Ganapati, SE15 5DF
- 020 7277 2928
- 38 Holly Grove, SE15 5DF
- closed Mon; noon-2:45pm, 6pm-10:30pm Tue-Fri; noon-10:30pm Sat; noon-10pm Sun
South Indian restaurant tucked away on a side street off Rye Lane in Peckham. It's very much not a standard curryhouse; the menu changes every six weeks, they don't do "X meat in Y sauce" type dishes, and meals are served plated up rather than in serving bowls for people to share around. Also, as they state on their website, they are "not a takeaway restaurant" and although they will try to accommodate customers wanting takeaway, this may not be possible at peak times, and even if it is possible the waiting time may be "longer than you expect".
It's very small (seats maybe about 35?) and popular, so it's best to go early or book. Note that they're not open on Mondays; and on Saturdays they have 2 sittings for dinner: 7:15pm and 9:15pm.
Kake and bob visited on a Tuesday evening in February 2008. We hadn't booked, but they managed to fit us in. It was a little after 7pm when we arrived, and there were already several other customers; an hour later the place was entirely full.
We started with poppadoms and chutneys (£3.50) photo. The chutneys were home-made and much nicer than the usual varicoloured slop you get in standard curryhouses; a fresh-tasting tomato puree, a pungent heap of slightly softened garlic slices in a spicy sauce, a smooth green puree with a chilli kick, and a tangle of shredded beetroot. (Note: some of their chutneys/pickles are available for purchase in jars.)
Next, Bob tried the meat thali (a choice of chicken or lamb, both £13) and Kake the fish thali (also £13) photo. Both were served in several small metal bowls with a heap of rice on top of a banana leaf, and it turned out that they were identical apart from one dish. We both got rasam (a thin, spicy soup), dhal, a wet vegetable curry, a dry mung bean curry, raita, and a couple of relishes. Bob had in addition a lamb curry which he seemed to rather like, while Kake had a tasty, smoky fish dish made with firm-fleshed fish in a thin spiced gravy. (A vegetarian thali is also available, at £12.)
It was all pretty good; none of it stodgy or greasy. Nothing was mind-blowingly delicious, but it was a great, simple, no-nonsense meal. We finished with a plate of Indian sweets (£2.50) photo for Bob, and a mint tea (£1.80) for Kake. Both were very tasty. We also got a piece of their chocolate, chilli, and cardamom cake to take home for doop, who adds: the chocolate cake is unbelievably good. Perfectly moist without being too dense or soggy, there's enough chilli involved to give it a decent fire (although you can remove it if you prefer), and the cardamom balances it beautifully. I am beyond merely liking or disliking it, and in some advanced state of chocolate cake enlightenment.
We accompanied our food with a bottle of Indian Zinfandel (£13), which was perfectly fine. (They also offer a number of beers from the Meantime brewery, which is based fairly nearby in Greenwich). Poppadoms and chutneys, two thalis, a bottle of mineral water, a bottle of wine, a plate of Indian sweets, a piece of chocolate cake, and one mint tea came to £60 including a 10% tip (automatically added to the bill).
Kake and Laura visited again in June 2009, in the company of bellaphon and MsMarmiteLover. We went a la carte this time, and ordered various dishes to share; although the normal mode of operation here is for each person to get their own plated meal, they were happy to bring us extra plates and let us eat family-style. Indeed, the service was extremely friendly and accommodating throughout.
For starters photo, we shared masala dosa (thin, crisp pancake stuffed with seasoned mashed potato and served with chutneys and a thin curry known as sambar; £5.50), "vegetarian street snacks" (deep-fried potato balls and lentil cakes, £4.50), thaire vadai (another type of lentil cake, soaked in a yoghurt sauce, £4.25), and crab thoran (stirfried fresh crabmeat with curry leaves and other spices, £5.25). The masala dosa was quite substantial (this dish is normally a light meal in itself), and would possibly be too much as a starter for one, so a good thing we were sharing!
Of the main courses, Kake's favourite was perhaps the jeera chicken (£11), served as a whole chicken leg on the bone with plenty of flavour and not dry at all. Nagore lamb kurma (£10.75) was light-years away from the standard curryhouse rendition, with a rich, complex flavour and tender meat. Baypore squid curry (£10) was a bit of a let-down, though; the squid had a rather odd texture reminiscent of cooked egg white, and a very muted flavour. All main courses come with rice, and at Laura's suggestion we asked for a couple of the rice portions to be substituted with curd rice, which only cost an extra 50p/portion and turned out to be a very good idea.
Kake's verdict: I would very happily come back, though this is partly influenced by the fact that the journey here is quite easy for me (P12 bus practically door to door).