Put Peckham and pork scratchings in the same sentence and Delboy Trotter wrestling with a bar snack springs to mind, but oh, how things have changed down in SE15, as Cathy Howes discovers
At the Coal Rooms, in the renovated (but still charmingly in character) old Art Deco ticket office at Peckham Rye railway station, head chef Sam Bryant is doing amazing things with ingredients – although maybe not for calorie-counters, as is evident from the moment we sit down. A basket of fluffy sourdough comes with ramekins of smalec, rendered pork fat mixed with pork crackling crumb and pork mince which you lather on like butter.
Other ‘I shouldn’t really…’ dishes include moreish mushroom mayonnaise with truffle and ‘Peckham Fatboy’ roast potatoes, a raclette of onions and beef fat mayonnaise named after a local character from the 1920s who weighed 14 stone by the age of 6!
Bryant is also a big fan of innovative sauces with a selection that includes a jerk caramel, red wine ‘Barney McGrew’ – cockney rhyming slang for jus – and crab apple and rosehip jelly.
But the meat is the star here, all cooked on an open Robata grill in the restaurant. Stools around the counter mean you can watch hunks of 40-day aged Dexter sirloin sizzle first hand. Sunday roasts, it goes without saying, would put a smile on the face of Desperate Dan.
The Christmas feasting menu (£40pp) served banquet style includes Peckham Rye Sourdough with the famous smalec; duck liver pate and duck fat toast; mackerel with lardo, crab apple and mead dressing; and aura potatoes with truffle and mushroom mayo. Follow this, if you have room, with smoked goose, slow cooked leg with sourdough sauce, and tongue and cheek and smoked bone marrow bordelaise. It comes with ‘Peckham fatboy’ roast potatoes (naturally) and burnt cabbage, chestnuts plus more smalec.
A dessert of eggnog and mincemeat tart, and Douglas fir choc ice with lemon curd will probably take your nutritional recommended daily allowances into the stratosphere, but what the heck. It’s all gloriously delicious and you can work it off in January.
Where to find it: Coal Rooms, 11a Station Way, Peckham, London SE15