As I stepped into the neon-lit, violently yellow stairwell, I realised I’d been tricked. I had accidentally agreed to go for dinner in a sodding multi-storey car park, again, despite the fact that I hate restaurants in car parks and, indeed, car parks in general. Nobody, except perhaps people who were once particularly low-quality teenagers, can claim to ever have had fun in one.
(I’ve written about this quite extensively before, if you’re interested.)
I am all for re-purposing disused buildings, but so far very few people have managed to do a good job of it. This is usually down to poor insulation, inadequate kitchen facilities and the acoustics of a pre-war gymnasium, combined with all the soul and personality of a pile of burning tyres. So I was quite relieved, once I’d had a little sit-down after five flights of steps and a brief flirtation with cardiac arrest, to find that the designated eating spot for the evening was in fact a Proper Restaurant. There was metal cutlery and everything, and nobody expected me to wait 30 minutes for a plastic cup of tepid Blossom Hill.
This was already a 100% improvement on every single other car park-based establishment I’d ever had the misfortune to visit.
Admirably, most of the seven-storey car park is actually given over to co-working spaces and independent businesses, most of whom are native Peckhamese. Naturally, there’s a yoga studio, and also a cluster of other restaurants and bars which were buzzing by 7pm on a Tuesday night. I was there to try a new place called Wildflower with my pal Hannah, who lives around the corner and is always getting me down to try out Peckham’s robust restaurant scene (a source of much envy, I might add. Despite hosting the Olympics a few years back, my stomping ground of Stratford is the gastronomic equivalent of a black hole.)
Wildflower is an all veggie/vegan restaurant, which I am always excited to try. As I always say, you can’t stay open for long in this town as a vegetarian restaurant if you’re not doing something really spectacular with those yams.
There weren’t actually any yams on the menu, nor were there any of the goat’s cheese doughnuts I’d been eyeing on the website all day. Bummer. But there was an absolutely spanking ‘swede fondue’ (£9.50), which was a curiously creamy, goopy, garlicky bowl of pureed swede that even mustered a certain cheesiness with the help of something called nutritional yeast. (I don’t know what it is either, I think it’s what the veegs use to stave off rickets.) It came with some homemade croutons and a big pile of spunky house-pickled veg. The cauliflower dippers were divine, but no amount of pickling will convince me that cucumber isn’t the devil’s dildo, so I left those ones to Hannah.
Less impressive was the enormous sweet potato with fresh chilli, coriander and yogurt (£11.50), which was perfectly fine but, it has to be said, is the sort of thing I’d make myself for dinner if I’d forgotten to go to the shops. But there was a jolly jumble of crispy onion bhajis (£4.50) with curried raita (sodding cucumber again) and a smoked aubergine dream (£8.00) with an actually decent vegan mozzarella cashew cheese topping and pesto, which may have been my favourite of the night.
Pudding (£6.50) was an absolute triumph, even though the ‘choccy’ ganache looked a bit like something I’d normally try to avoid on the pavement. It came with a suspiciously good dairy-free hazelnut gelato which, I swear to God, was indistinguishable from the real thing. Side note, because this has been bothering me for some time and I need to share: how the hell are there so many ice cream shops in the West End? I am convinced it must be some sort of money-laundering scheme because not even the Costa del sodding Sol could support so many gelato sellers, let alone a country as perpetually soggy as the UK.
I digress. So London’s veggie scene adds another string to its bow. It’s not as refined as Vanilla Black (overpriced) or The Gate, but then at this price point you don’t expect it to be. It’s more like an edgier, small plates version of Mildred’s. In a car park.
But don’t let that put you off.
Wildflower, Peckham Levels, Level 5, 95a Rye Lane, London, SE15 4ST.
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in Islington and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.