The Handbook
The Handbook

What? The Peckham-based team behind the Old Spike Roastery, Spike + Earl, Aside and coffee-based charity Change Please have added another site to their collection: Coal Rooms a bar, café and restaurant in Peckham.

New? Yes, it opened this August.

Where? Right next to Peckham Rye station, Coal Rooms occupies the Grade II listed, former ticket office which was part of the station during the 1930s.
11a Station Way, Peckham, SE15 4RX,

On the Menu: Making the most of the on-site butchery, the menu revolves around meat with side plates to accompany. Start with smoked pigs head, blood pudding, apple and mead ketchup; order a side of grilled courgettes, yoghurt and burnt rosemary to go with your plate of Cabrito goat chop and finish with Tiramisu lady’s fingers, waste barista milk ice cream, mascarpone and bitter chocolate.

The Look: Normally you don’t want to spend much of your meal in the loos, but this where you should start at Coal Rooms. You’ll just want to see them; because as loos go they’re pretty incredible – the sort of loo that you might imagine in Hogwarts, albeit without Moaning Myrtle. The team have restored them to their 1930s glory, complete with old venereal disease health notices, mosaic floors, porcelain sinks and wooden cubicles. The restaurant finds itself at the back of the building overlooking the tracks. It’s simple, globe lights line the walls, ferns and succulents provide a splash of green to the light walls and emerald green banquettes line the walls. Moving forward to the front of the building you pass the sunken kitchen where a handful of diners can watch the chefs at work and through to the café which at night turns into a bar. Again, things here are minimal, a large white communal table fills the centre of the room and plants, pendant lighting and candles give the room warmth.

What We Ate: Once you’ve had the smalec at Coal Rooms, butter on your bread will never suffice. Hunks of Peckham Rye sourdough make the perfect vessel for mopping up the salty, fatty melted spread (it’s made from pork fat, garlic and onion). We used the last of the bread with our bowl of oatmeal, perhaps a nod to the building’s 1930s heritage with a 2017 update. If oatmeal conjures up images of grey slop, the poorer cousin of porridge, think again, this oatmeal comes with pork crackling, burnt leeks, summer truffle and Peckham sake.

Shredded goat shoulder was tender with that distinctive woody, smoky flavour but actually ended up being the support act to the sides. Let me introduce you to the ‘Peckham Fatboy’, which really is the food of the gods. Roast potatoes are topped with caramelised onions, beef fat mayonnaise and a hefty slab of raclette cheese, it’s decadent, it’s fatty and it’s the ultimate winter comfort food. There’s umami salad with crispy onions and hippie dust (a nutritional yeast, you can see why they changed the name) and coal-roasted cauliflower covered with miso bagna cauda (a sauce of lemon juice, garlic, lemons and rapeseed oil) and furikake, a dry seasoning made from nori sheets, black and white sesame seeds, sugar and salt. The result is unlike anything I’ve tried before, intensely lemony and citrusy but without any sharpness or bitterness.

For pudding, there is the apple pie with a sprinkling of cheddar in the pastry, it’s subtle but brings out the sweetness of the apple, to go with it is a sweet, cinnamon toast ice cream.

What We Drank:  There are a few cocktails to choose from including the Filthy Smoking Martini and Station Sidecar and an extensive beer and wine list. Visiting on a Monday we decided to stay away from the cocktails and just went for a glass of 2016 Folium Sauvignon Blanc from Touraine.

Go With: A cosy date or your parents, admittedly two rather different groups, but Coal Rooms isn’t for a loud, drunken get together, it’s a restaurant for proper conversation.

Final Word: The more I think about Coal Rooms the more I love it, bar our waitress’ blasé attitude, it’s gone straight into my top five restaurants.

Like This? Try These: Aside, Spike + Earl, Peckham Refreshment Rooms 

Coal Rooms: 11a Station Way, Peckham, SE15 4RX