Thursday, 29 August 2013

Esther Smith Blogs About Food At Pretty In Peckham

It took me a while to come round to the idea of blogging - especially about food. I was afraid, at first, of falling into the many, now infamous, traits that food bloggers can succumb to. Classic examples spring to mind: the endless, agonized, strife to capture the perfect shot of that timeless Coq au Vin - so much so, that it ends up going cold. The constant Instagram shots of the grocery basket, emphasizing the exquisite shadow a  potato is casting over an ever svelte and interesting carrot. Never before has supermarket veg been made to look so glamourous and alluring.

To be honest, it was all a bit much for me: I wrote blogging off as a superficial, self indulgent pursuit. But then something changed. In my last year of University, my three flatmates and I decided to make a communal cooking rota. We assigned each other a different day of the week on which to cook the evening meal for everyone in the house. The bar was set by our first meal of pancetta wrapped salmon, served with crushed minty potatoes. And, after that, it just kept on rising. Before we knew it, we were enjoying a seven day week of fine dining, and still spending less than we had done when we were cooking for ourselves.

As Monday’s halloumi and chorizo burgers gave way to Tuesday’s flash steak salad and Wednesday’s tarte tatin, I realised that this was something that needed documentation. I was unsatisfied by just telling people about our dinner time delicacies - I wanted it recorded, loud and proud, in writing. And so, to the wordpress blog I went, swallowing my pride, and joining the army of wordy, foodie fanatics. My blog, ‘Matesplates’, was born and  every evening meal, recipe and the occasional restaurant excursion was recorded. Once the blogging started, it didn’t stop. I loved having my own online space to write, and it felt good when my followers and viewing numbers grew.

When I left University, I didn’t think twice about creating another food blog, and luckily, I’ve moved to a place where the foodie scene is exciting and diverse. My new blog, Pretty in Peckham, aims to show the best bits of SE15’s food scene. Whilst it’s true that Peckham’s gentrification has encouraged a wealth of great new eateries, my blog is also eager to show that there was, and still is, great food available from the authentic, African, Iranian and Afghani orientated market stalls and shops.

For a flavour of Peckham’s menu, I’ve chosen my top five foodie hits in the area:

Rye Lane Mangoes

It may sound extreme, but if you’ve never had the pleasure of sinking your teeth into an Alphonso mango, you haven’t lived yet. Don’t be fooled into thinking you’ve enjoyed life at it’s very best, until you’ve tasted the sweet, succulent, honey tasting flesh of these humble looking fruits. These golden nuggets of goodness are widely available on many a market stall on Rye Lane. There’s no point just buying one - grab a box and ride the highway to heaven.  Rye Lane, SE15

The Begging Bowl

Probably the best Thai food in London, with warm, friendly service and chefs who really know what they’re doing. The restaurant doesn’t take bookings and is, unsurprisingly, always busy, so get there early for Thai street food delights. Try the raw marinated salmon salad, the Dorset crab topped beatle leaves and the hot and salty stir-fry pork belly. Wash down with a lemongrass Martini or a pineapple margarita and finish with a spice cooling rambutan granita. 168 Bellenden Road, SE15 4BW.


It may look unremarkable from the outside, but this bazaar-come-Persian-emporium contains a far reaching treasure trove of delectable produce. Crowd pleasers, such as Turkish delight and baklava hold their own, as well as more specified products such as pomegranate molasses and barberries. They even have their own recipe book, Persia in Peckham, which includes dishes such as Khoresht-e-Rivas (rhubarb stew) and for the brave, Caleh-pah-cheh (lamb’s head and feet). 28-30 Peckham High Street, SE15 5DT.  

Dates from Khans

Dates are not the only thing worth buying here, but with such an extensive shop floor, it’s a good place to start. At £2.49 for a large box of sweet and sticky, delicious and nutritious dried fruit, you’d be hard pressed to find a better deal. Khan’s is also a great place to stock up your spice cupboard essentials.  135 Rye Lane, SE15 4ST.

Flock and Herd

Bellenden Road, aka ‘posh Peckham’, ticks all the boxes for signs of recent gentrification. A delicatessen? Check. A gastropub? Of course. What about a posh grocery store? You betcha. The best of the influx is probably Flock and Herd, a butchery selling fresh meat and Charlie Shaw’s highly acclaimed, award winning sausages.  And, with a butcher by day and ballet dancer by night on the premises, this place has got personality too. 155 Bellenden Road, SE15 4DH.

To find out more about Esther Smith and her food blog, visit