Welcome to Dining Beyond Zone 1, our series of restaurant reviews dedicated to seeking out quality local places to dine beyond the frenzy of Central London!
In the weather we've been having over the last week, some of us have found it an effort trekking as far as the drawbridge of Londonist Towers, let alone venturing to 'another zone'. Funny how London is for the most part the centre of the universe (discuss), and yet a wee bit of the white stuff renders us remoter than the proudest croft.
Thus it was that the prospect of a recent 'celebration' (new photo-copier) filled us less with yee-hah and more with fear, actually. Mean, walking on snow is hard enough, but when you've had a few....?
But ever up for a party, we came up with the perfect solution: keeping it local. Like a few minutes walk local. Il Giardino in Peckham is a gloriously sterotypical Italian (Sicilian) bistro. Well, except that it is run by Spaniards.
The restaurant has been packing them in since the mid-1980s, although it is well tucked away in a side road by Peckham Rye Station and there are many Peckhamites who don't realise it exists. The service is exceptional: friendly but unobtrusive. And the atmosphere is so cosy you want to take it home and sleep in it.
Oh yes - and the food. Well it is jolly good. Reasonable, and filling with an OK-ish wine list and a well-stocked bar. The a la carte menu offers plenty of pizzas and pasta, together with a range of dishes 'a la casa', including 5-6 fish numbers, and usually around 4 blackboard specials. On the night we visited, we chose to share a dish of pan-fried calves' liver cooked with sage, an impeccably dressed salad and some far too filling garlic bread (why-oh-why do we always order it? who ever eats all the garlic bread?) as a starter. Mains saw us tucking into pizza: the dough is light, and the pizza size is just about spot on. The puddings were terrific: torta de nona is light flan pastry filled with creamed pine nuts, and the home made cassata was awesome. You're looking at around £55 for a three course meal for two with half a bottle of wine per head. Which ain't at all bad.
Il Giardino rocks: no neighbourhood should be without one.
Tel: 0207 358 9962. Address: 7, Blenheim Grove, Peckham, SE15 4QS Seems to be open 7 nights a week.