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168 Bellenden Road
No one can accuse this “hip” Thai canteen of resting on its laurels: in 2016, the owners repurposed the terrace as an airy all-weather space, did away with the colour-coded prices on its menu, and developed a cute children’s offering. Other than that, it’s business as usual at The Begging Bowl. A constantly changing line-up of “amazing Thai tapas” still features exhilarating flavour combos shot through with full-throttle herbs and spices: try the “piquant” little fishcakes, “sticky, umami-rich” pork belly, caramelised tiger prawns in lime leaves (“so good we ordered them twice”) or the show-stopping whole sea bass, lavishly sprinkled with slivers of green mango, deep-fried chilli, Thai shallots and toasted rice. To drink, delicious eastern-inspired cocktails complement the spice-friendly wine list. And each night, dozens of would-be diners still vie for tables in the colourful, driftwood-decorated dining room – thankfully the friendly staff are experts at waiting-list diplomacy.
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Best in South-East
Best restaurants in Peckham
168 Bellenden Road
Peckham Rye Station 497m
East Dulwich Station 850m
Premier Cinema 647m
Aquarius Golf Club 1km
Wed-Sun 12N-2.30pm (Sun -3.30pm) Tues-Sat 6-10pm
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 4
Okay not literally to die for, but The Begging Bowl is that rare, elusive find of that x factor, cosy, neighbourhood favourite restaurant, which is a little bit hip and will have you begging for more and more and more. Thai restaurants are generally good or excellent around London, usually classic or contemporary but not hip unlike The Begging Bowl which is. You can find this place in Peckham's gourmet street, Bellenden road, which is luckily, a 20 minute drive for me, so nearly local. Unfortunately there is that 'no booking' policy which drives me a little crazy, but if you go early enough e.g. 630pm midweek, I am sure you will score a table. The premise of the restaurant is a thai tapas in a laid back atmosphere, serving superb, non-classical thai dishes. The service is friendly and charming, tables are a little small for the thai banquet approaching and there are cool toons in the background, perfect for a mid week date night.
Having set the scene, prepare for the feast of all thai feasts. Dishes are labelled according to price and are colour coded to help you choose a 5 dish well balanced meal. First, came little freshly deep fried, light piquant fish cakes, a moreish beginning. Then, unami rich pork belly, sticky, unctuous and to die for. Caramelised tiger prawn in lime leaf were mouthfuls of soft prawn and chilli lime, reordered twice, always a good sign. Rabbit thai green curry was weaker than the usual chicken curry but still good. A whole deep fried sea bass was presented rather gloriously with sweet sticky sauce and thai basil. All in all, this was an unami, chilli, basil fuelled fiesta that will have you returning for the party again and again (especially if you live in the south east of London).
Food + drink: 5
Wasn't too sure about the concept initially, a sort of Thai tapas restaurant, but it didn't take long for me to be convinced. From the welcome, as warm as a Bangkok breeze, to the sumptuous rice dessert, I could honestly believe I was in the Far East, though the rain outside was far East of London. Among the gems are the Chilli Fishcakes and the Aromatic Duck curry from a price coded menu that ensures you are satisfied throughout. Our next soiree has it's venue! Thaitastic!
Food + drink: 3
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.
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