Ganapati, or Ganesha, is the Hindu god of new beginnings, wisdom, and the remover of obstacles.
And now Peckham’s Ganapati is removing any obstacles between you and delicious Southern Indian food.
It was opened in 2004 by British-born Claire Fisher who, upon travelling to India, managed to find something other than herself. Claire quickly fell in love with both the flavours and textures involved in South Indian cooking, but also the sense of ritual, and community, that came with eating. She wanted to recreate the same experience in London, and so she determinedly taught herself to cook, and then went about acquiring a space.
That space is on the sharp edge of Holly Grove and Bellenden Road. It’s impossible to miss thanks to its somewhat garish dark purple and mustard exterior. Inside the restaurant it’s no different – bright green and orange walls stand in sharp contrast to rows of wooden tables and chairs. It draws inspiration from the brightly coloured street food spots in Southern India – they even have the same aluminium cups, paper napkins, and unfussy knives and forks.
The food is every bit as authentic too. Dishes are swapped out every couple of months or so, however the menu is always broken up into appetisers, mains, sides, and desserts.
For starters you’ll find poppadoms, served with a mix of homemade pickles and chutneys. There’s bonda (spicy potato balls fried in chickpea batter) and vadai (ground chana dal patties with ginger, curry leaf, and green chilli), both traditional vegetarian street snacks. Otherwise, if you’re after something a little more meaty, opt for the goat pickle and pathiri (goat meat pickled with shallots, chilli, and spices, served with rice flour pancakes).
Mains include a mix of fish, meat, or vegetarian curries, served alongside plain or coconut rice, all of which you can bulk up with a side of dal, or thorn (stir-fried vegetables with coconut); or mop up with thick, flakey, swirls of paratha (Ganapati’s parathas have a reputation of their own).
If you’ve planned your meal wisely and have room for dessert – or you just revel in being a glutton – there’s a selection of traditional sweet dishes to try too, like shrikkand, a sweet creamy yoghurt-based dish spiced with saffron, cardamon and pistachio nuts.
Or you could opt for one of their after dinner drinks: monsoon malabar coffee (all the way from the mountains of southern India); masala tea; or maybe an aged rum or smoked whisky. Hell, you’re a maverick, have an aperitif, or a glass of wine. They even do Champagne – ‘champagne moutard pere et fils prestige rose’ which, with that sort of name, you have to assume is delicious.
THE CHERRY ON THE TOP
Every night one table is chosen as the ‘special charity table’, where all the profits are given to the small South Indian charity Adventure Ashram, who are on a quest to stop human trafficking, and provide education and healthcare to young children…
Better make that two bottles of Champagne, then.
NOTE: Ganapati is open Tuesday-Friday, 12-2.45pm and 6-10.30pm; Saturday 12-10.30pm; and Sunday 12-10pm. For more information, visit their website here. Or, if you don’t quite fancy getting out of your PJs, they have a second take-away spot which you can find here.
Ganapati | 38 Holly Grove, SE15 5DF
Afterwards, you can go watch the sunset…. at Frank’s