Friday 22 October 2010

Review: Petitou, Peckham

Petitou fig walnut cake

One of the best things about moving house is exploring all the little shops and restaurants of your new 'hood. But obviously for me it's all about discovering previously unknown cafes and teashops. So when my friend L told me she had spotted a nice looking cafe near the place she does an upholstery course (note to self: check out the courses there ASAP) I could hardly wait to go.

Petitou outdoor seating exterior

Set on a beautiful corner in the leafy backstreets of Peckham (yes there are attractive leafy backstreets in Peckham), Petitou has a prime location. A terrace at the front alongside a lovely tree looks like a great place to while away a few hours on a sunny afternoon. Sadly, this was a rather cold drizzly lunchtime so we went instead for one of the tables inside. Actually, we were lucky to get one as the cafe was busy the whole time we were there: when we arrived for a late lunch there were local workers filling the place and by the time we left some hours later it was rammed with mums and buggies bearing babies.

We started with lunch: I had a spicy veg pasty and salad and my friend went for an avocado & tuna salad. It was all tasty and organically leaning but to be honest it was fine rather than amazing. Very much simple, hearty fare. We hadn't planned on having anything else but as I was trying to choose my food up at the counter I found my eyes being drawn to some amazing looking homemade cakes. We ended up chatting for so long we found we had segued into tea time and it seemed foolish not to try the sweet things on offer.

Petitou fig walnut cake

And I am so glad we did. The tea selection was OK, all bagged but all Clipper Organic. I went for a Redbush as I wasn't in a caffeine mood and drank it, as usual, with milk. L opted for a cappuccino which she reported to be rather good. But, yeah yeah, drinks schminks - what about the cakes? Well, they were blooming fantastic. L had a fig and walnut cake which was fresh and delicious. It had an amazing buttercream in the middle which wasn't overly sweet and the cake had a firm but not heavy texture. But mine, wow, it was delicious. A chocolate and cherry cake, it had that homemade look (i.e. a little uneven) but the taste was basically perfect. The sponge reminded me of a flourless chocolate cake - incredibly light and airy but intensely chocolatey: no cocoa powder here, this was the real deal. And the filling in the middle, a slightly sweetened whipped cream stuffed full of cherries. Really, it was a fantastic cake. Whoever does the baking at Petitou is certainly gifted. I can't recall a cake that has lingered in my memory in quite the same way. Sure, I love chocolate and cherries but the execution of the cake was top notch.

Petitou chocolate cherry cake

The atmosphere in the cafe itself was friendly, laid-back and (that charming phrase from my youth) continental. Although I'd be hard pushed to say which country on the continent it felt like, it was certainly not what I had imagined the back-streets of Peckham to be like. After such a pleasant afternoon I now find myself dreaming of returning, but with so many new cafes to explore it seems crazy to go back to the same one; doesn't it? Well, maybe in a week or two I can check it out again - just to be sure that those cakes really are as good as I remember.


  1. Sounds and looks lovely - fig and walnut cake sounds incredible and I love the chocolate and cherry combo as well - happy it seems to have been redeemed from black forest gateau territory! That place looks gorgeous - might head down on my bike, I'm not many miles from Peckham and let's face it the prospect of a large bit of cake is a pretty good incentive!

    Drinks sound good too - it is always nice to see rooibos on the menu! Love that stuff. I am currently fighting (hopelessly and quite in vain) an addiction to 'Make us a brew' big chill tea - rooibos, pear and cinnamon - so so yummy and warming in the winter.

  2. Wow, the entire adventure sounds divine! Both cakes look delicious! I love to go for lunch with friends!

  3. Oh! Glad you gave a little review. I cycle pass that cafe a lot and have been meaning to check it (and the little shops of Bellenden) out for awhile now. Since you say the cakes are tip-top, I might have to head there pronto!

    Peckham is always surprising me.

  4. I have to admit Jane, I am not averse to a bit of Black Forest Gateaux so I may be a little bit biased... That tea you're talking about sounds lovely. Where do you get it?

    Peckham certainly is an unexpected gem.