Decor at the Hope is eclectic but not chaotic; a backlit forest scene with a bed of lilac flowers covers one wall, while the Laughing Cavalier smirks from another. It’s lovingly put together by someone with a rather bonkers eye for detail, with a smattering of faded glamour in the form of gilt-edged portraits and a tarnished chandelier. I suspect the split-level space really comes alive on a Saturday night, which is quite a feat for a new-build.
Chipper, chatty staff are upbeat and eager. The bar man recommended a cool, bronze pint of Mayor of Garratt (courtesy of nearby By the Horns brewery), and I would too.
Pop-ups power the kitchen until the permanent set up is in place. (I’ll be there with bells on if a Venezuelan canteen comes to town, in the hope that means arepas; cloud-light maize flatbreads stuffed with spiced meat). Colonel Tom’s Gumbo was in residence when we visited, serving up jambalaya and po’ boys. The latter’s traditionally a soft sub crammed with fried oysters, but the Colonel’s fillings of choice were buttermilk fried chicken or crayfish. While my gargantuan roll was generously filled with crisp salad and moist meat, my partner’s was crumbling under the strain of too much relish and remoulade. The aftermath was a sauce and pickle bloodbath, and suddenly the absence of serviettes emerged as a huge oversight. Napkins in quantity, please!
And now for a slightly weightier thought. We nipped in to check out the new joint on a hot summer’s night, while every other Londoner dispersed to the beer gardens of the land. With such sparse company - and a gin or two under my belt - I became ponderous. The Hope is estranged from Peckham's trendy Bellenden Road (with its fancy-pants butchers, bakers and whatnot) and resides in a distinctly edgier part of town. So will the Antic team’s aesthetic become an awkward tussle between the hipster contingent and the old-school Peckhamite community? I totally understand anyone feeling none-too-pleased about another fiver-a-pint boutique boozer on the doorstep (albeit a very pleasant one), when lived-in, old-man pubs are such a rarity. In a perfect world, the Hope would grow to attract a demographic as diverse as its interiors, and become a sound, lived-in local. Fingers crossed that the whopping neon sign is a self-fulfilling prophecy.