Us Brits love a curry, so much so in recent times the curry house overtook Fish and Chips as Britain's most numerous genre restaurant. Amongst that there are of course many differing styles and of course, qualities.
South Indian is a little different though and is the home of the Dosa, a large paper thin pancake affair within which various stuffings are placed. Idlis are another speciality, a small rice and lentil based steamed cake with which chutneys and Sambars are taken.
Vegan and vegetarian dishes are also prominent, and as we all move a little more towards plant-based food I feel South Indian restaurants are due an explosion of interest in the near future.
Situated in a quiet back road very close to the hustle and bustle of Peckham Rye, Ganapati sits quietly resplendent on the corner of Holly Grove and Bellenden road.
Ganapati opened in 2004, the result of a trip to India 12 years earlier by Claire Fisher. Having fallen in love with the cuisine Claire took to learning to cook it herself, which morphed on to a supper club and then a full time job in another well known South Indian restaurant. Trips back to India followed and in 2004 the big step was taken and Ganapati opened.
One Saturday recently a friend and I made our way to deepest Peckham. Keeping an eye out for any likely Rodney and Del' boys it must be noted that Peckham was always a vibrant and colourful place. These days however it is becoming a bit of a destination for good food and beer. Ganapati must surely sit up at the pioneer table, and as you'll read deserves it's place there.
During the warmer months outdoor seating is used, but we were inside the pleasant and airy interior. More café/brasserie-like than a converted house could ever expect to be, things were looking good.
Starting with poppadums (it's the law!), I have to say that the pickles and chutneys were wonderful! Fresh and bright and yet subtle in their flavours. Quite delightful and the Poppadums were as crisp and fresh as one could hope for.
We then shared a plate of the Chennai Chaat, street food which was not only a pleasure to look at but again was as fresh as could be. Things were looking pretty good at this stage.
The main dish choice was for me a really close run thing, the goat Byriani nearly had it but eventually I went for the Udama chicken curry and my friend chose the Kavadi vegetable curry. We accompanied it with a side dish of Dal, plain rice and a Keralan Paratha.
The Chicken was just great! It's not easy to used chicken breast meat in a curry and not have it either lose any flavour or go rather dry and tough, but this was avoided completely. Not only was it full of flavour of it's own aside from the curry it sat in, but the meat was tender and juicy also.
The Kavadi vegetable curry was a revelation. Cauliflower is not a vegetable that I lean towards for a main ingredient, but here it was subtle, flavoursome, and the perfect background to a wonderful dish. This kind of vegetarian food would happily sway many a meat eater mover I believe.
The rice was as perfect as one could expect, and the Paratha was rich and moreish. Buttery and absorbent I could not resist some shirt-spotting danger whilst mopping up the lovely sauce and gravy! Special mention though must be made for the Dal. A simple dish, but one that is easy to get wrong. Personally my own efforts have often veered towards either slack and watery, or gloopy and porridge-like. Not here, this Dal was to die for, I've had flashbacks to how good this was!
Stuffed and happy, we passed on desert. Not because it wasn't tempting but because the chances of exploding in a Mr Creosote manner were too likely! Next time!
Subtle flavouring notes that vary across time, and a perfectly judged heat level to every dish are the jewels in the crown here. If your vision of a curry are pints of insipid Lager and a Vindaloo then this is not the place for you. If you are looking for the good stuff and especially if you have a leaning towards Vegan and vegetarian dishes then I would book yourself a table soon. Because I suspect you will not just like it, but love it!
38 Holly Grove
London SE15 5DF
0207 277 2928