Ganapati (Indian, Peckham)

The decision to visit Ganapati on Friday night was a last minute one, largely based on reading this review and finding out it was but a ten minute walk from our flat. I called ahead and managed to snap up the very last table for two at 9.15 – an encouraging sign that they are nice and busy. The restaurant is a small, cosy space, situated behind Peckham Rye Station with a tiny garden out back where we waited beneath the shadow of magnificent towering banana trees. The menu is also reassuringly small, changes every six weeks and focuses on ‘home-style’ cooking.

What I love most about South Indian food became immediately apparent as we arrived – it is the liberal use of curry leaves – the unmistakable smell thwacks you right in the face as you walk in the door. And, sure enough, my starter of crab thoran came with glistening, crispy fried specimens nestling in amongst it. The crab was very well spiced with lovely little nuggets of coconut and an accompanying yoghurty dip to contrast the dry thoran. I had real trouble leaving half of it for Chris (we nearly always eat half of our dishes and swap over).

Chris’s choice, the vegetarian street snacks was also excellent, consisting of two Mysore Bonda (spicy potato balls fried in chick pea batter) and Parippu Vadai (ground chana dal with ginger, curry leaf and green chilli). The beautifully crisp outer layers encased an explosion of spices within, which just danced around the mouth and made us both ravenously hungry for our main courses – you couldn’t ask more from a starter.

I was a bit disappointed to see that all main dishes come with plain boiled rice ‘unless otherwise stated’ as I generally just eat bread with my curry but it turned out the portions were small and actually rather welcome anyway. We chose the Aleppey Fish Curry – sea bream fillet cooked in a tomato based sauce which was a little more subtle then we anticipated and if I’m honest, a tad disappointing. There was very little of the advertised heat and it was walking a bit of a fine line between subtle and bland. That said, it was still gobbled up earnestly and I again appreciated the generous sprinkling of curry leaves.

Our second main course was the Malabar Prawn Curry (we were clearly in a fishy mood), which came with an excellent thoran and lemony pickle. The sauce was well spiced with predominant flavours of coconut and fennel although unfortunately the prawns were rather on the mushy side, which leads me to think they may have been frozen. Overall, the mains didn’t quite measure up to the high standards set by the starters.

A special mention must defnitely go to Ganapati’s parathas though, which are so flaky and buttery and delicious and probably the best I have ever eaten. They are also the only bread on the menu, which is a good thing because it saves me from ever having to feel bad for not trying anything else.

I have a feeling the vegetarian dishes are what Ganapati does best and I think next time I will largely stick to them, perhaps trying one meat curry just to make sure. I really wanted to try the curd rice and okra curry with green mango and I’ve already scheduled a revisit with some mates to do exactly that. I am thrilled to have discovered a local restaurant like Ganapati, a hugely welcome relief from the numerous Indian places in East Dulwich, none of which have ever struck me as particularly unique. If there are any opinionated East Dulwicher’s out there who disagree – do let me know.

Speaking of which, you may have heard about my causing a stir recently on the East Dulwich forum over this review of The Palmerston in which I say that I think their portions are stingy for the price. The Palmerston got wind of the thread and came out with a rather defensive and patronising response to my criticism (you’re just a blogger so we don’t care), which you can see here (or read the entire thread here).

Imagine my amazement then, as we are nearing the end of our meal at Ganapati and my ears prick up to the words ‘food blogger’ uttered at the adjacent table and, as we eavesdrop further, we realise he is recounting the story of my thread on the forum! I must say I was somewhat relieved to hear that he was ‘shocked at the vitriol on the forum’ and recognises that ‘everyone is entitled to their opinion’. We had to concentrate all our efforts on trying not to laugh at the fact people are actually talking about ‘forumgate’ over their Friday night curry. It seems that pissing people off is the way to get tongues wagging. Ladies and gentlemen, I have officially arrived…

Ganapati South Indian Kitchen
38 Holly Grove
SE15 5DF
0207 277 2928

Ganapati on Urbanspoon

Category: Peckham, Restaurant Reviews 36 comments »

36 Responses to “Ganapati (Indian, Peckham)”

  1. Kavey

    Crikey, that thread just goes on and on, doesn’t it, with odder and odder participants and points made!

    Kaveys last blog post..Restaurant Review: Underwhelmed by Hakkasan

  2. Pete

    I keep meaning to try Ganapati but never get past my local, Babur, which is so excellent. Maybe you should try mine and I’ll try yours!

    Petes last blog post..E is for…

  3. Helen Yuet Ling Pang

    You’re a local celebrity now! That must have been hilarious to overhear. This sounds like a lovely restaurant. You’re so lucky to have Ganapati as your local! Sometimes I prefer seafood-based curries to meat ones. They don’t feel quite so heavy, but are filling just the same.

    Helen Yuet Ling Pangs last blog post..How To Make Sichuan Wontons

  4. Trig

    The name reminds me of a place my parents took me to many years ago when I was just a child. Ganpath was a tiny South Indian restaurant by Kings Cross Station, with a chef/proprietor who was previously Head Chef at the India Club. His food was brilliant – sounds like Ganpati isn’t quite up to the same standard. Keep up the criticism, positive and negative!

  5. Wendy

    The flak you took at the beginning of this post which was just plain nasty. Other than that, though, I found that entire thread highly entertaining!

    Wendys last blog post..Nubbly

  6. Su-Lin

    Isn’t South Indian cuisine mostly rice based anyway?

    Su-Lins last blog post..Phnom Penh Revisited

  7. Fat Les

    Helen, thank you kindly for the name check and pleased to know that you had a decent time at Ganapati. As for the commotion re. The Palmerston, I think for your review to generate so many emotions and reactions; it is simply accomplished and gratifyingly thought provoking. Keep it up.

    PS that thread is mild compared to my involvement with the blogs and forums on politics.

  8. OysterCulture

    Cripes, the Indian restaurant sounds great, and how fun to have your work being commented on while you sit next to them. With the blogging and sites like Yelp in the US, not sure how popular in UK restaurants still seem to be trying to figure out how to respond. Seems like it was ok, when the only person to have an opinion was the restaurant critic. Anyway, I may not be visiting any of of the restaurants you review any time soon, but I certainly enjoy your perspective.

    OysterCultures last blog post..Mead: sweet, sweet nectar

  9. Fat Les

    Helen, thanks for the name check and glad that you enjoyed it. As for the commotion re. The Palmerston; for your review to incite such emotions it can omly be gratifyingly thought provoking. I loved it, keep it up.

  10. Lorenzo

    How weird is that? I was on the table adjacent to yours in chilli corner (we shut the window). When I saw you pull out your DSLR I wondered if you might be the Helen who’d inspired the infamous Palmerston thread on the EDF. So I deliberately started up the discussion a little louder than normal to test your reaction. In hindsight it’s quite amusing that you kept schtum. We really enjoyed our meal and you’re quite right about the Street Snacks starter. Delicious. Our bill for three courses, 2 bottles of wine, a single malt, tea/coffee was less than £30 per head including service. Fantastic value and we even got to sit next to somebody famous. Almost!

  11. Dan

    A ‘Southern Indian’ restaurant has recently opened near us, will have to check it out after reading this post.

    And with regards to The Palmerston farce, haha, you couldn’t make it up could you! Just be on the lookout for wanted posters in East Dulwich restaurants, they know your face now.

    Dans last blog post..There May Be Trouble Ahead

  12. Helen

    Kavey – I think it may even still be going but I have long since detached myself!
    Pete – An excellent idea. Babur looks great – let’s do it!
    Helen – agreed! Thankfully the waiter was standing between us so the table couldn’t see my look of surprise.
    Trig – Hello! and thanks :) I will.
    Wendy – I know, it felt really, really horrible. People can be very nasty when they are hiding behind their computers.
    Su-lin – is it? I don’t know. The rice was welcome anyway as the curries had a lot of sauce. i just don’t usually go much for rice with curry.
    OysterCulture – yes it was all very strange, Yelp has launched over here recently by the way.
    Fat Les – I had no idea it would blow up in such a way!
    Lorenzo – well, well, well – it just gets weirder! Very astute of you though – the DSLR ain’t exactly discreet though is it! That waiter had great timing standing between us – my reaction was wide eyed and giggly. I didn’t reveal myself because I would have felt a bit of a prat – it would have looked like I think I’m actually famous or something. With hindsight it would have been nice to have a chat but you were in the middle of your meal so I didn’t know if you wanted me intruding! Agreed on the value – I’m definitely going back! Lovely people too. Maybe see you there!
    Dan – I know! So funny. See the comment above from the man himself Lorenzo too! Do let me know what the Indian is like if you go.

  13. Sharmila

    How funny, I was in Ganapati only a week ago! I have actually found the fish dishes to be a bit underwhelming compared to the veggie and lamb dishes. The mango lassi is fantastic though, as is the beetroot and mung bean curry. I need to recreate it as it is seriously good!

    Sharmilas last blog post..Silk Road, Camberwell

  14. Helen

    Fat Les – Just found your earlier comment in spam, sorry about that! The spam catcher is really misbehaving lately. I am very intrigued to hear about your commotion causing on political forums!

  15. Helen

    Fat Les – Just found your earlier comment in spam, sorry about that! The spam catcher is really misbehaving lately. I am very intrigued to hear about your commotion causing on political forums!
    Sharmila – Yeah, agreed on the fish dishes – the vegetarian food seems really excellent though, I can’t wait to go back and eat more of it.

  16. Ollie

    That’s hilarious! You really are famous now.

    Ollies last blog post..L’Ambroisie, Paris

  17. Niamh

    You have arrived! Great review. Looking forward to our visit there soon.

  18. Y

    A very interesting read, Helen! I’ve become more aware over the years that chefs/restaurant owners on the whole can be quite defensive about criticism (especially when most chefs put so much soul and energy into the food they produce) and really don’t view bloggers as legitimate critics. Which is also why I stick to blogging more about baking these days.

    Ys last blog post..Sweet weekendings

  19. Helen

    Ollie – So will you be soon judging by the comments on that L’Ambroisie post!
    Y – Well what annoyed me was not that he thought my opinion didn’t matter because I am a blogger, it was that he thought my opinion didn’t matter and I am a paying customer. The customers are the people they really need to impress ona day to day basis, not the critics.

  20. gastrogeek

    Helen – this place sounds gorgeous – I’m a big fan of bondas and vadais in any form. In particular those parathas look fab! I’ve been moaning in my latest post about how hard it is to get proper, layered parathas so will definitely give this place a try. (p.s. are your ears still burning?!)

    gastrogeeks last blog post..Old School Parathas

  21. aforkfulofspaghetti

    Mmm.. all looks pretty good, though I hear you about not going too mad on meat dishes.

    So you’re the talk of Peckham? Whatever next?

    aforkfulofspaghettis last blog post..warm broad bean, chorizo and courgette salad – the stuff of summer…

  22. Wendy

    I’ve tagged you for a meme, Helen. No pressure, of course!

  23. The Ginger Gourmand

    Good review Helen. Another local for me to try out sometime soon….

  24. Kim

    Helen once again you have made my day… Indian food in Peckham – now I am not so sad about returning home from India in a couple of months. Those dishes look refreshingly authentic and I am going to have to find out where they source their curry leaves from (were they fresh?)… Thanks for finding this place. Can’t wait to try it!

    Kims last blog post..Cooking Kidney Beans (rajma) in the pressure cooker

  25. Kim

    Ooo and I forgot to say, Tandoori Nights I think is by far the most authentic northern indian food in East Dulwich (we found much of the food here to be similar in style and quality). Their paneer dishes and dal are good home style ones..

    Kims last blog post..Cooking Kidney Beans (rajma) in the pressure cooker

  26. Helen

    Gastrogeek – Ha ha, yes my ears are still burning a little. The parathas really are excellent, you must get down there.
    Aforkfulofspaghetti – well, someone sent me the link to the West DUlwich forum yesterday….
    Wendy – Thanks!
    The Ginger Gourmand – definitely worth a look, I reckon stick to veggie though.
    Kim – you can find fresh curry leaves in the Chinese supermarket in Peckham (next to Morrisons) or SMBS foods on Lordship often has them too. I do like Tandoori Nights and I want to go back, the last time I went there was a couple of years ago and my memory ain’t up to much.

  27. Chris Pople

    I have refused to read any of this post because you’re a blogger and your opinion doesn’t count.

    Looking forward to going to Ganapati next week though. I may post my findings on the East Dulwich Forum.

    Chris Poples last blog post..Green and Blue, East Dulwich

  28. Lizzie

    I think what happened with that Palmerston lot is a perfect example of how not to behave as a restaurateur. Very out of touch.

    Ganapati looks delicious! I am also local so I’ll be sure to avoid the fish dishes when I go.

  29. Hazel

    From 6 months living in south India, most of their curries would be served with rice. There isn’t much bread in the south – it’s a feature of the Mughal cooking of the north. What there is tends to be batter-based, like parathas. It’s something about where stuff grows, understandably. And the south is much more vegetarian than the north – a product of it having a lower percentage of meat-eating Muslims and more traditional Hindus…hence your comment about the vegetarian dishes being better. The south does ace fish, too – totally different to the Mumbai/Kolkata fishy things…crispy fried fish on a boat in Kerala is something I remember with longing. That and coconut chatni…

    I LOVE south Indian food, and getting it made well in Britain seems to be difficult. I think for a start it has more difficult ingredients to source than the Mughal stuff. Will give this place a try if I’m ever in Peckham!

  30. EateastIndian

    A big hi from EasteastIndian.
    We’ve been following your blog since last few weeks and find it quite interesting. We’ve just launched our website: and would love it if you can share it with your readers. The site will be a good resource for local residents for East Indian Restaurants as well as when they travel abroad.

    Thanks from you East Indian Friends.

  31. Emily

    Love the story about overhearing your blog being discussed on next table. The Palmerston’s response that they don’t actually care cos you’re ‘just a blogger’ is a blatant lie and not a real response – if they didn’t care they wouldn’t have bothered to say anything at all.

  32. Helen

    Emily – They’ve struck again too. There’s another thread on the forum at the moment,425151,428228#msg-428228

    They clearly couldn’t care less what their customers think.

  33. Keralite

    I’m from Kerala and although I long for Ganapati to be truly authentic, it very rarely is. The best I’ve had so far is the mango lassi which is spectacular but not South Indian and the carrot halwa is quite nice warm with ice-cream. The guys in the kitchen are from Kerala but the food never quite has that hit. You can taste the raw coconut in the fish curry, the unroasted spice taste in the meat dish and the watery prawn dish. The bonda starter is decent, dosas not good enough – really sad because they could be so good. The service is lovely but busy, the atmosphere is great, the underlying pictures beneath the sayings on the wall are 100% genuine from Indian school material ;-) Book ahead!

  34. Helen

    Hi Keralite – Yeah, I haven’t been for ages actually and I’ve always said that the starters are so much better than the main courses. I can remember that uncooked coconut now you mention it. What a shame – the place could be so good!

  35. Nicola

    I love Ganapati. I used to live round the corner which was really quite dangerous. I live just far away now that I can’t pop in on a whim all the time. I can’t comment on how authentic the food is, but the chicken dishes there have never failed to impress. Maybe give one of those a go next time?!

  36. Helen

    Hi Nicola, yeah I must have chosen badly. Went recently and everything was awesome. Everything.

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