Wednesday 15 August 2012

The Begging Bowl, Peckham

The Begging Bowl in Peckham has just opened, on the site that was formerly a short-lived pizza place and before that, a fairly well regarded cafe. Tucked in the back streets of the 'posh' side of Peckham, Bellenden (stop sniggering), we visited as a group of nine to attempt to try most of the menu. No reservations taken, a small line snaked out of the restaurant; it was looking popular already, less than a week into service. Inside was packed and noisy and we squidged onto a bench to tackle the task of ordering. Happily, we managed to utter the words we all dream of - 'we'll have one of everything'. The menu is split into 'Slight Dishes £4.50', 'Light Dishes £7.50' and 'Robust Dishes £9.50', with sticky rice and steamed rice included.

Deep fried salmon with sour fruits and chilli (top picture) came from the light dishes, and for £7.50 seemed a little on the small side. Perhaps it is the plate they used, as a smaller plate might have made it seem better value. Nevertheless, it was pretty delicious - tender chunks of flaky salmon was mixed with shallots and lots of citrus and herbs, with a good chilli kick to it. 

Betel leaves came 5 to a plate and was topped with nuts, palm sugar and pomelo. This was one of my favourites of the night, and I wondered whether the chap I saw buying £50's worth of betel leaves from the local Oriental supermarket last week was doing so for this dish. They were the perfect little mouthful of grassiness, sour, sweet and savoury. I had something very similar in Nahm in Bangkok except these were a little less weird.

Thai fishcakes were less favoured; their characteristic traditional bounciness that comes from pounding the fish until elastic was missing, and instead these were fluffier and with a more potatoey texture. Lime leaves were mixed in with each nugget giving them a nice fragrance though.

Coconut and galangal soup with chicken and mushrooms (so, tom kha gai?) came in a tureen and was beautifully fragrant and flavoursome, the galangal coming out strong. Tom Yum soup with prawns was less successful; it needed stronger flavours of that sour, savoury, spicy balance.

Of the robust dishes, the curry with pork shoulder and ginger impressed the most. The pork was juicy, the gravy heavily spiked with coconut. I wished for a little bit more chilli heat. 

Green curry was made with rabbit instead of the ubiquitous chicken, but if I'm honest I probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference. The addition of both apple and pea aubergines were a nice touch though, and it had a pleasant nose-clearing kick. Another main I was impressed with was a grilled bream smeared with a red curry paste and served wrapped up in the banana leaves it was grilled in. 

The only disappointing dish was the grilled sirloin steak served with chilli sauce, cucumber and some herbs. The beef wasn't particularly beefy and I was unsure of how to tackle it - a bite of steak and a bite of cucumber? A dunk in each sauce? Wrapped in basil? It seemed least balanced of the robust dishes and was lacking in something. 

Otherwise, I was pretty impressed with The Begging Bowl. Although I could have done with some more chilli in most of the dishes, the balance of flavours so prized in Thai food was mostly there. I think they're pretty brave in eschewing the noodles of Thailand - everyone loves a pad Thai, no? - but maybe that is yet to come. 

The waiting staff could have been overwhelmed by the amount of people eating but instead they were calm, sweet and friendly, and we had a good chat when they asked us for feedback on the dishes we'd had. Given it was the opening week I can only imagine it'll get better; I don't know anywhere locally that does decent Thai food so I'll definitely be back. 

The Begging Bowl 

168 Bellenden Road


SE15 4BW

No reservations


The Ginger Gourmand said...

I was pretty impressed too. If they turned up the chilli a notch and sorte dout the balance in the hot and sour soup I'd be even more so.

I also liked the stir fy of squid with chives and ginger, Chinese broccoli and garlic (loved the saltiness) and the tofu with snack beans and cashews.

Good wine list and selection of beers too.

Richard Elliot said...

I was bemoaning not being able to find good Thai restaurants since moving back from Sydney.

I'm definitely going to try this place out.

The Ginger Gourmand said...

Hmmm...think my spelling leaves a bit to be desired. Snack beans and stir fys are all the rage don't you know :)

Hollow Legs said...

Ginger Gourmand - I enjoyed those dishes too, I think the saltiness of the broccoli is a good thing since you're really supposed to eat it with rice. Excellent spelling too, I bloody love snack beans ;) I agree, they had some interesting beers and ciders and wines. I always forget drinks in my posts...

Richard E - do let me know how you got on and what you thought?

Chris Pople said...

How does it compare to the Heron? Not quite as bum-twitchingly hot? Or pretty good?

I found a new Sichuan place near Warren St last night that we need to go to. They do crispy pigs intestines.

Perm said...

Hi Lizzie,

Thank you for the review, sounding like an all-round decent meal. I can't wait to visit myself :-9

re Beef. Thais usually serve cucumber on the side with all things either to cleanse the palate or to kill the heat. The pork curry intrigues me as usually this curry variation contains no coconut milk.

I'm getting hungry. I need to stop reading your blog late night!!


Tang said...

The food looks pretty good from your photos, especially the pork shoulder curry. I am going to check it out tonight, will ask them to turn up the heat! Thanks for the post xx

Helen said...

I seriously can't believe you can even remember what everything was ;) I need to go back before I can even contemplate writing about it! Was fun though..tasty fun.

Hollow Legs said...

Chris P - It doesn't compare to The Heron really, it's far more accessible, let's say. No toilet rolls in the freezer. Ah, Oriental Dragon? That's been on my radar for a while.

Perm - Excellent, I'd be interested to hear what you think about it. Thanks for the point about the cucumber - I'm not sure this was the intention this time as there wasn't particularly strong / spicy.

Yes, I thought the pork curry was a bit of an oddity too as I've made a dry pork curry with krachai (?) and this seemed similar with the addition of coconut milk. Still tasty though. x

Tang - Oooh let me know how you get on!

Helen - I didn't drink a 10% beer beforehand ;) I'll come back with you (stalk stalk) - i want more betel leaves! (And to see you unsheath that rice again. Ahem.)

Katy Salter @ Pinch of Salt said...

Actual decent Thai in south London (Kaosarn aside)? I'm there!

Anonymous said...

No-one a fan of Thai Corner Café in Dulwich?

Hollow Legs said...

Katy - I wasn't a huge fan of Khaosan, feeling it was a little dumbed down but I visited more than a year ago so perhaps am due a return visit.

Anon - I've not tried it. Do you rate it?

Richard Elliot said...

I made it to the Begging Bowl on Thursday night. I thought the grilled beef salad (different from the grilled beef you had) and the rabbit curry were both great. They had the balance of hot, sour, sweet and spicy you'd forget.

I thought some of the portions sizes were a little pricey, but overall very happy.

Terd said...

Tiny portions (sorry, 'tapas' style) and way too much salt in everything.

Fried broccoli almost inedible, fish cakes OK but salty, curries had nice sauces but good luck finding much meat in them, and £9.50 for a half plate of (salty) tofu? Hello?

Very disappointing. Was hoping for a quality joint to rival Ganapati.

Not a hope.

This place was a complete rip-off. Very nice and attractive service though.

Hollow Legs said...

Richard Elliot - portion sizes are something I've heard a lot of mutterings about. I hope they sort it.

Terd - oh dear, sorry to hear that. Sounds like they were having an off night, or I had a particularly good one.

Unknown said...

This place is two minutes away from my house so I've been very tempted to try it. Thanks for the review! Would you say there's enough to feed vegetarians, or not so much? I eat seafood-y stuff but the boyf is a 'proper' veggie, as I like to say.