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
0207 277 2928