Please note, Wildflower has now closed. Time Out Food editors, February 2019.
Is Peckham the new Dalston? Like it or not, the area is definitely hip and walking into Wildflower quietly, calmly confirms this, not least because it’s located in the multi-storey car park-turned-multifunctional cultural space that is Peckham Levels.
Describing itself simply as a ‘vegetarian and vegan canteen’, it’s an open, stylish spot that does recall a canteen (albeit one attached to a graphic design office). But while the room is fairly straightforward, the food is something quite special.
A popular view is that it’s hard to get excited about vegetables. Given that they’re often treated as an afterthought, it’s easy to see why. At Wildflower, however, they’re given appropriate headline treatment in a stellar selection of small plates (split roughly 50/50 between veggie and vegan), via a seasonal, shifting menu. First, though, a word about bread. You should know that Wildflower’s own-baked rosemary focaccia is obscenely good. Fluffy, slightly spongy and almost cake-like, this was bread at its very finest. I never want to eat focaccia that doesn’t taste exactly like this.
The rest of Wildflower’s food is creative, thoughtful and looks pretty – but it’s absolutely not pretentious. I tried four vegan dishes – plus that divine bread – and all were excellent. Harissa-roasted cauliflower was cooked beautifully, with a rich tahini sauce and pomegranate adding sweetness, plus toasted seeds and nuts giving bite. Pink fir potatoes were every bit as delicious, the caramelised shallots in this dish offset by the freshness of mint. Their home-style savoy cabbage didn’t sound exciting on paper, but IRL was pretty great. Crisp leaves were flavoured with black and white sesame seeds, sesame oil and just the right amount of chilli. It was simple, but perfectly executed.
The concept of cheese-less ‘swede fondue’ may outrage some people, but this one turned out to be delicious. God knows how, but it kind of tasted like… cheese (all scandalised comments on a postcard, please). It was superbly savoury, rich and indulgent, accompanied by lightly pickled vegetables and – oh my God – croutons made from more of that beautiful focaccia.
Essentially, everything at Wildflower is pitched just right. The menu is interesting without being esoteric, the atmosphere is buzzy but comfortable (evidenced by a mixed and happy crowd, including families with children on a Saturday night), and the service was excellent. Pay it a visit and remind yourself how damn delicious vegetables can be in the right hands.