Frank's Cafe and Campari Bar, Peckham
Peckham Multi-Storey Carpark
95a Rye Lane
0758 288 4574
Open summer only (check website for dates)
Brunch served on Sundays and some Saturdays from about midday.
by Malcolm Eggs
It started with a broken lift and a walk up a staircase. It stank. It was an experience to make you wonder if this cult of the derelict and disused is really that much of a good thing. Is it to trick us all into accepting some inevitable descent into wet-floored impoverishment? But anyway, learn from our mistake - walk the route you'd drive if you were driving.
On the sixth storey we emerged into a system of ramps, empty parking slots and the outskirts of a group sculpture show. On the ninth storey a friendly girl in a wooden booth handed us a list of exhibits: we made our way up onto the roof past some polished steel bollards and two large inflatable rats. It was a sunny day. We ordered coffee.
A mystery: a barbecue covered entirely in fat sausages. They were making seductive, excruciating cracking sounds but the brunch board opened with "green salad" and ended with "Victoria sponge". Not a sausage to be seen. "Are they for the staff?" my companion wondered. But that would be an unusual cruelty - ten sausage apiece for the staff but none for those who had just braved the stairwell. When a waitress climbed up onto the counter and rubbed out half of the menu it seemed solved, but the 'Toulouse sausage £1.8' she added had its own strangeness. Just a sausage? Nothing else on the rejigged list - mushrooms on toast, chicken caesar salad - seemed so stark, so singular...
The service at Frank's is very relaxed. Waiting at the bar to order, I had leisure to switch around five times between endearment (it's a Sunday! I feel young.) and frustration (there are hardly any customers! Two of you seem to be working on one drink!). Our order was a charred aubergine dish with spring onion, feta and mint (£6.70), tomatoes on toast with aioli (£5), and sausage.
The aubergine arrived first, followed around ten minutes later ("it comes when it comes!") by the tomato-ast. It hurts a bit to think about it: it tasted so absolutely good. Warm tomatoes, laced with thyme, soaking balmy reds and oranges into bitter-sharp sourdough, were sweeter and lovelier than a kitten in a Kinder Egg. And at the risk of sounding like an idiot, the aubergine dish tasted a bit like an expensive sketch of Constantinople involving two or three wisps of smoke rising from behind various domed roofs. The mysterious sausage was nowhere to be seen. "The food comes when it comes!" they insisted, before realising the kitchen had no knowledge of our sausage deficit. Finally, a plate with two occupants turned up: the bangers were fatter than they were long, meaty and plump, crisp of skin and dense of centre. Just great sausages.
The view from Frank's hosts just about every iconic landmark known to London. I've heard you can see as far as Wembley Stadium but I always forget to check. This beauty is almost totally inverted in the form of the heinous horrors that dwell inside the festival-style toilets. Like a talented artist with a drink problem, Frank's delights and frustrates and is very easy to talk about.
Post-script: Weirdly enough, on the night of posting this review I happened to meet Frank himself, who completely agreed abut the toilets and was in the process of replacing them. The lift had been fixed, too.