BY PALOMA LACY
If South London were a planet, Peckham would be considered the coolest place on it.
The hottest postcode this side of the river has seen more bars and restaurants opening up in the past two years than ever before.
I can hardly keep up to be honest, which is why it’s taken me four months to get down to the newly opened Bar OM.
Too many new places to try and the invitations just keep coming. Run by the lovely Hau, Bar OM is a breath of fresh air or holiday breeze, as my husband pointed out.
The industrial feel, with cement flooring and stairs, and stunning tiled bar, took us right back to Asian beach bars of holidays gone by.
Within 10 minutes of arriving, we pretty much forgot where we were. It might look funky enough to attract the in crowd, and by that, I mean young things about town, but Bar OM’s appeal is broader still.
The first table was indeed six ladies sharing lunch, cocktails and gossip, next to arrive were me and my little family, and we were joined by a couple well into middle age.
This illustrates the following Bar OM has created in a short time, in no small part due to our cheery, affable host.
Tucked away in Choumert Road, behind the hustle and bustle of Peckham Rye, Hau’s place offers an oasis of calm from the Saturday madness of the high street.
A bar by night and restaurant by day, where the focus is on Vietnamese tapas or small plates, just the sort of food you want to eat when enjoying a few drinks.
My knowledge of Vietnamese food is, let’s say, on the minimal side. I’m familiar with the famous banh mi, not that it is served here, and noodle-based dishes but that’s about it.
Bar OM takes you off in a completely different direction, with small plates of bite sized morsels.
Hau recommends three to four plates per person but sharing is encouraged so no need to limit yourself to those you’ve ordered.
We were unanimous in our choice of which dishes were firm favourites.
Top of the list – seafood spring roll, pork, crab and prawns wrapped in pastry, left to us to wrap in a lettuce leaves, pack with herbs and dip into a fish sauce.
I actually thought it was peanut-based sauce but that’s not what the menu says. These were moreish in the extreme – a veritable flavour explosion. You know the kind that you just want to press pause on and savour the moment, forever? Yes, that good.
Salt and pepper fried squid was clearly cooked using the freshest fish, ensuring succulence before dusting in an almost piquant series of spices.
Sauteed mussels, cooked in fish stock and seasoned with sweet basil, chicken skewers, marinated in lemongrass and turmeric, and chargrilled before served with sweet chilli sauce, provided a good balance of varying flavours.
Grilled tiger prawns seemed to have been welded onto bamboo sticks, a sort of prawn lollipop, if you will.
Marinated with salt, red chilli peppers and served with a fish and ginger dipping sauce.
I picked the best time of year to visit, with dishes that lend themselves well to al fresco dining, and the weather spot on for flinging open the bi-fold doors and letting the world and the atmosphere that follows it, in.
I was surprised to see so many dishes available suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Avocado summer rolls ticked so many boxes on the flavour front, with the added bonus of leaving your feel as if you’d consumed healthy food.
Avocado, mixed herbs, lettuce and cucumber served with a peanut sauce, were fresh and beyond tasty.
Vegan fried balls were a huge surprise – tofu, mung bean and Shitake mushroom, combined tasted quite like plantain and disappeared from the table as quickly as they were placed down on it. Dishes range between £6-8.
Paloma was a guest of Bar OM, 18-20 Choumert Road, London SE15 4SE.