Pedler’s Chef G on foraging, the area’s thriving food scene and his soon-to-open Peckham pizzeria…
From the oldest restaurant in London to the buzzing streets of Peckham, Gareth Crosby, Executive Chef at Pedler, likes to bring a little bit of the countryside with him. Gareth, or Chef G as he’s fondly known among colleagues, has a real passion for seasonal, locally sourced food. His carefully crafted menus change daily, working with the ebb and flow of nature, which is why he refers to himself as ‘head forager’.
He’s also particularly fond of game season, although venison and grouse are somewhat lacking in these parts of south London. Fortunately, his local allies – Flock & Herd on Bellenden Road and Butcher’s Block, a family run business that’s been in Peckham for generations – are only too happy to help out there.
‘I basically let the suppliers dictate what we use and it depends whatever season is in play at that moment. We had partridge on the menu recently, which went down really well, and we had rabbit on before that. The butcher has just got a load of grouse in, so we’ll put that on the menu too. I try to keep it simple and classic with game, so I’ll probably put them with some game chips and maybe a redcurrant jus.’
‘Yeah. You slice the potatoes on a mandolin, kind of like McCoys crisps with the ridges on, then fry them in game fat so they crisp up.’ Wow.
Chef G spent his formative years at Rules (the oldest restaurant in London), which is known for its game and helped nuture his passion for this particular season. Rules has its own estate in the High Pennines, incidentally, but Chef G likes to look closer to home: ‘We like to reduce our food miles, if I can get anything close by it’s a bonus,’ he says.
Vegetables are sourced from Watts Farm, which has farms in Kent, Essex and Bedfordshire, as well as some organic produce from Keats Community Farm near Bexley.
‘We like to reduce our food miles, if I can get anything close by it’s always a bonus’
‘And we’ve got a local community farm that just grows whatever they can,’ he says. ‘At the moment they’ve got edible flowers and green beans, so they will bring it over that day and I’ll create the menu around it. We’ve got our regular dishes, but I like to experiment with the flavours whenever I can.’
Pedler, founded by the team behind Little Bird Gin (Peckham even has its own gin) is certainly a restaurant born of experience. At the helm are former Drake & Morgan director Taskin Muzaffer, Little Bird founder and master distiller Tim Moore, Chef G and Pedler restaurant manager Pru Clarke (both Chef G and Pru formerly worked alongside Taskin at Drake & Morgan). Created as a neighbourhood restaurant, it has been pulling in the crowds from across London with its fresh food ethos, quirky, cool décor, cracking cocktails and all-day menu that offers everything from gin sausages for breakfast to spectacular Sunday lunches. It’s eternally packed, and there’s even more of it to come…
In November the group plans to open its second venture, a pizza restaurant with an upstairs cocktail bar near Queens Road station on the other side of Peckham. Plus, Little Bird Gin will soon be opening a gin bar in the arches underneath Peckham Rye station with cocktails and hot dogs by Good Dog. So what is it about SE15?
‘We all live in Peckham,’ says Chef G. ‘I lived in Bermondsey for about seven years, then I moved here last year. Taskin’s been in Peckham for five or six years and he saw the uptake of people coming down here, then this site came up and he fell in love with it. I was a bit dubious, I was thinking about Bermondsey Street, but it turned out to be the right result.
‘We didn’t anticipate Pedler being as busy as it was when we first opened,’ he continues. ‘We have a lot of regulars but also a lot of people from north or west London, which is fantastic. House prices have rocketed around here and everyone’s trying to get in at the moment, especially [on Peckham Rye].’
‘Rosie Lovell has opened here on the back of her success in Brixton,’ adds Laura Sullivan, Director of Sales & Marketing for Pedler and Little Bird Gin. ‘It’s nice for Peckham because it’s more of a destination, it’s not just the residents that are coming here, people have heard about us from social media and friends.’
Chef G is reluctant to give too much away about the new pizza restaurant, as they are still finalising the details, but he’s happy to tell me about the food.
‘We’re getting a wood-fired oven for the pizzas. Pizza in London at the moment is all sourdough bases or Italian pizzas with English produce. We’ll be different because we’re getting everything from suppliers in Italy. We’ve been to Naples maybe six or seven times in the last year trying to work out the best pizzas to make. We went last month and tried 26 pizzas in two days!
‘The [Queens Road] site seems perfect and hopefully it’ll take off like it did here. There’s a lot of new housing, Beer Rebellion is doing really well down there, and there are another couple of shops for sale, so more things will open.’
The new place will have a ‘similar vibe’ to Pedler, but ‘all the venues we have are going to have their own personalities,’ says Chef G. ‘All the venues?’ I repeat. Yup, the Pedler team has plans for further venues, but they’re keeping the ‘five-year plan’ firmly under their hats. Watch this space…
58 Peckham Rye SE15 4JR; 020 3030 5015; pedlerpeckhamrye.com