‘Peckham Tapas’

Your eyes do not deceive you. You did just see the words ‘Peckham’ and ‘tapas’ next to each other. The Rye pub has reopened in SE15 and with it comes a menu boasting the above. Peckham. Tapas. Let’s take a moment to unpack that, shall we?

(deep breath)

So you know that Spanish thing, tapas? That thing the Spanish bars do where they serve small snacks to nibble on while you have a drink, in Spain? Yeah well let’s take that concept, but make it all Peckham, like. A plantain here, a jerked chicken there, a scotch bonnet bleedin’ everywhere.

The idea of using locally available ingredients with the aim of creating a menu that really represents for Peckham (innit blud *finger whip*) is a nice one. The intentions behind the er, concept (wince) were probably good, which makes it all the more tragic that the food itself is beyond shit.

Bad things happened before the food even arrived, actually, like when the waitress brought condiments to our table – ketchup, mustard and – CURVEBALL – a shot glass of mayonnaise. Okay fine, serve your mayo any way you like but do not serve a shot glass of mayo which is sporting a crust. The thing had clearly been dutifully presented at many tables that day and probably many tables a couple of days previously; truly rank. It looked like bog standard shop bought mayo so I’ve no idea why it got this special shot glass treatment while the ketchup etc. did not. Here’s a tip though guys: bottles keep stuff fresh.

So from the tapas menu (shudder) we order onion bhajis with, wait for it…date and plantain relish. We also order salt fish fritters with, wait for it…smoked garlic aioli.

(deep breath)

So, onion bhajis, those famous Indian snacks and plantains those er, plantains. Interesting. I’m thinking, this sounds like a right car crash but let’s hold back on the judgement until I’ve tasted them. Benefit of the doubt and all that. I’ll tell you how that worked out in a moment. First, you must look at them. I demand it. Go on, have a good look…

Look like they’ve been varnished, no? That’s one thick mother funking mahogany skin on those bhajis, let me tell you. It had the texture of fruit leather. I think they may have been deep fried at some point, that point being several days before they were reheated and served. We decided to push on with having a taste, my companion and I, despite their alarming appearance giving rise to a nagging expectation that a tiny alien may burst out of each one at any moment. We rip through the skin to find that, despite having the appearance of things which have seen the fires of Hades, they’re not cooked in the middle. Wicked. Let’s try the plantain chutney then…a whack of vinegar first, then a piece of plantain. That isn’t cooked either. Ace.

Moving on. The salt fish fritters come with smoked garlic aioli, or, more accurately, shop bought mayo with some smoked garlic mixed into it. That’s not aioli and also, why? Salt fish and mayonnaise is a horrible combination, but it does have the advantage of distracting us somewhat from the bizarre, gluey texture of the fritters. Jamaican style salt fish fritters with French aioli. A pile of rocket on the side. There’s a reason no-one else is doing this.

Our ‘jerk chicken burger with avocado salsa’ does not come from the Peckham tapas menu but instead ‘from the stove’ which is of course where all good jerk comes from. What do you mean nothing has come from the stove since 1901? You cynical old sod, you.

Now at this point I move from finding the meal hilarious to feeling deeply sad and mentally scarred. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m rather a fan of jerk. This wasn’t jerk. This was a piece of chicken rubbed with ready made jerk seasoning (and not much of it), cooked until perfectly dry and shoved in a bun with the saddest blob of salsa ever dolloped with no care or attention. Behold the most tragic food photo ever taken…

I take no responsibility for your mental health post viewing. In fact I’m sorry for inflicting this upon you at all but you must understand that I need to get some closure.

This menu should be used as an example every time someone wants to know the definition of ‘style over substance’. Everything comes on wooden boards, by the way. Plates would be too straightforward and anyway, they clash with the shot glasses. I’m going to stop now. I’m going to stop because I’m having flash backs but mostly because I want to go and get a beer from the fridge. This has been remarkably cathartic but now all I’m left with is the memory of last summer, when The Rye was serving Meatwagon burgers, buffalo wings and pigs cooked in a pit in the back garden. Two minutes walk from my house. Gutted.

I should add that The Rye did apologise and they invited me back for drinks ‘on the house’. They also say they are working on improving the food. 

The Rye
31 Peckham Rye
SE15 3NX

Category: Food From The Rye, Peckham, Pubs, Restaurant Reviews | Tags: , , , , 59 comments »

59 Responses to “‘Peckham Tapas’”

  1. Manne

    Oh dear. We were there a couple of weeks ago, and I had a scotch egg and the onion bhajis. While nothing to shout with joy about, it wasn’t as bad as your experience… I really do hope this isn’t the new standard! :(

  2. Isabel

    Ouch! This sounds almost as tragic as that bifana on your review of sandwiches!

  3. Helen

    ha! that was a shocker too, although not as bad as this…

  4. Helen

    I’ve not heard anything good as yet but lukewarm is better than totally negative I guess. Perhaps things are slowly on the up eh…

  5. aoife

    I actually gipped at the mayonaise. This sums up everything pubs can get wrong with their food. Actually no, the pub I worked in at 18 in Bingley where the barstaff were also the chefs and were made to use a laminated picture instruction booklet, microwave and deepfat fryer was worse. But not by much. Urgh. The mayonaise.

  6. Helen

    Ha ha ha ha ha! That sounds like a pretty slick joint I must say. Just heard on Twitter I’m not the only one who has been served crusty mayo.

  7. chloe

    This is beyond disturbing.

  8. Helen

    And sad! So sad.

  9. Thom

    Well that was…depressing. I went to The Rye a few times during the Euro, but always just had a drink. Was meaning to go for a meal at one point, but clearly this would be a terrible mistake.

  10. Helen

    Yeah they need to make some drastic improvements. Avoid!

  11. Tara

    What a bummer after the meatwagon. The mayo is unbelievable :-&

  12. Helen

    Mmmm crusty. Not the first time it’s happened apparently.

  13. Chris

    It’s a scandal that heartless corporate chains like Greene King are even allowed to run pubs. Yes the food is shit but it’s not just a case of a well-meaning but useless chef cocking up his menu concept – it’s shit because of crappy cheap ingredients thrown together without any motive other than to make as much money as possible for the least possible effort. It’s the same wretched business model that you can see at any of their other places.

    Sorry for the rant. Bad food makes me angry.

  14. Helen

    Exactly. I’ve been slated on Twitter this morning by someone who thinks it’s wrong to say bad things about a local business. I’m sorry but I don’t think it’s wrong to report an experience as bad as this. They clearly don’t give a shit about the quality of the food coming out, as you say. Also, I did speak to them about it.

  15. Sharmila

    I had a godawful meal here. Order some platter and the onion bhajis were missing (probably a good thing, actually). When we queried we were told they had run out. When we pointed out that they may want to replace it with something else, we were told “well, the kitchen is very stressed”. I appreciate the kitchen was feeling a bit emotional, but well, if I pay for something and don’t get it, isn’t that just stealing from me? They then randomly gave us some bhajis and they were burnt.

    My husband then went the other week and waited over an hour for a burger and when he got it the chips were cold. When he complained, he didn’t get anything in the way of recompense.

    A real shame, as we live a few minutes away and if the food were good, we would go all the time.

  16. Helen

    Same, I’m so close which is why it’s so upsetting. You’re not the first person I’ve heard the ‘the kitchen is stressed’ excuse from…

  17. Sue Currie

    If you want to know how to treat a pig, read the new recipe on my blog and check out what the newest food critic on the block has to say about it.

  18. Donald Edwards

    I’ll out myself as the companion and I really thought the meal was cynical as well as bad. All very thought out and designed to hit a very definite demographic. With very little real love for the actual stuff that ends up on the plate. Though I’m willing to bet that everything is costed down to a fraction of a penny.
    As to not slating local business. Well if they’re shit then they should be slated, if they’re good they should be feted.

  19. tehbus

    That’s almost as sad as my Pret “Tapas” salad I bought for lunch

  20. Helen

    NEW LEVELS!! Tapas WHAT? Tapas salad?! ppprfffhhfhhfhfnnnnnnnnn

  21. Steve Sparshott

    Something else disturbing about the mayonnaise; it’s risen to the top of the glass, pushed by the pocket of gas it’s emitted. Nice!

  22. Helen

    Oh my goodness it’s started to FERMENT! ;)

  23. sean

    I thought the pub food was bad at the warrington in warwick avenue was bad..one of ramseys ego , over priced pubs but now i have good reason to say sorry dont do south of the river.

  24. Julia

    Oh my, now I’m glad I live in Devon and there is zero chance of me visiting that place. The Mayo made my stomach churn.

  25. Natasha Card

    I live and breathe local food and local food outlets and I am afraid I am with Donald !! if its shit then say its shit and the more people that know about it the better…whereas when its good it should be hailed from above and written in lights (or just on twitter would do!)
    I am unsure as to the actual legalities but I wouldnt mind betting that The Enviromental Health guys would shut it down!

  26. Catherine

    Slimey! Is this indicative of Greene King running the pub now? Do you think it is worse than it would have been if Capitol was still in the picture; or are they but just subsumed beneath GK? Will the same thing happen to the other pubs in the chain?

  27. Bron

    Think your kitchen staff may have come from The Antelope in Tooting. Had tapas lunch there one day a while ago, the mayo was crusted over just like yours, but someone had taken a fingerful out of the top before it was served to us. Bleuugh. Took it back to the bar with a flip comment about someone had eaten it before us only to be told by the manager that the chef says he only ever serves fresh mayonnaise to each customer, despite the obvious evidence to the contrary. Actually refused to replace it….

  28. Helen

    Oh, the thought of mayonnaise full-stop makes me a bit nauseous, but the description of the shot glass and the skin sent me over the edge! Really hope they sort the food out soon, we moved to Nunhead 6 months ago and was looking fwd to The Rye re-opening after hearing about the MeatWagon glory!

  29. Robert


  30. Bikehound

    Errrrrr, crusty mayo. Vile!

  31. Steph

    Tragically hilarious! I think I would have turned around and run when I saw the mayo to be honest. Gordon Ramsey would have had a field day!

    Thanks for sharing!

  32. Shu Han

    that does sound pretty tragic. Another case of hype without real substance :( Well, at least they said they are working on improving the food.

  33. Ashley Bee (Quarter Life Crisis Cuisine)

    The only time I went to a tapas bar, I got beer and a salad. I need to revisit one and indulge a little more, this looks fantaaaaastic!

  34. Lizzie

    jesus christ! Oh, bring back the glory days…

  35. Helen

    Your comment baffles me, Ashley

  36. Helen

    They REFUSED to replace it?! I do hope you walked out.

  37. Helen

    Hi Catherine. I don’t know the details of the Greene King takeover I’m afraid. I also don’t know what will happen to the other pubs in the chain. In short, I don’t know the answers to any of your questions…

  38. Cooking Classes in London

    Such a shame. I was looking forward to the re-opening of the Rye. The description alone of the mayonnaise in the shot glass made me cringe, the photo just made my hair stand on end! And that jerk chicken burger with avocado salsa makes me want to cry.

  39. Elodie from Framing Plates

    Let’s hope they do.

  40. HadjiMurad

    I think your failure to recognise your “Fermented Mayonnaise Shot” for what it was shows that you are not at the cutting edge, or what I like to call the “fetid yellow crust” of modern “mixology”… Urgh. It’ll be interesting to see how they can “improve” without revitalising the whole chain’s approach to food…

  41. Mark

    The food looks, and sounds, both horrendous and hazardous. That last photo looks like a surgical dressing that has been festering on a gangrenous wound. Bon appetit…NOT!

  42. Helen

    Ewwww! Gangrenous wound!

  43. Helen


  44. jen

    You know, I got extremely excited about this having read the title. I know that PEckham can be sketchy, but you’ve been writing about some neat places AND i have recently met two people from PEckham that are cool. ANd living in Bermondsey it’s not a far distance to travel.

    Unfortunately as of late you haven’t had the best things to say about these Peckham eateries… i must wait for something better to come along.

    Have you tried SLA 168 in Peckham Rye?

  45. Helen

    168 place has closed down I’m afraid! There are good places in Peckham but this was just tragic.

  46. Gene

    My Spanish is a little rusty, but I don’t remember ‘tapas’ translating to ‘little plates of horrid shit’. Of all the pictures you took, only the salt cod fritters look palatable, but even those were crap. That jerk chicken looks almost as frightening as the crusty mayo – grey and lifeless. But crusty mayo?! Good Lord are they trying to kill people?

  47. jess

    I had crusty mushy peas in a pub once.

  48. Helen

    There’s just nothing else to say about that is there…that really made me laugh

  49. Chris Maher

    I heard about ‘a blog slating the food’ of The Rye, checked yours first thing today and ,sadly, pleased that someone of note has fed back to them about their food.
    We both had rib eye, cooked with 0% of love and attention (unevenly cooked, not to order at all, dry, under-seasoned, served on a bloody board, on top of undercooked chips).
    On the night i couldnt be bothered with the hassle of complaining (I ate it and enjoyed the wine) so tried online to get the general managers contact details, just to feed this bad dining experience back, all i was given (via Twitter) was the enquiries@ email.
    No reply in 5 days.
    Motivated to publicly voice my experience now.

  50. Alice

    Just discovered this blog, and I’m a local Brixton blogger so defos adding it to my roll! This food looks out of this world. Will definitely be popping in to check it out for myself at some point soon

  51. Favourite Table

    All very thought out and designed to hit a very definite demographic. With very little real love for the actual stuff that ends up on the plate. Though I’m willing to bet that everything is costed down to a fraction of a penny.

  52. Helen

    I have deja vu…

  53. Nina

    I had a very similar disappointing experience at the new(sadly not improved)Rye. I ordered the burger with glowing memories of the Meatwagon days and was weeping into my stale bun, overcooked tasteless meat and tepid chips. Well, maybe not weeping, but very sad. Like a large mournful eyed labrador. Like you, I am a local gal and was looking forward to The Rye being opened again. Never eating there again. And the new decor is HORRIBLE. How people love to tinker with a good thing.

  54. Helen

    Oh dear oh dear. Not a single comment in favour of the food thus far…

  55. The Grubworm

    It’s sad sad sad when anywhere does food like this. It’s not only indicative of a lack of care or effort, it actually looks like they’re working hard on making their food as shit as possible.

    I reckon the old school 1990s O’Neill’s pub pre-fried-and-frozen onions they used in their onion gravy and deep-fry-everything menus would have been better than this. And when you get so many joints churning out well priced, tasty food… well, it’s a discrace this, innit?

  56. Helen

    I agree. That old school stuff WAS better. Wow, that’s saying something, eh?

  57. Vicky @ Ursine Cuisine

    Oooh dear, this looks depressing! Highlights the challenges of fusion food but, even so, food should never be this… challenged.

    So frustrating when paid professionals give such pisspoor excuses. I was a chef for years, and would never have served this. I also wouldn’t have made crappy excuses like being ‘stressed’.

    On a positive note, I really enjoyed reading it, so I am now amused and depressed in equal measure. Odd!

  58. Sarah

    I was really looking forward to it opening as I had a blast there the last three years and loved the meatwagon. I too was left crying into my scotch egg and crusty bhaji’s. Lets not forget though, the irritating signage on the staff doors – ‘narnia’ and ‘middle earth’ I think. Urgh. The interior is no longer a bit wonky and cold at times but with a touch of character but a cross between try hard kooky and generic All Bar One. Very sad.

  59. Leigh

    One of my pet hates is the decanting of sauces into pots. Terrible trend; as you say, not fresh, and how many do you think get re-used? Yuck.

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