Deep in the heart of Peckham, just off Rye Lane, lives our favourite coffee shop – Small White Elephant. It was one of the best things about living in Peckham, which is saying a lot as the place is starting to contains a lot of coffee shops and artisan bakeries…
There is nothing wrong with an abundance of coffee shops; café culture has been a traditional part of European social culture for hundreds of years. People have used them to write, read, discuss ideas and entertain. As with many proponents of commercialism, multinational coffee outlets have appropriated this rich and positive aspect of our culture and reproduced it at a much lower cost but at the same time stripping it of its original charm through their inherent homogeny. Small White Elephant is a welcome relief from these bland identikits.
Orange on the outside, cosy and tropical on the inside it is like being inside a secret treehouse. I particularly enjoy all the toy dinosaurs and large novelty mushrooms. Matt likes the constantly changing art and their choices in music. Especially the music. Through this place he first heard one of his now favourites, Karen Dalton.
The food is hearty and healthy, think lots of avocado, chorizo and brownies. Many a morning have we sat there trying to quell our hangover’s rage by tricking it with vitamins and caffeine. The Vietnamese coffee is delicious. You have to wait for it to drip, so it takes a little longer. The coffee is dark and rich, served with a little condensed milk in the bottom of the glass. It is a wonderful combination of sweetness and stimulant.
They also have the occasional late night there, we went to a couple of jazz gigs, and they have poetry evenings. There is also a big bookshelf right at the back, which operates a policy I usually see in hostels of ‘give a book, take a book’. I’m a fan of these magical bookshelves with unlooked for treasures.
What I like the most about this place is the eye for quality with lack of pretensions. There is interesting art, killer music choices and a warm, friendly environment. The whole place seems to have been carefully designed to replenish the body and refresh the mind. Jen and Dale are lovely and make you feel completely welcome.
My laptop still proudly bears the Small White Elephant sticker, although it’s looking a little bit worse for wear these days…
If you live around the Camberwell/Peckham area, go and have a nosy – it’s bloody lovely.