Peckham Refreshment Rooms
Units 3 & 4,
12 – 16 Blenheim Grove SE15
Dinner for two with wine and service £70
Peckham Refreshment Rooms sits between the scruffy assault on the senses that is Rye Lane and the encroaching chichiness of what the locals are apparently calling ‘Bellenden Village’. Happily, its minimal, modernist-ish decor means it manages not to scream gentrification from every brick – as far too many of the newer additions to the south London dining scene have – while still attracting the hippest of the Peckham massive by the army-load.
With reasonably-priced and almost universally pleasing little pan-European plates, plus a seriously well-chosen booze selection, its not particularly difficult to see what they’re all here for.
After fighting our way through a mob of fashionistas in what was until recently the entirety of the restaurant, we’re seated at our (booked) table in the freshly finished extension. This makes a pleasant change from this place’s pre-refurb days all the way back in 2013, when tables couldn’t be reserved and every diner was packed in and perched on uncomfortably tall stools.
This was one of the only complaints I had about the place the last couple of times I visited, as the food is exceptional. A blue d’auvergne and walnut starter was simple but perfectly executed – the walnuts temptingly sticky so as to offset the fermented punch provided by the cheese.
The bavette steak with pickled walnut that a couple of my companions ordered for their mains were both given the stamp of approval (described variously as ‘melty’ and ‘with the flavour combination of a Big Mac, but, you know, classier’) though one was distinctly more cooked than the other. Unfortunately, the better-done one was served to the one of the fussiest steak-munchers I know, and she’d specifically asked for it rare, only to be told they all came ‘pink.’ This small complaint was dealt with courteously and efficiently by the undoubtedly rushed staff, though, which tells you all you need to know about the service here.
My monkfish tail main arrived on a rectangular plate and not a trendy, faux-rustic wooden board like all the others, allowing the intense buttery sauce oozing from the greens and disarmingly cute little shrimps poured over it to remain on the plate rather than the table.
Sides: little slices of well-seasoned, moon-shaped squash that went down in one (skin and all); crisp chicory in a tart and creamy orange dressing, and little new potatoes fried in olive oil that weren’t quite browned enough for my taste but pleasing enough.
The lemon posset dessert here has become something of a fixture, and they’ve definitely got it bang-on – silky, sour, like a wonderfully heavy custard, and served with the crunchiest, warmly-sugary shortbread biscuits I’ve had in a long time.
We finished with cocktails and a couple of whiskies – one smokey, one fresh and zesty. The only thing that let them down was the choice of the cheapest and tiniest receptacles, unmistakable as Ikea’s finest. My friend’s elderflower gimlet was poured into the crummiest of little tumblers, meaning this mouth-tingling beverage ended up looking like a lemon squash you might serve to a three-year-old, which it really shouldn’t at eight quid a pop.
Don’t let the cruddy glassware put you off venturing to this lesser-trodden corner of SE15 in search of some refreshment, though. The place certainly justifies an venture over the river for the most hardened north Londoner – we’d do it again before you could say ‘lemon posset.’