You could easily miss the refreshment rooms – it is on a quiet street of Afro-Carribean hairdressers and the exterior is unadorned, save for a little printed menu by the door. It’s name is a nod to Peckham’s past, deriving from what is now the Bun House pub on Peckham High Street but was originally called The Refreshment. I am going to avoid ranting on about the gentrification and Hipsterfication of South London – have a read of Jay Rayner’s glowing review if you are interested in the changing sociology of the area. Instead, I will focus on the food, which was delicious……
The restaurant may seem a tad ramshackle, but don’t be fooled – a lot of thought has gone into the concept: it is the brainchild of Sven Munder, an Oxbrige educated arts strategist who is one of the crew behind the ever popular Frank’s cafe. He has been one of the driving forces behind the regeneration of Peckham and works closely with local artists and galleries. The interior is stripped back, with high formica tables and uncomfortable seats: this is not a place to linger; the service is quick and efficient, the atmosphere bustling. As is typical of new wave restaurants, the menu is pared down, offering bar snacks, cheese and charcuterie plates to start, followed by seven main course choices.
We started with some wonderfully meaty, sweet mussels, swimming in a light cream sauce with shallot and garlic (£7) – simple and homely, but very well executed food. We followed this with parmesan and truffled honey (£6) – the slices of parmesan were large and generous: crumbly, dry and full of flavour – the truffled honey a perfect sweet and punchy counterpart.
The gnocchi (£8) were much larger than I was expecting: their texture was soft and they had a rich crunchy exterior enhanced by a touch of parmesan. They were light, fluffy and not at all gloppy – anyone that has been put off gnocchi by chewy, tasteless supermarket offerings or the efforts of highstreet Italian restaurants would be converted by this dish. We rounded off a fantastic meal with a decadent treacle tart which had been freshly removed from the oven.
Verdict: rustic and homely, but ultimately great value, fantastic food 9/10.