Few roads in London smell quite like Rye Lane. It’s one of the few streets in the city where you can truly experience sensory overload; a great place to overwhelm a labrador. There’s raw meat and fish from the markets; fruit from the street traders; chemicals from the nail salons that never seem to close. Most of these businesses are run or frequented by members of the UK’s largest overseas Nigerian community – this is the beating heart of Little Lagos.
Back in the day it just stank of horse shit. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Rye Lane was the Oxford Street of south London, home to department stores Jones & Higgins and Holdron’s, to which moneyed Victorians would flock in horse-drawn cabs and carriages.
In recent years, new scents have joined the aromatic miasma: craft beer, pulled pork and whatever brogues smell like. Among other things, gentrification has brought Rye Lane a huge pub run by the Antic group, while the Peckham Rye end is home to a cluster of cafés and modish restaurants, the only part of the area where avocados outnumber yams.
The result is one of the most aesthetically varied, culturally mixed and unique streets in London. Gird your nostrils.
For a thrifty thirst-quenching, head straight to the source: Brick Brewery, housed in the arches under Peckham Rye station. The drinking area is all outdoors, but it’s covered and heated. Even if it wasn’t, a pint of Pioneer pale ale is well worth shivering for.
For the short of attention span, Four Quarters is a nostalgia-steeped treat, stuffed with vintage arcade cabinets you can have a go on for 25p a pop, plus consoles you can fiddle with for nothing.
John the Unicorn (yeah, we know) is top territory for a big night out. Physically at least, it’s probably the biggest pub in Peckham, so bring some mates, grab some sofas and work your way through the list of local craft brews.
For a caffeine kick, head to Old Spike Roastery, which cooks up beans in store and helps the homeless off the streets by teaching them how to make flat whites, paying them the London Living Wage in return.
The best food options are gathered around the tip of the Peckham Rye triangle, which is one A-board away from being a full-on gastro village. Mr Bao’s Taiwanese buns are the lightest and fluffiest in London.
Pedler is SE15’s brunch hotspot: the sort of place where a hungry person could spend a whole day, moving from lattes to cocktails, grazing on small plates and wondering what a ‘dumpkin’ is.
For cheaper eats, you’ll find food truck Momos Falafel parked about a third of the way up the Lane, and, a little further up, under the arches, the bafflingly named Asian Take & Away, which has a one-star food hygiene rating and an exceptional reputation for spicy meat wraps.
Go watch a film at ‘Star Wars’ actor John Boyega’s local, Peckhamplex – still the only place in Zone 2 where you can see a blockbuster for £5.
Shoot some pool at Canavan’s, an authentically scruffy party spot that’s open until 4am every night and hosts karaoke every Sunday.
Khan’s Bargain is a legend among London convenience stores. Whether you’re after a new mop or a giant tin of Turkish pickles, you’ll find it in this sprawling den of tat.
If you only do one thing…
Go to the Bussey Building. Even if you’re too old for big nights out, the complex is always abuzz thanks to the bars, supper clubs, bike workshops and record stores that call it home.
Fancy a change? Here are 13 reasons to go to Green Lanes.