Friday, 19 June 2009

Restaurant Review: Ganapati (Peckham)

Well, aren't I the lucky one living so close to Ganapati?!

Having gone to school in and lived near Manchester when I was growing up I was never very far from the curry heaven that is Rusholme. These days people seem to refer it as the curry mile but that sounds a bit too much like a 'strip' of bars in some cheesy tourist trap abroad for me. What I know now is that having grown up so close to such a wealth of good restaurants I was spoilt. Finding curry that lives up to my high expectations has not been easy and every time I have a not-so-good curry it puts me off trying again for a while. Which is a shame because I love all things curry and there are so many truly vegetarian options that it's perfect for me...

There is a plethora of Indian restaurants in the East Dulwich area and everyone seems to have their own favourite. But which one to try? I could have tried the ones which seem to be recommended most on the East Dulwich Forum or started at the top of Lordship Lane and worked my way down, but to be honest since we moved here the majority just haven't appealed. We've had some good take aways from The Indian Dining Club in Sydenham which has a good choice of vegetarian dishes (which aren't just huge chunks of peppers swimming in an oily tomato sauce...) but it's not the easiest place to get to from where we live without a car which rules out having a beer.

I've known about Ganapati for quite a while, but it wasn't until I read Helen's review on her Food Stories blog that I finally got around to booking a table last Tuesday evening.

Ganapati serves South Indian home-style and street food, the likes of which you would find being dished up in the homes or served on the stalls by the side of the roads in Southern India. They have a short (but more than adequate) menu which changes regularly and boasts a large number of vegetarian dishes, in fact the majority of the starters are vegetarian. Great for non-meat eaters and omnivores alike.

Andrew magnanimously let me choose all of our dishes for us to share (probably because I was like an over-excited child in a sweet shop when I saw the menu!). We started with the Vegetarian Street Snacks - 2 Mysore Bonda (spicy potato balls fried in chick pea batter) and 2 Parippu Vadai (patties of ground chana dal with ginger, curry leaf and green chilli) which came beautifully presented on a banana leaf and shouted 'Eat Me'! Perfect for sharing. My favourite were the spicy Parippu Vadai which looked a bit like mini flying saucers. They were highly spiced and so moreish. I had high hopes for the Mysore Bonda which looked so pretty, but I felt that the potato mixture inside lacked a little heat (although that could be because I ate the Parippu Vadai first).

Our other starter was the Masala Dosa - a rice flour and lentil pancake stuffed with spicy mashed potato and served with sambar and chutneys. The dosa was huge! The potato stuffing was lightly spiced and worked well with the sambar. I made the mistake of putting too much of the red chutney on my first mouthful and it nearly blew my head off. Lesson to self - try the chutneys first!

I have to admit that by this stage I was beginning to feel really rather full...but I pushed on to our mains of Paneer and Peas Masala (paneer in a tomato, onion and green pea masala) which came served with pickle, thoran and a Keralan Paratha and Pumpkin, Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Curry (a vegetable dish cooked with chana dal in coconut milk and spices with fresh coriander) which was served with thoran, pickle and raitha. The large chunks of paneer came in the most glorious masala sauce. Quite often paneer is lost in dishes or is rubbery and tasteless. These pieces had taken on the flavours of the masala, were moist and a delight to eat! This was my favourite of the mains by far.

The Paratha was simply amazing. I've never had paratha (an unleavened bread cooked on the griddle or tawa) before so I have nothing to compare it to, but then I don't need to as it was delicious flaky, rich and buttery bread which went perfectly with the Paneer and Peas Masala.

We upgraded our plain boiled rice for Curd Rice (Sona Masori rice and yoghurt tempered with mustard seeds, curry leaves, ginger and green chilli) which was lovely on its own but, aside from the sourness of the yogurt which was refreshing in contrast to the heat of the curries, its delicate spicing was a little lost amongst the spices of the other dishes.

I only wish I'd had more room to eat more! In fact I think I'd go back just for the thoran.

Damage: £30 for 2 people (plus beers)

Ganapati South Indian Kitchen
38 Holly Grove
London SE15 5DF
Tel: 020 7277 2928

Ganapati on Urbanspoon


  1. Ah, a fellow South East Londoner! I'm yet to try Ganapati but I see it in my future...

  2. This is the 3rd rave review I've read of Ganapati, must get myself down there. The parathas sound and look like the real deal, those photos are incredible! What a brilliant review.
    Hearing about Rusholme brings back memories - I went to Manchester University (although when I was there it was more often late night offerings from a considerably less classy chain called "Abduls").

  3. You must both go and try it! Pop into Bar Story on your way from the station for a cocktail too...

  4. I am convinced still further that South East London is the spiritual home of food obsessives. There are so many of us living in the Peckham / Camberwell area. It's no wonder when we've got places like Ganapati to choose from (if you selected a house purely based on proximity to foodstuff, which to be fair I've only done once...)

    Lovely review, is making me realise it's been a while since I've been and probably need to track back soonest! Love the paratha there... I could quite happily sit with a pile of those and a nice hot bowl of dhal!

  5. Dr Rao here.

    I come from Karnataka, one of the places that inspired the owner. I work locally and tried Ganapathi today. The food was excellent and tasted like home food!

    The people who run the show are friendly and always smiling - which creates a very warm atmosphere.

    There are only a select menu available, which although is good in one way, you may not be tempted to go there once you have gone through the menu in four or five visits.

    Wishing them all the best!

  6. Hi Dr. Rao,
    .. the menu at Ganapati is changed every 6-8 weeks, allowing all of us lucky to have it in our proximity to never tire of it!!
    It truly is a neighbourhood gem :-))