I would normally never quote something from the Standard, but there’s a first time for everything.
“In London it seems that, over the past year or so, cool waved goodbye to Kingsland High Street, once the clatter of stilettos and kebab-shop brawls began to arrive from Old Street roundabout, and quietly slipped on to the East London Line, heading south towards the new promised land — Peckham”.
Whether or not you are disgruntled or excited by the regeneration of Peckham, once thought to be a place where people go to either get robbed or stabbed (or both), Peckham represents a great opportunity for foodies. Filled with a vibrant community spirit, tonnes of food markets with exotic fruits, vegetables, meats and spices from all over the world, Peckham is also home to many authentic off the beaten track restaurants that are cheap AND easy to get reservations at, making this neighbourhood the potential up and coming foodie oasis of London.
Ganapati is one such Peckham gem, an unassuming, non-judgmental, delicious South Indian establishment tucked away on Holly Grove.
The restaurant is casual, with furniture resembling that of a school cafeteria, stark and purpose-based, but knick knacks adorning the walls help create a warm feel. The restaurant is spacious yet not too much so that it feels impersonal. The staff is good-natured and down to earth which is always a nice break from overbearing, stuffy, personality devoid robots that frequently service high end Michelin starred establishments in lands far away from Peckham.
A breath of fresh air from standard dishes such as chicken tikka masala, Ganapati’s menu offers an array of South Indian delicacies laden with fresh coconut and fenugreek, a variety of dosas and thalis, and lovely homemade raita. The lassis are made with Ganapati’s own homemade yoghurt – no better (non-alcoholic) summer drink than to combine the sweetness of mangoes with the coolness of yogurt.
‘Vegetarian street snacks” (£5) consisting of mysore bonda, spicy potato balls fried in chickpea batter and parippu vadai, ground chana dal with ginger, curry leaf and green chilli shaped into patties and fried, are delicious – the deep-fried mashed potato balls are commendably fluffy and the chickpea patties possess a pleasing, nutty crunch.
The thaire vadai (£5), a lentil savoury doughnut marinated in spiced yoghurt finished with tamarind chutney and and jaggery, unrefined sugar made from sugar cane juice was a bit unexpected. Expecting the brilliance of the ‘savoury-sweet’ combination to be similar to that of Chiltern Firehouse’s crab stuffed doughnuts or a Chinese inspired doughnut, this fell a bit short. The doughnut, drowning in the yogurt mixture became instantly soggy and heavy, laden with too many flavours, seemingly all of the wrong sort.
The mini masala dosas (£4.95) were excellent though, a giant crisp lentil pancake stuffed with spicy mashed potato, carrot and chutneys.
The main dish, thenkassi prawn curry (£13) was fiery and delicious – tiger prawns in coconut, fenugreek and green chilli masala served with a side of thoran and pickle. Chunks of delicious fresh coconut and a rich, spicy sauce gave perfect flavour to the succulent prawns.
The kanava curry (£11.50) with squid cooked in red chilli, tamarind, fennel and tomato was a bit too spicy (bit of a mouth on fire situation) but the squid were nicely cooked.
Overall, an extremely enjoyable and reasonably priced meal with a lot of variety, unique flavours and competent, friendly staff. Recommend.
And since you’re in Peckham already…before or after you go to Ganapati, grab a cocktail at Frank’s Cafe, located on the roof of a multi-storey car park a 1 min. walk from Peckham Rye overground. It’s simple, yet brilliant and has one of the most spectacular views in London. Frank’s also serves buffalo wings, a rarity in London, so worth going for those alone, even if you did just come from dinner or on your way to dinner.
38 Holly Grove
London SE15 5DF
Tel: 020 7277 2928