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Begging Bowl

Restaurants, Thai Peckham
3 out of 5 stars
(37user reviews)
Packard Stevens
Packard Stevens

Time Out says

Please note, Begging Bowl has been refurbished since this review was published. Time Out Food Editors, December 2018.

When this trendy Peckham eaterie opened in 2012, there was a flurry of excitement over its unusual menu. Instead of the more familiar Thai fare, chef Jane Alty offers Thai street food. Alty previously worked with David Thompson on his classic cookbook on that theme, which no doubt served as inspiration for her eclectic repertoire. Colour-coded by price, and designed for sharing tapas-style, the dishes include only a few of the usual suspects (Thai fish cakes, for example). The rest of the menu is built around less familiar options and ingredients, such as a rich but mellow curry featuring firm-fleshed yam bean root. Seasonal western ingredients are also given some Thai treatment, to produce dishes like trout in sour orange curry, or fennel and chicory with a relish of minced pork, prawn, coconut and yellow bean. Stir-fried pork belly with long beans was rich with warming red curry paste and lime-leaf slivers. The dining room has a contemporary feel, with big windows and colourful, painted reclaimed wood lining one wall. There’s outside seating too. Staff are young and enthusiastic, regularly checking in to see if we needed anything. There’s a well-chosen wine list and some decent cocktails.


Begging Bowl says
Welcome to the Begging Bowl. We want you to have a well-balanced meal to be shared with your friends, so we recommend you choose a selection of five dishes from across the menu, based on two people sharing. All dishes come with rice.



Address: 168 Bellenden Road
SE15 4BW
Transport: Tube: Peckham Rye rail
Do you own this business?

Users say (37)

3 out of 5 stars

Average User Rating

3.1 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:13
  • 4 star:3
  • 3 star:4
  • 2 star:9
  • 1 star:8
2 people listening
1 of 1 found helpful

This place gets one star for the wine.

The food is overpriced, really rich and a bit weird. Everything we ate was salty and didn't taste anything like Thai food in Thailand. It was so disappointing as I really wanted to like it. To top it all, there were hairs in two of the dishes. One clearly belonged to the greying chef who we could see through the kitchen door.

Another gripe is that the tables are squashed in - so much so that the table we shared for two people was so narrow that it was impossible to fit all our food on it. The staff basically had to encourage us to finish a dish quickly so they could put the next one on the table.

There is much better, and cheaper, food to be had in the Peckham/Camberwell area. So don't waste your money. 

1 of 1 found helpful

Overpriced watered down Western Thai food. People who are saying that it's similar to thai food in Thailand have got to be kidding and are most likely related to the owners! Let alone the dismissal of prices that range from 10.50-14.50 for meagre sized portions. Thai food for bland western palates/people who don't know better. I've been stung once, won't happen again.

1 of 1 found helpful

I have been to many thai restuarnts in London and the Begging Bowl sits in a league of its own. Lacking in complexity of flavour? Couldn't be further from the truth, you can't go wrong with anything on the menu which changes every few months. Service is first class; freindly and efficient, and I am not very laid back at all! I have been several times now and each time has been fantastic. Highly recommend to anyone who has taste buds.

1 of 1 found helpful

I'm local to this restaurant and I feel very lucky to have this gem of a place on my doorstep - really interesting, delicious fresh Thai treats, great friendly service and good buzz. I've been 4 times since it's opened, and keep rounding up more friends to join me. I'm very surprised to read any negative comments, as all of my experiences have been excellent.

Incredible modern take on Thai food. Not the dishes you would expect but a thousand times better. The whole fried fish is to die for. Incredible flavours, amazing colours and so much passion in every dish! 

Absolute gem! Crunchy seabass to die for and the banana fritters are incredible. One of us was gluten free and they looked after us so well. Really loved the cocktails too. Will definitely be back 

Surprised by the low user rating! Top restaurant with a great mix of fresh flavours and ingredients - they make me want to try and recreate their Thai salads full of mint, peanut, chilli and seasame (but knowing I'll fail). Love the unlimited sticky and jasmine rice! Great drinks including partizan beers.

Thai food for English people who want bland food is how I'd describe it. Take Thai dishes, change them about a bit so they have less flavour and spice, then chuck on an upmarket meat like goose/duck/veal/whatever to justify the price for bland thai cooking. Don't bother, go to the Malaysian cafe in nearby Crofton park.


The Begging Bowl is a brilliant neighbourhood restaurant. However, this isn't a cheap restaurant despite its location. The flavours are spot on, the dishes are seasonal and there is unlimited rice. On different occasions, the food has been consistently good and they're not afraid to pack in the bold salty, sweet and spicy tastes. 


I LOVE this place! I've only been twice but I think it is one of my London favourites. Super friendly staff, a light, airy restaurant with a conservatory bit for when it's warm, and the food is deeeee-licious. While the flavours on the menu are all familiar Begging Bowl does things a little differently and both times I've been I have tried something completely new. The noodle dish you see in my pictures is one of my favourite meals of 2016! Cannot recommend enough.

Love the setting with the conservatory however slightly over priced given the communal tables and small portions. The food is good quality and there are some interesting choices but none of the dishes we ordered blew me away.

Very erm, intimate. The tightly packed in tables are not great in the heat, but are quickly forgotten about when you try one of their delicious cocktails! I had the watermelon mojito, and although it was by no means cheap (£8.50 for a teeny glass), it was seriously good. The food again, tiny portions, pretty expensive, but very tasty. If you are happy adding the monetary value up in your head along with each bite, then definitely go for it!


A small restaurant where the narrow, small tables are tightly packed together - there's not enough room to swing a cat and we could clearly hear the conversations adjacent fellow diners. The atmosphere is buzzing as people try to make themselves heard over all the shouting. We got unlimited refills of sticky or jasmine rice, an offer which you will need to take a break between the intensely flavoursome dishes. Some dishes are well balanced whereas some others were over-seasoned and overwhelming. I was looking forward to porks cheeks dish on the specials board but it was so salty that we had to send it back. The fish wrapped in leaves was over-seasoned too. Even the passion fruit drink was too sweet. I enjoyed the stir-fried morning glory, stone bass and cockles curry and grilled beef with a chilli tomato dressing. Service was adequate: some staff were nicer than others and at times our dishes were carelessly chucked on to the table. 

The food at begging bowl is off the hook! I have been a number of times and the only thing I can criticize is that some dishes have to much flavour so you have to share them to avoid breaking your taste buds. Cant wait to go back again! 

Overhyped. We've been a few times. It's good but it's not amazing. Went once as a group and we arrived a few minutes after the booked time (they don't usually take bookings except for large groups) and they charged us £10 as a fine! They were rude about it too.

Food is good, tasty Thai street food. But all a bit pricey. Expect to spend £80-100 for two with drinks.


A fun, communal atmosphere but go at peak time and you'll face a wait for a table (put your name down and head to the pub opposite). Dishes are colour coded on the menu based on price and some are better value than others, but I like this interesting spot in Peckham. 


I've had an enjoyable meal every visit. Getting a table can be tricky so Sunday lunchtime is a good time to try your luck. The banana fritter is a must.

Returned after a great meal a long time ago only to be totally let down.

We went to get a drink across the road while waiting for a table and requested the discount card for the pub, to be told "oh no we don't do that anymore" despite it being written on the website.

Service was extremely rushed and we were asked if we were ready to order 3 times.

The sirloin steak was very chewy and not warm, when we asked to return the waitress obliged. 5 minutes later another waitress came over to say they wouldn't refund it because it was supposed to be served at room temperature?! After one waitress blaming the other for a while, the dish was finally removed from the bill when I pointed out that I was not paying for a dish that was not even on our table anymore.

I hope the owners read the numerous bad reviews of their staff and do something about it! I am sad that we will not currently be returning to what I thought was one of my favourite restaurants.

Staff Writertastemaker

Although the tapas style plates are banded in price its difficult to choose at the cheaper end exclusively as there is so much great stuff higher up the menu- go here when you're happy to spend a bit extra and try some of the more expensive dishes, they'll be worth it.

The ribs were great as was the beef cheek green curry and morning glory. I'd eat it all again.

I'm surprised at the negative reviews, although it is more expensive than other local thai food I think teh offering is a unique take on some old classics.

I go here quite a lot and am surprised at the negative reviews. It gets busy but the staff are always on form. The food is unique (maybe not 'authentic' Thai) and delicious. AND they're the only place for miles where you can get a Vietnamese coffee. 

I have been a long term resident of Thailand and am a frequent visitor and seeker out of authentic Thai food and so was very interested to seek out the hyped claims of the Begging Bowl as it is pretty local to my wife and I. Basically don't believe the hype - all of our dishes failed to hit the mark and the best I can say is that the ingredients were fresh and well presented and the staff are friendly and efficient in a cool space. The Thai fish cakes seemed liked canned tuna dressed up as deep fried barbequed chicken nuggets. Wet and rather pointless. The duck curry was too hot and lacked coconut milk and any sort of delicate flavours to have balance and was too effete in those that it had to be regarded as anywhere near 'street authentic'. The pork belly which replaced the menu pork belly option was like eating soggy cardboard - it's hard to make pork boring and tasteless but they did. By the time the last course came I wasn't expecting much and they didn't dissapoint - it was steamed sea bream with a jug of some sort of watery sauce. No flavours at all to speak of and so we asked for chilli sauce and got some sweet bottled variety to try and spice it up a bit. In the end we came away rather sad - because if this is a restaurant from an acolyte of David Thompson then he should dissociate himself forthwith. I have tasted a couple of dishes of his at London's Taste Festival and they were amongst the very best food of any cuisine that I have ever tasted. Here it was a confused, bland attempt at Thai food that missed the mark by miles. The place on Friday night was heaving and folk were having to queue for up to and over an hour so they were busy as they will ever be and most folk seemed to be enjoying themselves so what the heck. The staff were friendly and efficient and the place had a welcoming buzz but sadly if it's delicious food with Thai heritage you are after then try somewhere else because the Begging Bowl is definitely not it.

Food was good but over priced. Service was utterly crap. Rude and arrogant attitude for their own mistake. Never again. Its not worth it.

Unpleasant staff, disorganised service, both seating-wise and food delivery-wise. Dishes coming out when they are ready may be fine in concept, but in practice it's no use for my meal to come out and sit getting cold for 45 minutes before my friend's! Food is fine, certainly nothing special, and overpriced for the very small portions. Very disappointing I'm afraid.

good food, small portions and very overpriced. That is if you get a table. Staff have no idea how to seat a restaurant, are always empty tables yet not taking any walk-ins and there is an hour wait minimum ALWAYS.

The location is excellent but sadly I think BB are rather resting on their laurels otherwise. Service is - being generous - average, with moments of cockiness thrown in. I was excited to try this place but once we had been sat we were promptly forgotten. There seemed to be plenty of staff but all doing the same thing and waiting every table. Perhaps distinct areas per staff member might make more sense. As it is, there is a chaotic feeling, like it all might just come crashing down. And it just might. We were told to order 3 dishes each as it was a tapas-style approach to a Thai menu. They arrived and were almost main-sized, so we could easily have had just 2 each, and the flavours across the menu didn't complement one another at all. The prices are steep for a neighbourhood restaurant but I would happily pay more for quality, consistency and good service. I read below that 'they need to get over themselves a bit'. Here here. I'll be waiting for the next inhabitant of the same location who gets it right.

We have been meaning to try this place for a few weeks, after one unsuccessful attempt at getting a table we finally got one, but were wedged unceremoniously next to the bar. The bench seating (wagamama inspired) is only good if there is room to do it. Anyway, the waitress was helpful and knowledgable but the food was just not what I was hoping for, the rabbit was stringy and bland (as can be the case with rabbit - I probably would have rather have a less adventurous chicken purely because it wouldn't be disappointing). The crispy rice was supposed to be dipped in a sauce but presumably it should come in clumps and not individual grains - it's hard and rather tiresome dipping single grains into sauce! there were some lovely dishes, the fish cakes and beef cheek were great but nothing better than i'd tried before in London and Thailand. I can see the aim and the thought which has gone into the place but I probably wouldn't return, it did not live up to the hype.

I felt like I was eating food from a top end restaurant, but it was relaxed and really friendly. Been back twice already. Make sure you start off with a cocktail we discovered those on our last visit. Lush love it.

One of the best restaurants I have been to! The staff were extremely accommodating and always happy to help! The food was amazing and very reasonable in price. Would definitely go back!

being a local and living a 2-3 minute walk from this restaurant I decided to try this restaurant on my birthday,after all it was a Tuesday night so thought it would be perfect as fairly relaxed. From the moment we arrived to the moment we left it was one big disaster. We arrived at 7.30pm and were told it would be a 20-30 minute wait so the manager suggested we went to the pub opposite and they would call when our table was ready.No problem and the idea of a gin and tonic before dinner really appealed.. After an hour and a half there was still no call so we went back to wait.We were finally seated at 9.15pm It then took a further 15 minutes to obtain a menu or even see site of a waitress.We eventually asked to borrow a Menu from another table. Once we finally waved and caught the attention of someone we ordered wine,starters and mains.they all arrived at various times which is the idea....however when the main courses arrived we didn't think it would be half an hour before the other main course the meantime my friend had finished her meal by the time mine arrived and it was freezing cold.The meals also arrived without the rice and vegetables and these took another 10 minutes.We were also sat there we no cutlery when the food came and again no sight of the waitress and again we waved and then had to get up attract attention. In the end we asked for the bill and left.I cannot think of anything positive to say about my experience here which is a real shame as its local to me.

Some amazing dishes - the stars were crispy rice cakes and the fish cakes. The rest were a bit average. The pork shoulder had a lot of big lumps of fat in it and the dessert (the only one on the menu) was just more sticky rice, not quite ripe mango and a very dubious white salty sauce. But the service was the part that really disappointed me. I am a laidback person, but left feeling really irritated by our waiter who was overfamiliar, insistent and kept interrupting us. He then became rude, taking away napkins before we'd finished. Such a shame as it really spoilt the experience for me and I'm not sure I'll be back.

Great food, can be chaotic but that's due to being soooo busy. Happy for you to grab a drink in a local pub and phone you once your table is ready.... Great service too

I had lunch at BB yesterday, having had dinner there on it's opening week. The food is very flavorful and rich, and beautifully presented. I especially liked a salmon salad thing.. and a curry duck dish- the flavors as I say are rich and complex- in short, its very very tasty. staff are friendly. A great addition to Bellenden Road!

Don't just rate this restaurant in relation to it's surroundings, it really stands shoulder to shoulder with every Thai restaurant i've ever been to in London. If you live locally there is no excuse not to go. If you don't live locally then grab your Oyster card and get down to Peckham. A rare treat. Enjoy.

0 of 1 found helpful

This place is spectacularly overpriced for what you get. As someone who has eaten a lot of good Thai food in other cities around the world, I'd say the hype around it is unfortunately evidence of the fact that despite improvement, the London restaurant scene still has a long way to go. In my native Sydney in years gone by you could eat way better than this for under £10 per head. Very disappointing.

0 of 1 found helpful

We wanted to try this restaurant on a beautiful sunny Saturday for an early dinner with our young children. Arriving at 5:30 (despite looking completely set up with doors open) we were turned away in a rude and arrogant manner (kitchen not open til six) and I practically had to "beg" to see a menu. We went to the pub across the street to spend our money and watched five other families similarly turned away--even at five minutes before six! To survive in peckham they are going to have to get over themselves a bit, even if they have good food--and get a little more friendly.

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