Where: Frank's Cafe and Campari Bar, Peckham With who: Whatever the collective noun is for a gathering of actors, clowns (really. He made balloon sculptures), ex-theatrical types and the odd accountant. A cackle maybe? More than I can name but The Vole, The Masticator, Ginger Prince, Nice Guy Eddie, Orange Crush, Queen Bee and the Art Tart were all there. How much: £20 each (including food, an amount of lager, white wine and a number of Campari cocktails).
"If you carry on like that, you'll end up swigging spirits in a piss soaked carpark". It's the kind of thing my mother told me fairly regularly though my teenage years and for this summer and last, it appears that she's not far from the truth.
I blame it on the students. Since I stopped being one, I've blamed most things on them; queues in bars (even ones without happy hours and garish drinks), noise and general happiness on the night bus, the resurgence in fashions that we thought were shit at the time and my inability to have more than a bottle of wine in a night without feeling like crap the next day. All of the above came into play at Frank's Cafe last weekend.
Frank's is cool.. it's an art installation cum pop up bar on the top three floors of a Peckham multistory just round the corner from an art college. It was born cool. Like the arty kid who joined in the sixth form with the right band t-shirts who smoked French fags and snogged the girl you fancied.
And I'm not cool. Categorically. And I couldn't have felt more out of depth in this bastion of hip, so what did I do? surround myself with people who are. We went for the Costume King's birthday, a too rare raggle-taggle night ending late with whooping descent of drunken stairwell into piss infused alley.
For a group who find it hard to be on time for a piss up in a brewery, we'd done well to get there early enough, but already food was disappearing from the chalkboard screwed to the reverse of the portaloo faster than we could fill our table. The staff clucked artily and fixed us jugs of Campari based punch and frosty beers while we raucously dived around the benches. Those of us who hadn't eaten (other than a late afternoon Mooli, but you can't hold that against me) raced to get to the menu before another item was scrubbed away. The rough hewn benches run from the bar, free of the tarpaulin roof, to the edge of the carpark and some amazing views over London. From this height even Peckham looks pretty.
Eyeing the rapidly diminishing chalkboard, we went for a selection of dishes to share. This caused The Masticator no end of pain. A born Yorkshireman, he finds it nigh on impossible to share his food and flees tapas on sight. It's a plain and simple menu, nothing flowery (or descriptive) in the descriptions ("cheese - £5") and this carried through into the cooking. A prosaic plate of 2 or 3 haphazardly chopped heritage tomatoes was nice enough, and saltily studded in a manner pleasing to us old 'uns but pricey at £6 a go. A feta and tomato bruschetta affair was similarly simple. A good portion of crackle glazed porchetta came with salty, tasty stewed green beans and sprinkled with toasted almonds. A hefty slice of pig, and worth the £10 price tag. Mackerel made a late substitution for Sardine, the latter scrubbed from the chalkboard just before we ordered, likewise simply and competently cooked served with a lovely mustardy coleslaw style salad and served with orange to cut through the rich oil of the fish. We finished with a large dish of (slightly under) stewed gooseberries served with a slightly stingy portion of cream. Perfectly adequate though, and spying the mystical cheese (which appeared as a single large lump of what looked like Port Salut served solo) I think we went for the best option.
In any case, it's not about the food at Frank's. It's about being able to (legally and without fear of the Salvation Army) sit on a multistory rooftop in the summer, drinking cheapish beer and slightly camp cocktails, surrounded by groups of art students having far too much fun, dressing up in 90's retro neon and "partying like it's 1990, because that's when I was born". Who needs Hampstead Heath and the views from Parliament Hill? I've got a carpark in Peckham, until September at least...