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. The restaurant is a 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.
The vegetarian street snacks were 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 made us both ravenously hungry for our main courses – you couldn’t ask more from a starter.
We then chose the Aleppey Fish Curry – sea bream fillet cooked in a tomato based sauce -which was, 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. 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 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.
Ganapati South Indian Kitchen
38 Holly Grove
0207 277 2928