01 July 2009

Top-level art in a Peckham car park

On a baking hot June evening yesterday, the coolest place to be was on top of a multi-storey car park in Peckham. The stacked concrete tump is the setting for a 'sculpture park' set of artworks until 30 September: Bold Tendencies III, by the Hannah Barry Gallery.

More importantly, there is a bar at the top for that period – Frank's Cafe and Campari Bar (right) – from where you get a thrilling, and surprisingly green, panorama that sweeps across from the Houses of Parliament to the O2 dome. One of my favourites was the unexpected sight of St Paul's dome surfing majestically on top of Peckham Library (below right).

The bar's address – '10th Floor, Peckham Multi-Storey Car Park, 95a Rye Lane, Peckham'– may not be the sort coveted by Saudi oil sheikhs. But the views would be, particularly the City skyline, Gherkin and all, that you can examine at regal leisure while seated on the gents' loo.

Last night's opening had a fabulous atmosphere, with perhaps 700 people wandering the rooftop to a thrumming jazz trio, and investigating the artworks on the top three levels and trying to work out whether that solitary yellow vacuum cleaner was an artwork or just an abandoned health and safety hazard.

And, of course, the best way to enjoy it all was by bike - indeed, it seemed at least half of the attendees had stashed a bike somewhere to brighten up the park's poo-coloured strata. Everywhere you looked you saw hip, arty, attractive young cyclists. Or in our case, one out of five. But twenty per cent is probably enough to get you a B in GCSEs these days.

Anyway, cycling to Bold Tendencies III gives you the chance to cycle right up to the top of a multi-storey car park (as it's effectively disused); enjoy the views, artworks and a drink or two from Frank's Cafe; and then, rather excitingly, freewheel all the way back down the levels again to the prosaic cinema forecourt and Rye Lane's bustling mini-Brixton. On a glorious summer evening like last night it's hard to think of anything better.

The must-try drink at the top, of course, is the 'Byceclete' [sic]: an Italian cocktail consisting of Campari (which tastes much better than it does at the dentist's), ice, tonic water, and white wine (right).

According to the eponymous Frank, it's named for its popularity amongst those old boys who sit out in town squares in flat caps with their pals nattering in the sun, before charting an approximate course home by bike.

The New York Times insists the spelling is 'bicyclette'. But what do they know about hip? They clearly haven't cycled to Peckham.

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