Sunday, 26 August 2012

Restaurant Review: The Begging Bowl, Peckham

Salad of grilled beef, roasted rice and baby gem lettuce

No sooner had I had a little moan on my friend John's blog that so Westernised and insipid is Thai food outside of Thailand (and notably exceptions like Chat Thai and Sailors Thai) that I wasn't going to bother eating Thai food any more; I read Hollow Leg's review of The Begging Bowl in Peckham and I was sucked straight back in!

With the promise of authentic Thai flavours I hastily arranged to meet my friend Ed in Bar Story for a drink followed by dinner at the Begging Bowl.

The restaurant is located on a bustling cross roads in Peckham. With the front of the restaurant open to the street and tables spilling onto the pavement The Begging Bowl was proving very popular. With a no reservations policy we overheard several tables nearby saying they were pleased to get in after a couple of unsuccessful attempts.

The first thing I noticed was the rather micro tables packed closely together, followed by the heady smell of Thai chilli, herbs and spices. While the prospect of elbow clashing didn't excite me the smells wafting from the kitchen certainly did.

Fish cakes with a sweet chilli sauce

All of the dishes are designed for sharing. We started with the taste sensation that was a salad of grilled beef, roasted rice and baby gem lettuce (£7.50). The tender beef was topped with crunchy roasted rice that has been ground more coarsely that I'm used to. What made the dish special was the dressing of fish sauce, lime, chilli and fresh mint in the salad. It was hot, sour, salty and refreshing all at the same time.

We also ordered the fish cakes with a sweet chilli sauce (£5.50). My experience of Thai fishcakes is that they usually round, flat and springy in texture. These fishcakes are light and had a more open texture.

Stir fried tofu, snake beans, baby sweetcorn, 
cashew nuts and coconut cream

Next up was the stir fried tofu, snake beans, baby sweetcorn, cashew nuts and coconut cream (£9.50). This dish was unlike anything I've had in Thailand before. I couldn't determine the main flavours in this one. Tasted on it's own the sauce was overwhelmingly salty, but didn't taste like it was dominated by fish sauce. As Ed remarked if this was the only dish you'd ordered you would be perfectly happy, but it didn't quite live up to the others.

Green curry of rabbit with appl aubergines, 
pea aubergines and baby corn

Our final dish was the green curry of rabbit with apple aubergines, pea aubergines and baby corn (£9.50). The curry tasted like it was homemade, not dissimilar to the curry pastes I tasted at Sailors Thai. Fragrant kaffir lime was followed by the complex and spicy curry. The flavour of the rabbit was dominated by the curry and didn't come through. The rabbit also tasted cold as if it has been cooked separately and added just before serving.

Overall I was very impressed with the food at The Begging Bowl. The service was friendly although being crammed into a corner of the restaurant meant it was little difficult to get the attention of the waiters / waitresses at points during the evening.

The authentic Thai flavours made both Ed and I reminisce over our holidays to Thailand.

The Begging Bowl
168 Bellenden Road
SE15 4BW
Begging Bowl on Urbanspoon


  1. Disappointed by this place. Felt it was very poor value. 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 tiny plate of fried tofu?!?!

    Friendly service that was also easy on the eye. No other benefits to this place.

    1. Sorry to hear your experiences weren't as good as mine.

      I nearly mentioned the value of the food in my blog. My initial impression was that the portions were on the small side and the prices a little high. However, I left the restaurant full having spent £15 per head (no drinks) which I didn't think was too bad considering the quality of the food.

      Giving away unlimited free rice might be there way of (cheaply) filling you up.

      Some of the dishes were a bit salty, but from my experience of living in Thailand that is how a lot of the food is.

  2. Yeah, the unlimited rice thing did save it a bit.

    I don't want to be too harsh so would say the curries were quite good. We just wanted more of them.

    We were expecting a bit of salt but this was just too much. I could deal with the stir-fry broccoli if it were a small plate that cost a few pounds so we could use to to flavour the rice, but £7.50 for a tiny handful was an insult.

    Anyway, nice blog and glad you liked your trip to SE London. Cheers.

  3. I thought the portions seemed a little small, but as Richard says I left the place having had plenty of very tasty food for £20 including a pint. Restaurant meals never cost less than £20 so while the individual plates might have seemed expensive the overall value was excellent.

  4. Great blog fantastic photos, Really I appreciate your good work. Thanks a lot!

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