Despite the vast number of eating options available in London when it comes to finding a good Thai restaurant I often struggle. So when I heard about a new Thai restaurant, The Begging Bowl, opening in Peckham, South East London, I could barely contain my excitement.
The Begging Bowl is situated on Peckham’s trendy Bellenden Road, the site was formerly a pizzeria. I turned up with Sharps at around 8.30pm on a Friday night to find the woman on the door taking names and mobile numbers as we were told it would be up to an hour wait (pretty accurate as we waited an hour). Luckily, The Begging Bowl is opposite one of my favourite Peckham pubs The Victoria Inn (click here for my blog post on The Victoria Inn) so we popped across the road for a drink while we waited.
I’d heard that portion sizes are quite small at The Begging Bowl. This I was informed, is because the food is served tapas style. So rather than having traditional starters and mains there are different plates designed for sharing, with more robust options that could be considered mains. Our waitress recommended we try two of the slight dishes, two of the light dishes and one of the robust dishes – everything comes with sticky or plain rice. The dishes on the menu sounded wonderfully inventive, making The Begging Bowl a real hidden gem for foodies. Head chef Jane trained under David Thompson (of Michelin-starred Thai restaurant Nahm fame) which would explain why The begging Bowl isn’t your average Thai restaurant.
We were quite surprised that the first of our dishes to arrive was Sharps’ squid and it was agonising for me to watch him tucking in as by now I was so hungry I could have chewed my arm off. Next up was a miniscule, but utterly divine, portion of bemel leaves, three teaspoon’s worth of nuts, shallots and pomelo presented in a bemel leaf (I could see why this is a slight dish). This was followed by our ‘robust’ dish – gurnard (a meaty white fish) wrapped in a banana leaf and coated with a thick, spicy red thai curry paste.
Both of us agreed that the star dish was the light salmon dish. A citrusy salad consisting of slices of fresh, deep-fried salmon, cooked in a sweet and sour vinegary sauce with chilli that had a deliciously grapefruity tang and topped with crispy fish skin.
Throughout the course of our meal it became clear that dishes aren’t served in the order they appear on the menu, but as and when they’re ready. While this is typical in Asia it would have been nice to have had this explained when we were choosing what we were going to eat. It may be common in some cultures to finish a meal with soup, personally I prefer it at the start of a meal so probably wouldn’t have ordered it had I known it would arrive at random. And the galangal soup (we had the veggie option without the crab) which tasted like a mildly spiced version of cream of mushroom soup was a little on the bland side for me and my least favourite of the dishes.
But despite of the somewhat confused service it was hard to find fault with the food at The Begging Bowl (other than perhaps I would have liked more of it) in both terms of taste and the immaculate presentation of the dishes. This hidden gem of a Thai restaurant in Peckham was so good I doubt I’ll have to beg anyone to come with me next time.