Saturday, 6 June 2009

Crossing the Thames to Ganapati

Masala Dhosa

Vadai with yoghurt and tamarind and jaggery

Crab Thoran

Greenwich Meantime beer

Curd rice

Chocolate cake and kulfi

I'm a Londoner but with an important distinction...I'm a North Londoner. I know Paris better than I know South London. The river Thames is an almost insurmountable barrier between the two sides. I come from mixed parentage: dad's a North Londoner and mum is from...Streatham. It was always clear in my family which parent came from the cool part of London and which came from an area considered slightly naff.
Apart from France and Los Angeles, I've lived in North London all of my life. I've made a little circuit from Highgate to Kentish Town to Kilburn.
Fat Les, Kake, Laura and I made a date for our foray to Peckham. I think it's like the third time I have ever been there in my life. Peckham is of course most celebrated for it's association with 'Only fools and horses'. Remember the episode where Del-boy tries to market tap water as 'Peckham Spring' mineral water?
I wanted to get there early, to check out Persepolis, a fantastic shop which sells Persian food, but the boiling hot weather drove me out to my garden and so I arrived late. I did drive past a yellow painted Persepolis which had a cheery message chalked outside 'Don't ask us why but we are on Twitter and we are tweeting!'. Next time...
Driving down there by the London we have a congestion charge, you have to pay £8 to drive through the centre. Or so I thought. But @timhayward told me that there is a wormhole, through Park Lane via Victoria down to Vauxhall Bridge, a route for which you are not charged. Otherwise it would have taken hours to drive around the outskirts to reach South-East London from where I am, the North-West.
Walking through what is regarded as the posh part of Peckham, with grand Georgian style houses and a pretty garden square, I got to 'Ganapati', a South Indian restaurant on the corner.
My first surprise was they had local London beer...'Meantime', a brewery in Greenwich of course!
I tried two of them, the wheat beer and the white beer. Both were, in their individual ways, full of flavour, almost syrupy, although I am no beer expert.
We were then served a succession of wonderful dishes...Masala Dosa, vadai with tamarind yoghurt and flaked jaggery (my favourite), a crab 'thoran', and a selection of 'vegetarian starters', all excellent.
For the mains I chose a vegetarian curry, chana dhal with sweet potato and cauliflower accompanied by 'curd rice'. My only complaint was that the curd rice was a little under-salted but was otherwise interestingly spiced, sticks of cinnamon and chilli poking out of the moist mound. The coconut rice was perfect however.
The others had meat curries, which I guess the carnivores liked although the squid curry was judged to be a little disappointing. These main dishes came with jewel-like home-made chutneys, mango and lemon.
There was an awkward moment for me; my meat eating companions kept dipping their brown dripping spoons into the communal rice and side dishes which felt a bit yucky but I was too polite (yes!) to complain.
Dessert was a chocolate chilli cake; moist, rich, with a glacéed chilli pepper on top. I love that idea and will attempt it myself. The prune and armagnac kulfi was good.
As we left, the friendly and knowledgeable waitress with a lovely dimpled smile said to me, on hearing that I had come from North London...
"Did you bring your passport?"
"No" I replied "but I was advised on Twitter (by @hollowlegs) to wear a stab-proof vest!"
The menu changes every six weeks, therefore a trip to Ganapati is well worth a regular journey across the river!
PS: Oh yeah and it was only £20 each...

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


  1. I had a fantastic meal last night too - the crab thoran was the highlight for me although I want that yoghurt jaggery concoction now - I don't remember seeing it last night. The starters were also the stars for me and its interesting to hear about the squid again because my prawn curry last night wasn't great - the prawns were overcooked and I thin khad been frozen. A shame because the spicing was excellent and the sea bream was a little bland. That said - a real gem. I am lucky to live so close! (i wear my stab proof vest as standard - they get delivered like the yellow pages ). Perhaps it is the fish they don't do so well. Those parathas though - YUM!

  2. I believe that all cultures that have communal dishes have distinct etiquette to keep the group of diners from contaminating these dishes with their own individual meals.

    Shame we in the UK have taken to the idea of communal dishes, but have never been told the etiquette... :(

  3. This post makes me long for Indian food, and I'd prefer to have it in London instead of New York. That chocolate chilli cake sounds wonderful. Please try it and post your recipe!!


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