Wednesday, 3 June 2009


I’ve been a Londoner for over twenty years and I’m embarrassed to say that this evening I finally set foot in Peckham for the very first time. The injustice that is set upon this neighbourhood is twofold- my ‘judge a book by its cover’ preconception and the ill-conceived nature of the place portrayed by the media. Came I did, and although briefly, I became convinced that this part of London has been grossly misunderstood. Peckham, hats off and apologies; you’re rather cuddly.

The term ‘going for an Indian’ is a badly abused generalisation. If folks insist on distinct differences between a Lancashire hotpot and an Irish stew, well I’m sorry to say that it can’t compete with the lack of similarity between North Indian and South Indian cuisine. A curry isn’t just a curry, the differences between these two cuisine are nigh on profound. Ganapati is a South Indian restaurant, if your preferred definition of Indian means Tandoori Chicken or Chicken Tikka Masala then this place might prove disappointing (or perhaps too good for your tastes).
Ganapati is located in a quiet residential street and as appropriate as things can be, the restaurant is like an extension of someone’s living room. Irrespective of the weather the dining room exuded an ambience of warmth. The service, contrary to some of the reports read here, was friendly and welcoming. Wordsmiths, to save you the trouble, Ganapati is another word for the Hindu deity, Ganesha. (Victor, my Sri Lankan friend insists that Ganapati be pronounced Yah-napati)

Came here for dinner tonight with three gorgeous companions. Laura (above, Ganapati was her suggestion so thank you) and Kake, both from RGL and a certain Ms Fascinator.

There I was scribbling down what we ordered, the pretty waitress uttered that the menu was available online. Honestly. Anyway we left most of the dishes to Laura's expertise, 'tis her local after all.

The Starters
from top clockwise:

Masala Dosa
Rice flour and lentil pancake stuffed with spicy mashed potato, served with sambar and chutneys

Vegetarian Street Snacks
Mysore Bonda - Spicy potato balls (contains cashew nuts) fried in chick pea batter, Parippu Vadai - ground chana dal with ginger, curry leaf and green chilli shaped into patties and fried

Thaire Vadai
Lentil savoury doughnut marinated in spiced yoghurt finished with tamarind chutney and flaked jaggery

On the foreground is the fourth starter of

Crab Thoran
Fresh crabmeat cooked with onions, ginger, curry leaves, spices and coconut, served with chutney

All four dishes were absolutely brilliant and I don't really have a favourite, but if forced into a corner that crab was one of the best dishes I've had this year.

A quick nosearound the hub

The Mains
from left clockwise:

Nagore Lamb Kurma
Pieces of lamb leg marinated in yoghurt and spices served with coconut rice

Jeera Chicken with Pathiri (Free Range chicken)
Chicken leg cooked in onions, roasted garlic and cumin masala, served with flour pancakes
(these went awol!)

Beypore Squid Curry
Squid cooked in masala of red chilli, coconut, fennel and black pepper, soured with kodampuli (smoked tamarind)

The camera-shy Ms Fascinator opted for an equally camera-shy veggie option of Pumpkin, Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Curry

Presentation of the dishes is not one of Ganapati's strongest points (actually my crappy photos are hardly helpful either), so don't let that put you off!

The starters if truth be told were a bloody difficult act to follow. The lamb and chicken were excellent but the squid (agree with you, Kake) was a letdown. The texture of the fish tasted papery and indistinct. Lest I forget don't forget to order the Curd rice (Sona Masori rice and yoghurt tempered with mustard seeds, curry leaves, ginger and green chilli), I could quite easily eat this side dish on its own, yum!

The Puddings

Kulfi made with Armagnac and something else that escapes me

Dark chocolate, chilli and cardamom cake
Served with creme fraiche

Flavours aside, the consistency of the Kulfi was nowhere near as good as the one I had here. But that cake with the chilli (audacious or what?) was blow me down! It's worth coming back here just for the cake alone. Mightily impressed.

Joyous company coupled with joyous food is a nonsuch experience. I thoroughly enjoyed myself tonight and I think everybody agreed that Ganapati is a very special place. So should you. Highly recommended.

NB The total bill came to twenty quid each to include a bottle of wine and two beers, rocket science is not needed to determine the value of the meal. Oops! Only found out about this later!

38 Holly Grove
London SE15 5DF


Laura said...

It was prune & armanac kulfi!

Hollow Legs said...

Ooh - sounds delicious! Peckham is (almost) my neighbourhood, I'm equidistant from Queen's Road Peckham and New Cross Gate. Another to add to the list; I'm looking forward to visiting.

eatmynels said...

Most definetly have to Check this - Ain't had a decent dosa since my days in the sub continent - Damn you for ruining my lunch with you smutty imagery!

Helen said...

Oh my God why haven't I been here! Peckham is my manor!!

bellaphon said...

Laura- Indebted, thank you.

Lizzie- If and when, let us know how you got on.

eatmynels- Bloody hell what a compliment! My amateurish pics deemed smutty, I'm a happy biscuit. Thank you CN!

Helen- Why I never. Arise, Lady fforbes-Hamilton of Peckham!

Kavey said...

Miles from me, I'm afraid, but definitely one worth remembering incase I'm down that way!

bellaphon said...

Kavey- As with most things re. Sarf London, I've only recently realised that Peckaham is in the Travelcard Zone 2. Now Southall, that's a different matter! Simply must gather a flock of foodies to try out Brilliant.

Kake said...

eatmynels - check out the Chennai Dosa chain for good dosas. Disclaimer: I've only tried the East Ham branch, but the dosa I had there earlier this week (yes, I have eaten three masala dosas this week at different places) was perfectly thin and crisp, and only 4 quid for the most expensive one on the menu (with mutton filling).

bellaphon - was great to hang out with you again. I'd be up for a trip to Southall some time; have been there twice already and would love to go back.

Telboyofpeckham said...

Thanks so much for your lovely words about Peckham but we do try & keep it a bit of a secret.

Anyway, because of your gracious review, I'd like to invite you to our free music festival next Saturday (26.09.09) called the Warwick Wingding in Warwick Gardens Park, just up from the restaurant.

Then you can go and have another meal at Ganapati!

bellaphon said...

Terry- Thanks for the invite, but I'm currently 7000 miles away. Will pop back when I'm next in Peckham.