“Its signature dish was a great big mulch centred on a banana leaf. I don’t think I’m being unfair when I say it looked about as appetising as a stewed triffid. It was hair-raisingly good.” Zoe Williams, The Telegraph
The Begging Bowl opened in 2012 and was one of the first new wave restaurants to arrive in Peckham’s Bellenden road. Head chef and co-owner Jane Alty hails from New Zealand and learnt her trade in some of London’s best kitchens, including Galvin at Windows and Bibendum. A stint travelling through Asia led her to fall in love with Thai food and when she returned to London she joined the team at David Thompson’s Thai trailblazer, Nahm, spending over three years there including a spell working in Bangkok. Alty’s food isn’t traditionally Thai and has more of a street food slant to it. The Begging Bowl has an odd menu set-up: four circular symbols in different colours at the top suggest portion size and prices (ranging from small at £6.25 to large at £14.50), which I think is a bit naff.
Our first dish was disappointing – grilled aubergine salad with minced prawns and a duck egg (£8.25). The egg was served cold and hard-boiled, the aubergine was also cold and under-seasoned; the prawns were unremarkable. Much better was the grilled baby squid with homemade chilli oil (£6.25) – the squid was cooked perfectly, it was light, soft and not at all chewy; the spicing was spot on.
Having read some good write-ups of the Rabbit green curry (£12) I was keen to try this (Alty makes her own curry paste) – it contained both apple and pea aubergines and some sharply flavoured Thai basil. The sauce was thin and the homemade paste was lost in a sea of coconut milk. There was a scanty amount of meat: it was overcooked and slightly rubbery. On a positive note, the vegetables were cooked perfectly and the medium-hot spicing had just the right amount of chilli kick. More pleasing was the stone bass and cockles in coconut curry (£12) – the large chunks of bass were meaty and cooked so that the flesh was still firm. The light but slightly spicy sauce brought some interest to the fish which isn’t especially packed with flavour.
Verdict: a disappointment 5/10
152 Warwick Rd, W14 8PS
Nearest tube: Earl’s Court
020 7603 9888
“…..prices are low for this part of west London, the service is extremely friendly and the café-like decor offers a laid-back alternative to some of the capital’s more showy Persian restaurants.” Time Out
Mohsen is a decade old Persian restaurant on Warwick Road, a short walk from Earl’s Court tube. The interior has been recently made over and is rustic, with rural Iranian artwork on the walls and simple furnishings. I have read about brusque and inattentive service in many reviews (eg see Andy Hayler) but I won’t be able to comment as I visited with my Persian friend who spoke to the staff in Farsi and we received excellent service. The highlight of the meal was the wonderful Persian naan which is made to order using a traditional oven sitting in the window of the restaurant – this is a thin and slightly crispy naan, laden with sesame seeds and was wonderful straight from the oven. We opted for a simple yoghurt and shallot dip which was light and fresh, working well with the bread.
We shared ox tongue (£5) as a starter which was served in a white sauce enhanced with some turmeric and a hint of saffron – the tongue melted in the mouth and had a mild, beef-like flavour. The sauce was pleasant enough but there was too much of it. For main course I had Koresh Badjeman (braised lamb and aubergine £10) with rice – the aubergine was sweet, not at all bitter or greasy. The morsels of lamb could have been cut with a spoon and the tomato based sauce was nicely seasoned and (of course) had a hint of saffron.
We finished with some saffron ice cream which was certainly homemade (and contained the odd ice crystal) but that I still really enjoyed. They don’t have an alcohol licence but you can bring your own bottle (there is no corkage charge); they also don’t accept debit or credit cards.
Verdict: authentic Persian food at bargain prices 6.5/10