London, England: Shove over Shoreditch, bugger off Brick Lane – this is London's newest hotspot

Shove over Shoreditch, heave to Hoxton and bugger off Brick Lane – Peckham's coming through. As those recently gentrified areas of East London approach peak-hipsterdom, Peckham, the stamping ground of Del Boy and Rodney, Britain's fictional likely lads from the Only Fools and Horses TV show, is emerging as London's next funky destination.

Want proof? A sourdough bakery and bar, the Brick House, has opened up just a few metres from Peckham Rye station. As soon as the word "sourdough" appears in an area you know that plantation shutters in the house windows, a traditional barber shop, craft brewery, soaring property prices and a tapas bar can't be far behind.

And so it proves on a short walking tour of the area with Blue Badge guide Alexandra Jackson, who has called Peckham home for more than 30 years.

Peckham, in south-east London, is what you might call a work in progress, somewhat akin to, say, Bethnal Green and Hackney 10 years ago before the gentrification process began. It's still delightfully rough around the edges and devoid of cafes where (ducker-and-diver Del Boy would have loved this) punters pay four sovs for a bowl of cereal. 

Instead, Peckham is part posh and part pissy (if the smell under the arches at the railway station is anything to go by). It has funky murals on the walls and Mighty Pound discount stores in the high street. It has pool halls and poke bowls, dried catfish and custom cycle shops, deprivation and des-res sitting cheek-by-jowl.

Nowhere is this more evident than at Peckham Levels, an old multi-storey car park behind Rye Lane high street, which has been turned into a multi-use cultural, creative and culinary space. Frank's Cafe, on the rooftop, is already so popular it's hard to get into at weekends, but success breeds success and the six colour-coded floors below it are full of bars, cafes, salons, kids' playgrounds and fitness studios.

Here, you'll find a poke bowl cafe, Kurdish food, Chinese street food, Canard (a self-proclaimed "dirty French" restaurant), vegan pizzas and posters advertising a pregnancy celebration workshop during which you can try hypno-birthing, yoga, meditation and chanting ("first five bookings receive a free bump painting").

A short stroll from the Levels, past a high street festooned with a surprising number of unassuming hair salons and wig shops catering for the area's large African and Afro-Caribbean community, is Bussey's, an equally modest but large Victorian cricket bat factory that, like the Levels, has been re-purposed and turned into a creative hub that boasts evangelical churches, design studios, bars and restaurants.

In the immediate area of the Bussey building is the Copeland Park industrial estate, where the Holy Emmanuel Church of Christ sits next to a gym, Sea Bass Cycles, the Copeland Gallery, a pottery and various bars and restaurants.


South of the station, away from the gritty and slightly grotty high street, Bellenden Road arrows towards East Dulwich and boasts the refurbished Victoria Inn (craft beers and boutique accommodation) as well as the Flock and Herd artisan butcher and the General Store grocer where you can stock up on greengage, plum and fennel pollen jam, Flahavan's Irish steel-cut oatmeal and Kernel craft beer from nearby Bermondsey.

As if to drive home the fact this is an up-and-coming funky area, Belgian artist ROA has painted a giant whippet on the side of the Victorian Inn (he's also to be found at the Bussey building and in several spots around Brick Lane) and even the sculpted street bollards are by ubiquitous artist Antony Gormley (he of the famous Angel of the North).

Just along the road is Artusi restaurant, lauded by critic Jay Rayner when it opened in 2014. It sits next to a hardware shop selling multi-coloured radiators, and Sam's Kebab shop.

Back in the high street, up the end towards Peckham Rye Park, we spy the Beneficial Veracious Christ Church Miracle Centre and pop in to Canavan's Pool Club for a stickybeak. During the day it's what it says on the tin – the sort of dark and dingy pool hall that feels dodgier than it probably is – but which at the weekends attracts late-night revellers with its 4am licence and, I have it on good local authority, an excellent DJ line-up.

Keith Austin visited Peckham courtesy of VisitBritain.


Blue Badge Tourist Guides are highly trained, members of a professional guild and work throughout Britain. See