 1985 Peckham Riots, and they are still there in who eats at Peckham restaurants and who owns them — in how an area that stretches from the Rye all the way to the fringes of the Old Kent Road has so many of its best food businesses crammed into tiny pockets of real estate.

The version of Peckham that advertises a dining scene of “destination” restaurants to lure in the type of critic who expects to receive a George Cross for getting on an Overground train, referencing Del Boy (filmed in Bristol) and eating some small plates does have some truth in it. But it is only one of many versions, and one unrecognisable to nearly everyone who actually lives there. The observation that Peckham operates as an exclave suburb of Lagos isn’t a novel one; nor is the usual counter-narrative that the area is manicuring itself faster than one of Rye Lane’s many nail salons. But between Choumert Road’s bukas and Anthony Gormley’s phallic bollards on the nominally determinative Bellenden, there is a more interesting story of jagged, uneasy hybridity that resists attempts to paint it in binaries of gentrification or decline.

All this makes trying to sum up an area like Peckham in a list of places to eat a fool’s game. But if there is a true version, it exists somewhere in the frictions. It’s in the selling techniques of Pakistani butchers who know how to describe the viscera of a cow in Urdu, Yorùbá and Igbo; it’s in the dark kitchens sandwiched on an empty floor between the cheapest cinema in London and a Campari bar; it’s in the apparition of smoke from Ugandan barbecue close to where William Blake first saw his angels on Peckham Rye. It’s in vegan Rastafari pasta, Filipino burritos, chapal wraps and the same leafy vegetables translated into twenty different languages and eaten by a thousand different people. It’s in the places that could exist in Peckham, and nowhere else.

This map draws its northern boundary at Peckham High Street, in anticipation of a guide to the Old Kent Road and its many tributaries, including Peckham Park Road.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. JB's Soul Food

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27A Peckham High St
London SE15 5EB, UK

The recent furore surrounding Turtle Bay’s needless desecration of Jamaican cuisine is a good reminder that great yard food exists all over London, it just isn’t found in overpriced cocktail bars. In Peckham, there is Copeland Jerk Centre next to the station, or the stall inside Rye Lane Market, or Gabby’s, but the best is still JB’s, named for Jennifer and Bill Hawes who run it. There is a baseline of consistency guaranteed with anything at JB’s, from the patties, to the curried goat and tar-black oxtail, even to the slab of mac and cheese that always ensures a balanced meal. But JB’s is still, at heart, a jerk specialist, which is why Bill is often found round the back at all hours billowing smoke signals from a steel drum, ensuring that every bit of jerk chicken is infused with pimento, scotch bonnet and that smoke. Best of all is the jerk pork, only usually available on Fridays and Saturdays, served on the bone with layers of creamy fat and crackling. It’s tempting to petition them to keep it on the menu permanently, but in a pandemic, where the days blend into one, it’s always good to have something to mark the weekend by.

2. Filishack

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Peckham
London SE15 5RS, UK

It’s possible to buy the whole world in Peckham, but until General Store starts stocking yams, it’s unlikely that these worlds ever collide. There is one place, however, that has the distinction of being the shop everyone goes to: Filishack. Owned by Peckham boys Jonathan and Justice Cacho, who grew up on the “Yellow Brick” Bells Garden’s Estate, Filishack is the exemplar of a business which knows its audience intimately and is content to do one thing and do that one thing better than it actually needs to be. Although adobo is on the menu, pretty much everyone congregates outside Peckham Library for the chicken inasal, grilled chicken nonpareil, marinated in lemongrass, ginger, vinegar and calamansi, then chopped into pieces to give every available bit of surface area a blackened char. It’s possible to get the inasal in a wrap, with the clever addition of garlic rice to make a burrito, but it’s probably best as a simple rice box. The Cachos will soon move from their van to a permanent site round the corner, where there will hopefully be space for new dishes. If you can’t find them, no worries: just follow the scent of garlic.

3. Tiwa 'N' Tiwa

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34A Peckham High St
London SE15 5DP, UK
07448 963313

There are two easy ways of finding Tiwa ‘n’ Tiwa, a tiny takeaway shop tucked round the back of Peckham Road. One is to go to the Zaha Hadid designed Burger King and simply turn around. Or just look for the smoke. During the day, Tiwa ‘n’ Tiwa barbecues beef suya outside in long strips, which are finished in the evening during the dinner rush, when they are chopped up again, tumbled with yaji, and soothed with the creaminess of raw onion, alternately crunchy and fatty and all spicy, so spicy it’s vital to also order some beers or Nigerian Fanta in preemptive mitigation. Its reputation as a suya spot, elevated since Obalende Suya Express (the only suya spot in London with a Wikipedia page) closed down, does slightly gloss over that it mainly specialises in soups and stews ─ come round on a weekend and find uncles masticating outside in deep debate, and maybe even a step grandson of the Queen.

4. Muazu's Suya

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Unit 10, The Aylesham Centre
London SE15 5EW, UK

Only the second northern Nigerian suya spot to open in London (after Alhaji on Peckham Park Road), the family of Muazu’s young owner, Muhammed Muazu, hail from the predominantly Hausa/Fulani Kaduna State, close to suya’s birthplace. Muazu’s was one of the first outlets to open in the new “Market Place Peckham,” a slick, street food rebranding of the Aylesham Centre, where Muazu has a tiny stall with a daily white board menu and stream of regular customers. His suya is up there with anywhere else in the city, with the possible exception of Alhaji, and is only really limited by the confines of his space. The quality of the meat is excellent, with an electric yaji that may be slightly tamer than some but leaves the imprint of its aroma on nose and tongue. The jollof and masa are great options, but don’t miss out on the shawarma wraps, with cylinders of pink chicken sausages for texture, as well as gizzard and shaki on the side.

5. Market Place Peckham

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Unit 10, The Aylesham Centre, Rye Ln
London SE15 5EW, UK

Everything comes full circle eventually. The first food hall in London was in Oriental City, on the city’s outskirts, where Chinese, Malaysian and Japanese stalls all competed in harmony until it was shut down in 2008. It took another 10 years for the concept to come back, this time in the centre of London, in places that command the highest real estate prices in the city. Now it’s come to the inner city: first an abortive attempt at Nag’s Head last year, then Market Place, the first in what promises/threatens to be a London wide chain. Although partially completed before the pandemic, it is now fully operational with around ten new stalls and a bar. Highlights include Bang Bang Kitchen, a Ghanaian stall expert at protein cooking, with fatty turkey suya, and, best of all, chicken ball suya, a cross between West African barbecue and an Ikea meatball. At Full Bowl Sya Wang Kee, a brother and sister team have brought Hong Kong’s obsession with Hawaiian food to Peckham, with rice bowls, and more vertiginously, rice sandwiches, wrapped in nori and encasing fillings like “spam and egg” or “pork chop, cheese and mystery mustard,” a kind of demented kimbap. At Tianjin Dumplings, the dumplings themselves are fairly skippable, but an egg and chive pie makes a formidable crispy snack, and the owner puts Ruffles crisps in his jianbing, displaying a dedication to hedonism. It’s too soon to say if Market Place is a good thing for the area or not, but once it finds its toes it may offer a more accurate reflection of Peckham than curated spaces usually allow.

6. Yada's Kurdish Food

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104-106, Rye Ln
London SE15 4RZ, UK

Like Nandine, its related but now estranged Kurdish cousin over in Camberwell, Yada’s has suffered from bad pandemic timing. Its new restaurant on Rye Lane, renovated from a distressed wood takeaway which had itself been upgraded from a temporary structure under the railway arches, had to shut for most of the pandemic. But during the small window it’s been open, it’s proven that its quality hasn’t been outflanked by its ambition. The cooking is more meat heavy than at Nandine, with two shawarma spits on the go constantly. A lamb shifta sandwich in pita displays everything that is great about Kurdish food: unexpected aromatics from fresh herbs in the yoghurt sauce, sweetness and acidity from pomegranates, well-spiced, crunchy shifta patties: a symphony of salt, fat, acid and dill.

7. Yemanes' Salad Wraps - North African Cuisine

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4TL, 5 Parkstone Rd
London SE15 4UQ, UK

Still affectionately known as Salas’ after its original co-owner Salah Yaiche, this takeaway wrap van on Parkstone Road is almost as beloved in these ends as the Morley’s opposite. Now known officially as Yemane’s, for Yemane Berhe who runs it, it specialises in North African wraps, with a deceptively simple menu of lamb or chicken shawarma, spiced halloumi, kofte or falafel. Deceptive because terse descriptions don’t reveal that the spiced halloumi is gloriously breaded and deep fried, so it’s soft, gooey and crunchy, or that every wrap comes with a choice of six homemade dips, from aubergine to sun dried tomato, making each order a combinatorics problem. By mixing and matching proteins and sauces, it would be possible to eat here every day of the year without eating the same wrap twice. (Spiced halloumi + chicken shawarma + aubergine and chilli sauce.)

8. Asian Takeaway

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125 Rye Ln
London SE15 4ST, UK
07438 888836

Every London neighbourhood needs a wrap place that each person who eats there thinks is their secret, but in reality, is known by absolutely everyone. Dalston has Ararat, Finsbury Park has Baban’s Naan, and Peckham has Asian Takeaway, the Ronsil of Asian takeaways. There are very good vegetable curries on the counter─ saag, daal, okra ─ but almost everyone is here for one of two things: either the lamb kebab rolls or the chicken tikka. The tikka, a chubby, turmeric hued sabre of meat, is currently the best option, but either way diners must take a seat as the naan is made fresh to order. With the heat from the naan, the heat of the freshly grilled meat and the heat of the chilli sauce, it’s difficult to quibble with any of the four £1 coins needed to purchase one.

9. Izatus Kitchen

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74a Rye Ln
London SE15 5DQ, UK
020 7635 8200

The bedrock of Sierra Leonean cuisine is leafy greens: Cassava leaf, potato leaf, and crain-crain, a leaf whose mucilaginous texture is immediately recognisable as molohiya to those familiar with Levantine food, and ewedu to the Yorùbá. At Izatu’s Kitchen, a small stall in a mini mart next to the station that it shares with a Chinese and Jamaican takeaway, these leaves are cooked down into deep green stews, spicy and nutty, enriched with peanut butter and protected by a layer of fire-red palm oil, so thick it looks like crude. They could be some of London’s best vegetarian dishes if it weren’t for the pieces of turkey, lamb, and fish hidden in the depths. The rest of the menu is helpfully divided into four sections — the grills and snacks speak for themselves, but the jollof is capable of inserting itself as a wildcard option in the perpetual Nigerian vs Ghanaian debate, lush and rich, each grain coated in a smoky slick of oil and good enough to eat by itself.

10. Lolak Afrique Peckham

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38 Choumert Rd
London SE15 4SE, UK

There’s an online TV series called Bukas and Joints: essentially the Nigerian Diners, Drive Ins and Dives. Olisa Adibua marauds around Nigeria to show off its multiplicity of interlocking cuisines, but he also did a few episodes in London. A segment with a pre-fame Chuku’s points to where Nigerian cuisine in London is going, but the one with Lolak Afrique shows where it’s been. Like the izakaya, the Nigerian buka is a vibe which restaurateurs have tried to import but doesn’t quite translate; not exactly a hole-in-the wall, not precisely street food, but something ineffably demotic and democratic. Lolak on Choumert Road is possibly the closest London has. The thing to order here, among a variety of soups, is the abula. A Yorùbá tricolore of scarlet, gold and forest green, it’s made up of meat stew; gbegiri, a bean porridge, and verdant ewedu, all coming alive as its parts mix together. In the middle, find an island of pebble-brown amala, which pliant hands and pliant minds should fold and scoop into swallowable cutlery, each mouthful different from the last. Trying to find good amala is a source of homesickness, so to experience the correct texture, come during busy weekend afternoons, as soon as the yam is pounded and has the correct amount of draw.

11. Delta Tavern Kitchen Nigerian Spice Café

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1 Choumert Rd
London SE15 4SE, UK

DTK is one of the very few restaurants in the whole of London to specialise in Delta cuisine, the food from Delta State in the South-South of Nigeria, where the Niger splays out into the Atlantic. The writer Yemisi Aribisala cites food from the Niger Delta as having the most sophisticated aromatics amongst all Nigerian food: the name ‘pepper soup’ doesn’t even begin to hint at the interplay of musk, woods and florality of calabash nutmeg, grains of Selim, grains of paradise and coco plum in a good Deltan version. A dusky, turmeric hued banga soup is the most popular dish here, and the most representative of Delta cuisine ─ a whole fish in creamy palm nut soup, paired with a yellow baggy of starch, with those aromatics swooping down the back of the throat and up the nose, working in tandem to clear the sinuses. It’s enough to banish that lazy word “peppery” forever.

12. Yakoyo Spot Ltd

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7 Peckham High St
London SE15 5EB, UK
020 3719 4822

There’s a phrase in Igbo that characterises Yoruba tastes as “ofe manu” ─ palm, not soup. To understand the preference for soups laden with a finger thick layer of palm oil, look no further than Yakoyo Spot on Peckham High Street, also known as Ewenla Lounge. An egusi soup from Yakoyo Spot isn’t what Chishuru’s Joké Bakare would devastatingly dismiss with the par of ‘restaurant egusi’, but a proper buka egusi, with a 50-50 oil to egusi ratio. Only the most elegant of eaters would not leave their hands incarnadine, and only the most puritan wouldn’t spend a few minutes licking them clean. Aside from soups and starches, there is also ayamase. A bad ayamase, made carelessly with seeds or poor quality green peppers, can have a bitterness that mars the whole dish. Yakoyo Spot’s ayamase, though, is a joy forever: A showcase for the many qualities of iru, the fermented locust beans which give the stew a dark chocolate and tobacco muskiness; a fleeting impression of sweetness before the aftertaste of petrichor kicks in. It is served with beef and tripe, all swimming in oil the same luminosity of a good finishing olive oil, but mainline the sauce alone with some white rice.

13. Taste of Afghan

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215_217, Rye Ln
London SE15 4TP, UK
020 3631 0310

Some of the most thrilling cooking in London right now is coming out of Pashtun and Afghan kitchens, two cuisines that share chromosomes even if on opposite sides of a national border. At Taste of Afghan, it’s possible to get the classics: kabli pilau, sweet with carrots and sultanas, or karahi by the kilo, or even ─ and it’s worth trying this to see what happens ─ a whole lamb sajji for £170 which is somehow available on Uber Eats (just make sure to tip the poor driver.) But the very best thing of all is the chapal (chapli) kebab, not stacked on top of each other as usual like beer mats, but in a wrap, the fried crust of the meat providing textural contrast, with the spritely note of coriander seed cutting through the chilli and garlic sauces. Its name deserves to ring out in SE15.

14. Suuyar

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150C Rye Ln, Choumert Rd
London SE15 4RZ, UK

Kolawole Ajayi — aka Nigeriacuisine — is a YouTuber with over 90,000 subscribers, all of whom tune in for his charismatic and opinionated takes on everything related to Nigerian food. Sample title: AGEGE BREAD EXPOSED. He also has a street food stall on Choumert Road in Peckham where he patiently slings out excellent suya on a small grill, portion by portion. The beef suya — the most popular option — is pre-cooked at home and finished on the grill with two yajis, one cinnabar and hot, a blend made by Ajayi himself that is heavy with kuli kuli (roasted peanut cake) and sprinkled generously from trays resembling red sand dunes. The other is lighter, complex and gingery, and used more sparingly because it is flown in from one of his favourite spots in Lagos. Much of the joy of Suuyar is in the back and forth with Ajayi himself (“How is it?” “Eight out of ten, if my wife likes it you can get the other two”) and he always offers a taster to newcomers to make sure no portion is knowingly underspiced. The asun (peppered goat usually, but this is London, so mutton), however, is non-negotiable. Chock full with the heat of circa. 1 million scotch bonnets, it takes absolutely no prisoners.

15. M'Chomo Charcoal Grill

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66 Peckham Rye
London SE15 4JR, UK

M’Chomo started, as many barbecue joints do, with a particularly skilled uncle wielding the tongs at home and suspecting that his food is better than everybody else’s. The pandemic coaxed many of these uncles into putting their money where their mouth is, which is how this Ugandan takeaway opened right at the apex of Peckham Rye in the autumn of 2020. The menu is short but makes full use of the serious piece of kit in the back, a beautifully embossed custom grill on which chicken, pork, and best of all, goat, is introduced to the coals and become infused with smoke, with a pale-pink mantle that runs round the face of each piece of meat. Make sure to get their mild chilli sauce on the side, either with white slabs of ugali, an East African staple intimately known by many Indian families who came through Kenya or Uganda, or, better still, chapatis to wrap the meat.

16. M.Manze

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105 Peckham High St
London SE15 5RS, UK

Manze’s is never going to change anyone’s opinion on pie and mash; it’s other places like Goddards in Greenwich which are innovating with various degrees of success, adding different pies —welcome — extra spicy chilli vinegar — extremely welcome — and baked beans — an atrocity. Manze’s sticks to the two “indigenous” London foods that it’s been serving since Italian Michele Manze came over from Ravello and opened up shop in 1902: pie, mash and liquor, and eels. Pie and mash has two genders: those brought up on this food who buy into its lore — the fork and spoons, the gummy pies and pappy mash, smeared round the edge of the plate, a bulwark to keep out the seepage of mucilaginous Kermit-green liquor — and those who regard it as the culinary equivalent of Brexit. Manze’s is nostalgia, it’s baby food, it’s lineage and tradition, it’s London, or at least a London that was. The fact of whether it’s good or not is almost immaterial.

17. Cafe Spice

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88 Rye Ln
London SE15 4RZ, UK

That Rye Lane’s most visible Nigerian restaurant isn’t Nigerian-owned, just like it’s fishmongers and butchers, is a thorny issue far more complex and interesting than the ‘cultural appropriation vs appreciation’ argument normally served up as circular foodie discourse on Twitter. Indeed, it would be forgivable to walk past the ‘Asian and African’ sign on Cafe Spice’s awnings and mistake it for a South Asian restaurant, although the meat pies and moin moin in the window would soon correct this. The best thing at Cafe Spice isn’t actually anything made in house, but the bags of kilishi it sells from the now resurgent Alhaji Suya, which is on Peckham Park Road but not, for this guide’s purpose, in Peckham. Kilishi is a type of jerky made from dried, flattened muscle, the bright purple colour of a bruise, which packs a sweet, honeyed heat that builds and builds and builds. The only way you’ll get any better in London is through a connect not declaring it in their suitcase and a customs officer turning the other way.

18. Crossroads Cafe

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190 Bellenden Rd
London SE15 4BW, UK
020 7358 0436

There are two types of sandwich lovers: those willing to try anything, and those who might love everything but who will, when given the choice, always order the escalope sandwich. It is something of a fading art in London ─ brought over by the Italians but gone out of fashion, and often disrespected. Crossroads, a caff on the otherwise bougie Bellenden Road in Peckham, gets it. The bread is, crucially, soft and untoasted, a thick, doorstop white that traverses that liminal space between “terrible” and “not terrible.” The escalope is fried fresh, to a deep copper rather than a lazy tan. There is shredded lettuce, lemon, mayo and a little bit of hot sauce. That’s it. Bite into the bread, meeting resistance only at the barrier of escalope of its juices hotter than the sun, and gulp for fresh air.

19. Zionly Manna

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Rye Lane Indoor Market, 41, 48 Rye Ln
London SE15 5BY, UK

The unintentional fusion effect that British colonialism had on food is well known with Trini and Guyanese cuisine, with South Asian indentured workers bringing roti and chana to the Caribbean islands. Its influence on Jamaican cuisine however, was slightly more delayed and more specific. During the 1930s, the burgeoning Rastafari movement drew on pre-colonial, pan-African methods of eating, but also from Hindu vegans who informed the notion of spiritual livity in its new dietary cuisine, Ital. Some of the city’s best Ital food can be found at Zionly Manna inside the Rye Lane Indoor Market, once Peckham’s main shopping centre but now often more used for music videos. Jahson Peat’s food wears all its influences lightly ─ sometimes pan-African, sometimes just Peckham ─ from Jamaican dumplings made with wholemeal flour, to Ethiopian-ish vegetarian stews, to a vegan, low salt, low spice ethos that shares the strictures of Jainist food. The menu changes every day, but it’s possible to fill up on multiple items and a fresh fruit drink for around a tenner: make sure to get pasta and noodles if they’re on, and creamy butter beans which have more vitality than anything found at a Chelsea cafe.

20. Agrobeso African Cuisine

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139 Peckham High St
London SE15 5SL, UK
020 7732 3721

The smallest differences lead to the most profound disagreements; just see the history of schisms in the Christian church, or ask a north and south Londoner their opinion on Morleys vs Sam’s. The West African jollof rice debate has always been slightly tongue in cheek, but the towers of meat pies on the counter and egusi and efo riro soups on the menu at the Ghanaian takeaway Agrobeso on Peckham High Street show that parts of Nigerian and Ghanaian cuisines can be mapped over each other without friction. Plus, it’s just good business. But, it’s odds on that diners are really here for kenkey, that fermented maize staple wrapped in husks of corn, sourer than sourdough, ready to be thumbed into ground pepper sauce, sardines, and fried fish with chewy jerkified edges. Because there are newborns smaller than the portion, it’s worth saving some for a peanut soup, creamy and soothing and hiding on the bone mutton, or getting a portion of pliable banku, roughly the size of Joshua Buatsi’s clenched glove. 

21. Mexican Mama Ltd

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Unit 1, 1A Philip Walk
London SE15 3NH, UK

It’s not exactly a secret that Mexican Mama ─ one of the UK’s best wholesalers of Mexican produce ─ has a warehouse on the Philip Walk industrial estate. What’s less known is that it’s possible to just rock up and buy tomatillos, tortillas and the entire Jarritos range. What’s even less known than that though, is that every Tuesday or Wednesday brings a fresh delivery of tamales, either vegan (lentils, or spinach and green salsa) or chicken (both red salsa and green salsa). These are not tamales on the level of anything in Oaxaca, but they make good counterparts to the plain corn tamales more readily available at Colombian and Bolivian bakeries, and are excellent with a bit of salsa macha from ... Mexican Mama.

22. Jerk Up

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Atwell Rd
London SE15 4TW, UK

Peckham is full of opportunistic and peripatetic vendors, particularly in the more bronzed months when the heat lures barbecuers from their gardens to the street. Jerk chicken tends to be the usual currency ─ on weekends it’s possible to find blink-and-miss-them set-ups on Rye Lane and Bleinheim Grove. More recently, a stall called Jerk Up has taken a more permanent spot on Rye Lane, opposite Choumert Road, only selling jerk chicken with various sides (rice and peas, coleslaw, festival) or curry goat. The chicken is the best in the area outside of JB’s, tender with just the right amount of pink blush, spicy enough to leave a prickle on the lips, but not enough that you’ll turn down the dollop of pepper sauce.

23. Lovely House Dim Sum Restaurant

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119 Bellenden Rd
London SE15 4QY, UK

Sometimes all it takes is one dish to recommend a place: In Peckham that might be the £1.80 baozi from Steamer, or the steak mulitas from Taco Queen. Bellenden Road’s Lovely House advertises itself as a dim sum house, but in reality it is a Chinese takeaway with a bamboo steamer ─ no bad thing in itself. The dim sum is fine; the litany of British-Chinese dishes is no better or worse than anywhere else nearby. Instead, look at the dish that disrupts it: hot and spicy potatoes. Chinese cuisine’s bedrock of rice and noodles hides the fact its potato preparations are simply elite, and these come as thick, brassy wedges, smoky from the wok, with spring onions, coriander and the concentrated umami of approximately 1000 black beans detonating in the mouth. The potatoes are alternately crispy and fudgy when hot, but are even better after an overnight stay in the fridge, perhaps soaked in chilli oil and dipped in Kewpie for a luxurious breakfast (in bed.)

24. Cod Fellas

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125 Bellenden Rd
London SE15 4QY, UK

Fish and chip shops and hairdressers are the only shops allowed to have puns in their names (an exception can be made for the shop selling blinds on the A10 whose tagline is ‘without us it would be curtains for everyone’). Cod Fellas eschews the usual Godfather route, and instead plumps for a lesser seen mafioso-fish pun, but in truth, the best thing isn’t even fish related. Good chippies know that to survive they have to change, which is why Cod Fellas has a whole board of vegan options, the best of which is the tofish. It uses layers of tofu that coagulate into something approximating fish flakes, and is consequently bland when poorly done, but here it comes as a whole battered monolith, around the size and thickness of a good novella, with a crackly layer of nori on the bottom that both mimics fish skin and fools the tastebuds into registering marine notes. It’s every bit as good as the cod, and the chips are great too.

1. JB's Soul Food

27A Peckham High St, London SE15 5EB, UK

The recent furore surrounding Turtle Bay’s needless desecration of Jamaican cuisine is a good reminder that great yard food exists all over London, it just isn’t found in overpriced cocktail bars. In Peckham, there is Copeland Jerk Centre next to the station, or the stall inside Rye Lane Market, or Gabby’s, but the best is still JB’s, named for Jennifer and Bill Hawes who run it. There is a baseline of consistency guaranteed with anything at JB’s, from the patties, to the curried goat and tar-black oxtail, even to the slab of mac and cheese that always ensures a balanced meal. But JB’s is still, at heart, a jerk specialist, which is why Bill is often found round the back at all hours billowing smoke signals from a steel drum, ensuring that every bit of jerk chicken is infused with pimento, scotch bonnet and that smoke. Best of all is the jerk pork, only usually available on Fridays and Saturdays, served on the bone with layers of creamy fat and crackling. It’s tempting to petition them to keep it on the menu permanently, but in a pandemic, where the days blend into one, it’s always good to have something to mark the weekend by.

27A Peckham High St
London SE15 5EB, UK

2. Filishack

Peckham, London SE15 5RS, UK

It’s possible to buy the whole world in Peckham, but until General Store starts stocking yams, it’s unlikely that these worlds ever collide. There is one place, however, that has the distinction of being the shop everyone goes to: Filishack. Owned by Peckham boys Jonathan and Justice Cacho, who grew up on the “Yellow Brick” Bells Garden’s Estate, Filishack is the exemplar of a business which knows its audience intimately and is content to do one thing and do that one thing better than it actually needs to be. Although adobo is on the menu, pretty much everyone congregates outside Peckham Library for the chicken inasal, grilled chicken nonpareil, marinated in lemongrass, ginger, vinegar and calamansi, then chopped into pieces to give every available bit of surface area a blackened char. It’s possible to get the inasal in a wrap, with the clever addition of garlic rice to make a burrito, but it’s probably best as a simple rice box. The Cachos will soon move from their van to a permanent site round the corner, where there will hopefully be space for new dishes. If you can’t find them, no worries: just follow the scent of garlic.

Peckham
London SE15 5RS, UK

3. Tiwa 'N' Tiwa

34A Peckham High St, London SE15 5DP, UK

There are two easy ways of finding Tiwa ‘n’ Tiwa, a tiny takeaway shop tucked round the back of Peckham Road. One is to go to the Zaha Hadid designed Burger King and simply turn around. Or just look for the smoke. During the day, Tiwa ‘n’ Tiwa barbecues beef suya outside in long strips, which are finished in the evening during the dinner rush, when they are chopped up again, tumbled with yaji, and soothed with the creaminess of raw onion, alternately crunchy and fatty and all spicy, so spicy it’s vital to also order some beers or Nigerian Fanta in preemptive mitigation. Its reputation as a suya spot, elevated since Obalende Suya Express (the only suya spot in London with a Wikipedia page) closed down, does slightly gloss over that it mainly specialises in soups and stews ─ come round on a weekend and find uncles masticating outside in deep debate, and maybe even a step grandson of the Queen.

34A Peckham High St
London SE15 5DP, UK

4. Muazu's Suya

Unit 10, The Aylesham Centre, London SE15 5EW, UK

Only the second northern Nigerian suya spot to open in London (after Alhaji on Peckham Park Road), the family of Muazu’s young owner, Muhammed Muazu, hail from the predominantly Hausa/Fulani Kaduna State, close to suya’s birthplace. Muazu’s was one of the first outlets to open in the new “Market Place Peckham,” a slick, street food rebranding of the Aylesham Centre, where Muazu has a tiny stall with a daily white board menu and stream of regular customers. His suya is up there with anywhere else in the city, with the possible exception of Alhaji, and is only really limited by the confines of his space. The quality of the meat is excellent, with an electric yaji that may be slightly tamer than some but leaves the imprint of its aroma on nose and tongue. The jollof and masa are great options, but don’t miss out on the shawarma wraps, with cylinders of pink chicken sausages for texture, as well as gizzard and shaki on the side.

Unit 10, The Aylesham Centre
London SE15 5EW, UK

5. Market Place Peckham

Unit 10, The Aylesham Centre, Rye Ln, London SE15 5EW, UK

Everything comes full circle eventually. The first food hall in London was in Oriental City, on the city’s outskirts, where Chinese, Malaysian and Japanese stalls all competed in harmony until it was shut down in 2008. It took another 10 years for the concept to come back, this time in the centre of London, in places that command the highest real estate prices in the city. Now it’s come to the inner city: first an abortive attempt at Nag’s Head last year, then Market Place, the first in what promises/threatens to be a London wide chain. Although partially completed before the pandemic, it is now fully operational with around ten new stalls and a bar. Highlights include Bang Bang Kitchen, a Ghanaian stall expert at protein cooking, with fatty turkey suya, and, best of all, chicken ball suya, a cross between West African barbecue and an Ikea meatball. At Full Bowl Sya Wang Kee, a brother and sister team have brought Hong Kong’s obsession with Hawaiian food to Peckham, with rice bowls, and more vertiginously, rice sandwiches, wrapped in nori and encasing fillings like “spam and egg” or “pork chop, cheese and mystery mustard,” a kind of demented kimbap. At Tianjin Dumplings, the dumplings themselves are fairly skippable, but an egg and chive pie makes a formidable crispy snack, and the owner puts Ruffles crisps in his jianbing, displaying a dedication to hedonism. It’s too soon to say if Market Place is a good thing for the area or not, but once it finds its toes it may offer a more accurate reflection of Peckham than curated spaces usually allow.

Unit 10, The Aylesham Centre, Rye Ln
London SE15 5EW, UK

6. Yada's Kurdish Food

104-106, Rye Ln, London SE15 4RZ, UK

Like Nandine, its related but now estranged Kurdish cousin over in Camberwell, Yada’s has suffered from bad pandemic timing. Its new restaurant on Rye Lane, renovated from a distressed wood takeaway which had itself been upgraded from a temporary structure under the railway arches, had to shut for most of the pandemic. But during the small window it’s been open, it’s proven that its quality hasn’t been outflanked by its ambition. The cooking is more meat heavy than at Nandine, with two shawarma spits on the go constantly. A lamb shifta sandwich in pita displays everything that is great about Kurdish food: unexpected aromatics from fresh herbs in the yoghurt sauce, sweetness and acidity from pomegranates, well-spiced, crunchy shifta patties: a symphony of salt, fat, acid and dill.

104-106, Rye Ln
London SE15 4RZ, UK

7. Yemanes' Salad Wraps - North African Cuisine

4TL, 5 Parkstone Rd, London SE15 4UQ, UK

Still affectionately known as Salas’ after its original co-owner Salah Yaiche, this takeaway wrap van on Parkstone Road is almost as beloved in these ends as the Morley’s opposite. Now known officially as Yemane’s, for Yemane Berhe who runs it, it specialises in North African wraps, with a deceptively simple menu of lamb or chicken shawarma, spiced halloumi, kofte or falafel. Deceptive because terse descriptions don’t reveal that the spiced halloumi is gloriously breaded and deep fried, so it’s soft, gooey and crunchy, or that every wrap comes with a choice of six homemade dips, from aubergine to sun dried tomato, making each order a combinatorics problem. By mixing and matching proteins and sauces, it would be possible to eat here every day of the year without eating the same wrap twice. (Spiced halloumi + chicken shawarma + aubergine and chilli sauce.)

4TL, 5 Parkstone Rd
London SE15 4UQ, UK

8. Asian Takeaway

125 Rye Ln, London SE15 4ST, UK

Every London neighbourhood needs a wrap place that each person who eats there thinks is their secret, but in reality, is known by absolutely everyone. Dalston has Ararat, Finsbury Park has Baban’s Naan, and Peckham has Asian Takeaway, the Ronsil of Asian takeaways. There are very good vegetable curries on the counter─ saag, daal, okra ─ but almost everyone is here for one of two things: either the lamb kebab rolls or the chicken tikka. The tikka, a chubby, turmeric hued sabre of meat, is currently the best option, but either way diners must take a seat as the naan is made fresh to order. With the heat from the naan, the heat of the freshly grilled meat and the heat of the chilli sauce, it’s difficult to quibble with any of the four £1 coins needed to purchase one.

125 Rye Ln
London SE15 4ST, UK

9. Izatus Kitchen

74a Rye Ln, London SE15 5DQ, UK

The bedrock of Sierra Leonean cuisine is leafy greens: Cassava leaf, potato leaf, and crain-crain, a leaf whose mucilaginous texture is immediately recognisable as molohiya to those familiar with Levantine food, and ewedu to the Yorùbá. At Izatu’s Kitchen, a small stall in a mini mart next to the station that it shares with a Chinese and Jamaican takeaway, these leaves are cooked down into deep green stews, spicy and nutty, enriched with peanut butter and protected by a layer of fire-red palm oil, so thick it looks like crude. They could be some of London’s best vegetarian dishes if it weren’t for the pieces of turkey, lamb, and fish hidden in the depths. The rest of the menu is helpfully divided into four sections — the grills and snacks speak for themselves, but the jollof is capable of inserting itself as a wildcard option in the perpetual Nigerian vs Ghanaian debate, lush and rich, each grain coated in a smoky slick of oil and good enough to eat by itself.

74a Rye Ln
London SE15 5DQ, UK

10. Lolak Afrique Peckham

38 Choumert Rd, London SE15 4SE, UK

There’s an online TV series called Bukas and Joints: essentially the Nigerian Diners, Drive Ins and Dives. Olisa Adibua marauds around Nigeria to show off its multiplicity of interlocking cuisines, but he also did a few episodes in London. A segment with a pre-fame Chuku’s points to where Nigerian cuisine in London is going, but the one with Lolak Afrique shows where it’s been. Like the izakaya, the Nigerian buka is a vibe which restaurateurs have tried to import but doesn’t quite translate; not exactly a hole-in-the wall, not precisely street food, but something ineffably demotic and democratic. Lolak on Choumert Road is possibly the closest London has. The thing to order here, among a variety of soups, is the abula. A Yorùbá tricolore of scarlet, gold and forest green, it’s made up of meat stew; gbegiri, a bean porridge, and verdant ewedu, all coming alive as its parts mix together. In the middle, find an island of pebble-brown amala, which pliant hands and pliant minds should fold and scoop into swallowable cutlery, each mouthful different from the last. Trying to find good amala is a source of homesickness, so to experience the correct texture, come during busy weekend afternoons, as soon as the yam is pounded and has the correct amount of draw.

38 Choumert Rd
London SE15 4SE, UK

11. Delta Tavern Kitchen Nigerian Spice Café

1 Choumert Rd, London SE15 4SE, UK

DTK is one of the very few restaurants in the whole of London to specialise in Delta cuisine, the food from Delta State in the South-South of Nigeria, where the Niger splays out into the Atlantic. The writer Yemisi Aribisala cites food from the Niger Delta as having the most sophisticated aromatics amongst all Nigerian food: the name ‘pepper soup’ doesn’t even begin to hint at the interplay of musk, woods and florality of calabash nutmeg, grains of Selim, grains of paradise and coco plum in a good Deltan version. A dusky, turmeric hued banga soup is the most popular dish here, and the most representative of Delta cuisine ─ a whole fish in creamy palm nut soup, paired with a yellow baggy of starch, with those aromatics swooping down the back of the throat and up the nose, working in tandem to clear the sinuses. It’s enough to banish that lazy word “peppery” forever.

1 Choumert Rd
London SE15 4SE, UK

12. Yakoyo Spot Ltd

7 Peckham High St, London SE15 5EB, UK

There’s a phrase in Igbo that characterises Yoruba tastes as “ofe manu” ─ palm, not soup. To understand the preference for soups laden with a finger thick layer of palm oil, look no further than Yakoyo Spot on Peckham High Street, also known as Ewenla Lounge. An egusi soup from Yakoyo Spot isn’t what Chishuru’s Joké Bakare would devastatingly dismiss with the par of ‘restaurant egusi’, but a proper buka egusi, with a 50-50 oil to egusi ratio. Only the most elegant of eaters would not leave their hands incarnadine, and only the most puritan wouldn’t spend a few minutes licking them clean. Aside from soups and starches, there is also ayamase. A bad ayamase, made carelessly with seeds or poor quality green peppers, can have a bitterness that mars the whole dish. Yakoyo Spot’s ayamase, though, is a joy forever: A showcase for the many qualities of iru, the fermented locust beans which give the stew a dark chocolate and tobacco muskiness; a fleeting impression of sweetness before the aftertaste of petrichor kicks in. It is served with beef and tripe, all swimming in oil the same luminosity of a good finishing olive oil, but mainline the sauce alone with some white rice.

7 Peckham High St
London SE15 5EB, UK

13. Taste of Afghan

215_217, Rye Ln, London SE15 4TP, UK

Some of the most thrilling cooking in London right now is coming out of Pashtun and Afghan kitchens, two cuisines that share chromosomes even if on opposite sides of a national border. At Taste of Afghan, it’s possible to get the classics: kabli pilau, sweet with carrots and sultanas, or karahi by the kilo, or even ─ and it’s worth trying this to see what happens ─ a whole lamb sajji for £170 which is somehow available on Uber Eats (just make sure to tip the poor driver.) But the very best thing of all is the chapal (chapli) kebab, not stacked on top of each other as usual like beer mats, but in a wrap, the fried crust of the meat providing textural contrast, with the spritely note of coriander seed cutting through the chilli and garlic sauces. Its name deserves to ring out in SE15.

215_217, Rye Ln
London SE15 4TP, UK

14. Suuyar

150C Rye Ln, Choumert Rd, London SE15 4RZ, UK

Kolawole Ajayi — aka Nigeriacuisine — is a YouTuber with over 90,000 subscribers, all of whom tune in for his charismatic and opinionated takes on everything related to Nigerian food. Sample title: AGEGE BREAD EXPOSED. He also has a street food stall on Choumert Road in Peckham where he patiently slings out excellent suya on a small grill, portion by portion. The beef suya — the most popular option — is pre-cooked at home and finished on the grill with two yajis, one cinnabar and hot, a blend made by Ajayi himself that is heavy with kuli kuli (roasted peanut cake) and sprinkled generously from trays resembling red sand dunes. The other is lighter, complex and gingery, and used more sparingly because it is flown in from one of his favourite spots in Lagos. Much of the joy of Suuyar is in the back and forth with Ajayi himself (“How is it?” “Eight out of ten, if my wife likes it you can get the other two”) and he always offers a taster to newcomers to make sure no portion is knowingly underspiced. The asun (peppered goat usually, but this is London, so mutton), however, is non-negotiable. Chock full with the heat of circa. 1 million scotch bonnets, it takes absolutely no prisoners.

150C Rye Ln, Choumert Rd
London SE15 4RZ, UK

15. M'Chomo Charcoal Grill

66 Peckham Rye, London SE15 4JR, UK

M’Chomo started, as many barbecue joints do, with a particularly skilled uncle wielding the tongs at home and suspecting that his food is better than everybody else’s. The pandemic coaxed many of these uncles into putting their money where their mouth is, which is how this Ugandan takeaway opened right at the apex of Peckham Rye in the autumn of 2020. The menu is short but makes full use of the serious piece of kit in the back, a beautifully embossed custom grill on which chicken, pork, and best of all, goat, is introduced to the coals and become infused with smoke, with a pale-pink mantle that runs round the face of each piece of meat. Make sure to get their mild chilli sauce on the side, either with white slabs of ugali, an East African staple intimately known by many Indian families who came through Kenya or Uganda, or, better still, chapatis to wrap the meat.

66 Peckham Rye
London SE15 4JR, UK

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16. M.Manze

105 Peckham High St, London SE15 5RS, UK

Manze’s is never going to change anyone’s opinion on pie and mash; it’s other places like Goddards in Greenwich which are innovating with various degrees of success, adding different pies —welcome — extra spicy chilli vinegar — extremely welcome — and baked beans — an atrocity. Manze’s sticks to the two “indigenous” London foods that it’s been serving since Italian Michele Manze came over from Ravello and opened up shop in 1902: pie, mash and liquor, and eels. Pie and mash has two genders: those brought up on this food who buy into its lore — the fork and spoons, the gummy pies and pappy mash, smeared round the edge of the plate, a bulwark to keep out the seepage of mucilaginous Kermit-green liquor — and those who regard it as the culinary equivalent of Brexit. Manze’s is nostalgia, it’s baby food, it’s lineage and tradition, it’s London, or at least a London that was. The fact of whether it’s good or not is almost immaterial.

105 Peckham High St
London SE15 5RS, UK

17. Cafe Spice

88 Rye Ln, London SE15 4RZ, UK

That Rye Lane’s most visible Nigerian restaurant isn’t Nigerian-owned, just like it’s fishmongers and butchers, is a thorny issue far more complex and interesting than the ‘cultural appropriation vs appreciation’ argument normally served up as circular foodie discourse on Twitter. Indeed, it would be forgivable to walk past the ‘Asian and African’ sign on Cafe Spice’s awnings and mistake it for a South Asian restaurant, although the meat pies and moin moin in the window would soon correct this. The best thing at Cafe Spice isn’t actually anything made in house, but the bags of kilishi it sells from the now resurgent Alhaji Suya, which is on Peckham Park Road but not, for this guide’s purpose, in Peckham. Kilishi is a type of jerky made from dried, flattened muscle, the bright purple colour of a bruise, which packs a sweet, honeyed heat that builds and builds and builds. The only way you’ll get any better in London is through a connect not declaring it in their suitcase and a customs officer turning the other way.

88 Rye Ln
London SE15 4RZ, UK

18. Crossroads Cafe

190 Bellenden Rd, London SE15 4BW, UK

There are two types of sandwich lovers: those willing to try anything, and those who might love everything but who will, when given the choice, always order the escalope sandwich. It is something of a fading art in London ─ brought over by the Italians but gone out of fashion, and often disrespected. Crossroads, a caff on the otherwise bougie Bellenden Road in Peckham, gets it. The bread is, crucially, soft and untoasted, a thick, doorstop white that traverses that liminal space between “terrible” and “not terrible.” The escalope is fried fresh, to a deep copper rather than a lazy tan. There is shredded lettuce, lemon, mayo and a little bit of hot sauce. That’s it. Bite into the bread, meeting resistance only at the barrier of escalope of its juices hotter than the sun, and gulp for fresh air.

190 Bellenden Rd
London SE15 4BW, UK

19. Zionly Manna

Rye Lane Indoor Market, 41, 48 Rye Ln, London SE15 5BY, UK

The unintentional fusion effect that British colonialism had on food is well known with Trini and Guyanese cuisine, with South Asian indentured workers bringing roti and chana to the Caribbean islands. Its influence on Jamaican cuisine however, was slightly more delayed and more specific. During the 1930s, the burgeoning Rastafari movement drew on pre-colonial, pan-African methods of eating, but also from Hindu vegans who informed the notion of spiritual livity in its new dietary cuisine, Ital. Some of the city’s best Ital food can be found at Zionly Manna inside the Rye Lane Indoor Market, once Peckham’s main shopping centre but now often more used for music videos. Jahson Peat’s food wears all its influences lightly ─ sometimes pan-African, sometimes just Peckham ─ from Jamaican dumplings made with wholemeal flour, to Ethiopian-ish vegetarian stews, to a vegan, low salt, low spice ethos that shares the strictures of Jainist food. The menu changes every day, but it’s possible to fill up on multiple items and a fresh fruit drink for around a tenner: make sure to get pasta and noodles if they’re on, and creamy butter beans which have more vitality than anything found at a Chelsea cafe.

Rye Lane Indoor Market, 41, 48 Rye Ln
London SE15 5BY, UK

20. Agrobeso African Cuisine

139 Peckham High St, London SE15 5SL, UK

The smallest differences lead to the most profound disagreements; just see the history of schisms in the Christian church, or ask a north and south Londoner their opinion on Morleys vs Sam’s. The West African jollof rice debate has always been slightly tongue in cheek, but the towers of meat pies on the counter and egusi and efo riro soups on the menu at the Ghanaian takeaway Agrobeso on Peckham High Street show that parts of Nigerian and Ghanaian cuisines can be mapped over each other without friction. Plus, it’s just good business. But, it’s odds on that diners are really here for kenkey, that fermented maize staple wrapped in husks of corn, sourer than sourdough, ready to be thumbed into ground pepper sauce, sardines, and fried fish with chewy jerkified edges. Because there are newborns smaller than the portion, it’s worth saving some for a peanut soup, creamy and soothing and hiding on the bone mutton, or getting a portion of pliable banku, roughly the size of Joshua Buatsi’s clenched glove. 

139 Peckham High St
London SE15 5SL, UK

21. Mexican Mama Ltd

Unit 1, 1A Philip Walk, London SE15 3NH, UK

It’s not exactly a secret that Mexican Mama ─ one of the UK’s best wholesalers of Mexican produce ─ has a warehouse on the Philip Walk industrial estate. What’s less known is that it’s possible to just rock up and buy tomatillos, tortillas and the entire Jarritos range. What’s even less known than that though, is that every Tuesday or Wednesday brings a fresh delivery of tamales, either vegan (lentils, or spinach and green salsa) or chicken (both red salsa and green salsa). These are not tamales on the level of anything in Oaxaca, but they make good counterparts to the plain corn tamales more readily available at Colombian and Bolivian bakeries, and are excellent with a bit of salsa macha from ... Mexican Mama.

Unit 1, 1A Philip Walk
London SE15 3NH, UK

22. Jerk Up

Atwell Rd, London SE15 4TW, UK

Peckham is full of opportunistic and peripatetic vendors, particularly in the more bronzed months when the heat lures barbecuers from their gardens to the street. Jerk chicken tends to be the usual currency ─ on weekends it’s possible to find blink-and-miss-them set-ups on Rye Lane and Bleinheim Grove. More recently, a stall called Jerk Up has taken a more permanent spot on Rye Lane, opposite Choumert Road, only selling jerk chicken with various sides (rice and peas, coleslaw, festival) or curry goat. The chicken is the best in the area outside of JB’s, tender with just the right amount of pink blush, spicy enough to leave a prickle on the lips, but not enough that you’ll turn down the dollop of pepper sauce.

Atwell Rd
London SE15 4TW, UK

23. Lovely House Dim Sum Restaurant

119 Bellenden Rd, London SE15 4QY, UK

Sometimes all it takes is one dish to recommend a place: In Peckham that might be the £1.80 baozi from Steamer, or the steak mulitas from Taco Queen. Bellenden Road’s Lovely House advertises itself as a dim sum house, but in reality it is a Chinese takeaway with a bamboo steamer ─ no bad thing in itself. The dim sum is fine; the litany of British-Chinese dishes is no better or worse than anywhere else nearby. Instead, look at the dish that disrupts it: hot and spicy potatoes. Chinese cuisine’s bedrock of rice and noodles hides the fact its potato preparations are simply elite, and these come as thick, brassy wedges, smoky from the wok, with spring onions, coriander and the concentrated umami of approximately 1000 black beans detonating in the mouth. The potatoes are alternately crispy and fudgy when hot, but are even better after an overnight stay in the fridge, perhaps soaked in chilli oil and dipped in Kewpie for a luxurious breakfast (in bed.)

119 Bellenden Rd
London SE15 4QY, UK

24. Cod Fellas

125 Bellenden Rd, London SE15 4QY, UK

Fish and chip shops and hairdressers are the only shops allowed to have puns in their names (an exception can be made for the shop selling blinds on the A10 whose tagline is ‘without us it would be curtains for everyone’). Cod Fellas eschews the usual Godfather route, and instead plumps for a lesser seen mafioso-fish pun, but in truth, the best thing isn’t even fish related. Good chippies know that to survive they have to change, which is why Cod Fellas has a whole board of vegan options, the best of which is the tofish. It uses layers of tofu that coagulate into something approximating fish flakes, and is consequently bland when poorly done, but here it comes as a whole battered monolith, around the size and thickness of a good novella, with a crackly layer of nori on the bottom that both mimics fish skin and fools the tastebuds into registering marine notes. It’s every bit as good as the cod, and the chips are great too.

125 Bellenden Rd
London SE15 4QY, UK

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