The Begging Bowl is a trendy Thai eatery in the posher (i.e. more unaffordable)/more gentrified part of Peckham, which originally opened to quite a few rave reviews in 2012. Being slightly less trendy ourselves (and not really being Peckham natives), it has taken this long to get over there to check it out. We arrived early on a Saturday evening to get a seat (they have a no reservations policy, apart from big groups) and it was pretty busy at that time already – so definitely, a popular place years after opening. Whether the travelling hardship was worth it remained to be seen.
We had the foresight to be in a big group of ravenous eaters and therefore managed to try pretty much most of the menu. The ingredients used in some of the dishes were unusual – rabbit, guinea fowl, gizzards and venison were more scarce ingredients in Thai restaurants over here (London), although there were more conventional items on the menu too.
Some of the dishes were done really well – particular highlights included the fish dishes – a whole steamed bream which was fresh and accentuated by the mild Thai spicing, as well as a cod green curry which was delicately flavoured so not to overpower the fish. Other items that stood out were the whole charcoal grilled chicken – good quality meat with a suitable accompanying sauce, as well as a braised pork hock dish, which was served in a sweet, rich broth accompanied by a hen’s egg. A crab relish eaten with salted duck’s egg and raw vegetables was also a delight.
There were some stir fries in the list as well which were less memorable although tasty enough. Ditto for the rabbit confit – interesting for its use of a meat not often seen in Thai restaurants – but not very outstanding in the taste department. And for a healthy balance, we ordered stir fried tenderstem broccoli – it served its purpose by providing greenery but not much else.
A couple of the other dishes divided opinion among the table. We ordered a salad of gizzards, heart and duck – arguably one of those dishes you’d like if you were in to internal organs but not to everyone’s tastes. A Northern pepper curry was also not met with universal appeal – the guinea fowl meatballs in the curry were good – although the curry itself was more peppery than anything else.
The meal was accompanied by unlimited rice (sticky and normal) – a nice touch allowing one to fill up stomach space not already occupied with food.
Desserts were a bit more of a bum note, sadly. We ordered all 3 on the menu. Condensed milk ice cream was what it said on the tin – nothing more, nothing less – it tasted very vanilla. The lime granita was an odd mixture of flavour and textures – it was (too) sweet and limey, with the lemon basil seeds providing a chewy element to the dish – not something that worked all too well together. Last was the banana fritters – which were fine in themselves – although the turmeric custard tasted a bit like curry and just made a strange assembly of ingredients.
Overall, the savoury mains were definitely better than the desserts, with some particularly outstanding ones. There was use of more unusual ingredients, and flavours tended to be more muted and salty, with less use of the fiery, spicy and sour flavours associated with Thai cooking.
A quiet eating 6.5/10.
Dinner (4 courses) GBP30 excluding drinks and service (although we probably ordered somewhat more than was needed to be full)
The Begging Bowl
168 Bellenden Road
Peckham SE15 4BW
020 7635 2627