It may seem like a new restaurant is popping up every week in Peckham but we wanted to highlight a truly exciting addition to the area: modern British restaurant – The Coal Rooms.
Created by the owners of the Old Spike Roastery and Spike+Earl, serial social entrepreneurs Cemal Ezel and Richard Robinson have been building up their purpose-based hospitality brands for over four years.
These social enterprises train, employ and help with the housing aspects of formerly homeless people to work in their cafes, restaurants and coffee roastery. They create a system of teaching homeless people to gain skills in a job that may not have been an option before. At times they also team up with The House of St Barnabas in Soho in their training of recruits.
Cemal Ezel originally started his first coffee social enterprise with Change Please in 2010, training up homeless people to become baristas. They have gone from strength to strength with their coffee carts
What is really excellent about this brand is that they pair their powerful social impact work with top rate, first class food and service. The put their people-first values at the forefront and lead with it across all aspects of their business.
We had a chance to visit the Coal Rooms the weekend that they opened for their soft launch. We don’t usually restaurant style reviews but the experience was too good to not share. We started with the eggplant parmigiana style dish. It was truly excellent. Then, the Sunday roast we had when we visited was quite possibly the best Sunday roast we have had! The Yorkshire puddings were as large as our heads. We had the roast pork and beef, with some roast vegetables in a lovely gravy.
The service was top notch too. Our kind and helpful waiter suggested some perfect wine and beers to accompany the meal. If only we had a chance to get to a pudding but we were too full at that point.
The interiors and design of the place was very fresh and modern with cool and elegant colours by local architects Kennedy Woods, but it also had touches that hinted to its train station coal rooms heritage. They had the main room where we ate
We had a chance to speak to the manager James Galton and learn a bit more about the Coal Rooms themselves.
'The Coal Rooms name reflects the origin of the premises with it being a former waiting room of the ticket office of the Peckham Rye rail station where it was an actual coal storage. We have alot of rooms here, the cafe, dining room, private function room (set to open in October) and the upstairs will be a bar in the future. It also aligns with approach to cooking with the charcoal used in the cooking with the robata grill.'
For the food, the chef Sam Bryant (formerly of Smokehouse) does his own on-site butchery and cooks the meat up on the robata grill. They have a nose to tail cooking approach making sure none of the animal is wasted. He says that the approach to cooking is,
'meat heavy approach with a nod to local area and cultural influences in terms of the flavours of Peckham. One example is the jerk spices. We use every bit of meat, bone, fat everything to avoid wasteage. It is part of our ethos.'
Aside from the food, did we mention the best part? It would have to be the toilets. A bit like a tropical hammam with some nice vintage signage details, it is definitely worth a visit.
What’s next for them? They will be refurbishing the room upstairs to become a handy bar right next to the station. This will be a one stop venue for the locals and beyond.
A special thanks to James Galton and Sam Bryant for their time and comment. Change Please has just launched a range of coffees with the baristas faces on the fronts and now available at Sainsbury’s so you can try some of their coffee at home.