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|Address:||168 Bellenden Road, London SE15 4BW|
|Tel:||020 7635 2627|
|Price: £35.00||Wine: £16.50||Champagne: £44.00|
|Opening Hours:||Wed-Sun 12N-2.30pm (Sun -3.30pm) Tues-Sat 6-10pm|
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We arrived ravenous, which was daft really. You can always bank on a wait at the Begging Bowl so – if you’re smart – skip a post-work bev and head straight here. With our names/numbers duly noted, we were shepherded to the nearby Montpelier armed with a nifty 10% discount.
We made the cut for the second sitting – the staff are pretty reliable in terms of waiting times, and honest when it comes to the hour of lost hope (around 9pm, when haunted souls resort to a kebab across the road). We jammed ourselves into a minute corner, and so neatly tucked were we that the door to the cloakroom which had previously sprung ajar was efficiently wedged shut by our less-than-nubile bodies. Although we had to sidle out of the way when a coat was retrieved, we barely noticed the inconvenience as the place is so upbeat and relaxed.
A procession of covetable tableware whizzed past, from higgledy piggledy earthenware to proud, cast-iron skillets (no – my handbag wasn’t big enough) and the aromas were amazing: that strange, unsavoury pong of fish sauce and lime from a proper green curry; bursts of garlic, chilli and galangal that whet the appetite (and the eyes).
The food was great in general. A deeply saucy dish of venison in a rich, peppered gravy arrived first, along with a plump, packaged ‘pod’ of sticky rice (and a fluffy steamed bowl too, in the absence of noodles on the menu). We ate some of the nicest greens this side of South East Asia – morning glory and flowering chives – but the scallops were disappointingly spongey and lacked the seared edge that makes them so tasty.
Thai green curry, that pin-up dish that’s whored itself to all manner of seedy establishments, looked a bit wishy washy and straw-like in colour. Having recently come back from Thailand, we were troubled. But while it wasn’t the sparkiest version I’ve eaten, the carefully boned bunny was a nice touch and there was excellent pea aubergine action going on in there too.
Service doesn’t hang around, so bear in mind you’ll really need to commit if you’re determined to neck a bottle. (The £32 Riesling was gorgeous and spot on for the cuisine, but plumping for a carafe between two would have led to a more dignified end to the evening). Diners are piled on top of each other yet there’s no fear of being overheard given the constant hullabaloo.
If you’re incapacitated by the hunger that a half-hour, crispless wait in the pub may awaken, you’ll likely find the abstract pricing on the menu a muddle. We did, hence ordered an appropriate number of dishes (five between two) but inadvertantly picked all the posh bits… coming in at £80. Bit of a shock for no more than an hour of pleasurable, neighbourhood grub, but entirely avoidable had we any sense. Next time? A local Meantime beer and a delectable plate of greens, please.