Freelance mermaid living in Peckham. It's far from the sea. Love finding free and exciting one-off events around London and telling the world! See my blog www.iamlikeawednesday.wordpress.com
Published July 12th 2012
Whilst Peckham offers a variety of delightful fast food eateries, if fried chicken, kebabs or a Caribbean takeaway doesn't take your fancy, you're likely to go hungry. Luckily, there is another option. If you were looking for something that isn't fried and you can eat with a knife and fork, Il Giardino is the place to go.
Il Giardino is a welcome relief from Peckham's fast food joints
Situated on Blenheim Grove, Il Giardino is almost painfully close to Peckham Rye Station; if the building was windowless you would be on a train. Luckily it does have windows, which do well to block out the noise of the tracks and general Peckham debauchery. However, if you choose a street-facing view you will miss the charming, rustic décor and you may as well be eating chicken wings on the pavement. Get yourself as far into the restaurant as you can and absorb the warm Peruvian/Sardinian atmosphere.
For a Monday night, Il Giardino was pretty full, which is a great sign and hard to come by if your name isn't Pizza Express. However, it did make things a bit slow. With one lady welcoming diners in, clearing tables, taking orders and relaying them to the chef, it was a bit too much to have on her plate - pardon the pun. However, it did give the restaurant a great family feel, almost as if you were going to your Peruvian host mother's house for tea (along with 15 others). Plus, it's lovely seeing your Peruvian host father through the kitchen window, cooking up a storm!
However, once we had ordered our wine and food, it was all delivered beautifully. The wine comes in ceramic jugs which is a fantastic touch and seems to make it taste even better. The intimate atmosphere fills with friendly mumbles of fellow diners which makes it easy to forget about your food, making it a lovely surprise when it comes.
Cosy and homely; just make sure you're facing inside!
The starters came fresh from the oven, hot as you like. Don't make the same mistake I did and order the pizza bread (£3.90) imagining an overpriced garlic crust. It is basically a herby, garlic pizza without the cheese, easily shared between two. I didn't realise this so also ordered filo parcels (£5.15), hot pockets of cheesy, spinachy joy.
Feeling pretty full by the starter (practically a meal), I was fearful that I wouldn't manage my main. But once again, the food was delicious so that once I started, I couldn't stop. I'm normally a fairly conservative pizza-eater, but on this occasion I wanted to be surprised. I opted for the Tonnarella Romana (£8.55), an anchovy, caper-y, olive-y dream. Freshly made dough, fresh toppings and a saltiness that thrilled me everytime I bit into a meaty little anchovie, it was greatness on a plate(ness). I had it without the tuna, but if you're a fan I'm sure it's even better. We also had Giardino Rustico (£8.55) which had pepperoni, ham, and capers; crazy but delicious and completely recommended.
Charming touches make Il Giardino one of Peckham's treasures
Il Gardino is most definitely Peckham's hidden gem. Small and welcoming, the service may be a bit slow, but it lengthens your dining experience, allowing you time to soak up the warm family atmosphere and really enjoy your surroundings. And if swift service is what you want, then Peckham has plenty of fast food joints.
But be sure you won't get a smiling wave from the chef when you leave McDonalds; you'll be yesterday's news once you've taken your happy meal.