The cooking at this no-nonsense Hammersmith establishment is largely from the Esarn region of north-eastern Thailand – including multiple versions of green papaya salad, accompanied by anything from salted duck egg to sausage. Expect a collection of southern Thai dishes, such as sour prawn curry or turmeric-marinated sea bass. These are prepared by ‘Auntie Bee’ from Hat Yai, a city near the border with Malaysia. Staff treat locals – spanning every age group – with congeniality.
Dishes at this Peckham eaterie are designed for sharing tapas-style – much of the menu is built around less familiar street food options, such as curry featuring firm-fleshed yam bean root. Seasonal western ingredients are given some Thai treatment, in dishes like palourde clams in an aromatic broth of ginger, celery, samphire and pickled plum, or stir-fried hispi cabbage. The dining room has a contemporary feel and the staff are young and enthusiastic.
Venue says: “A complimentary glass of house wine at Champor Champor in London Bridge. To receive, please mention you booked through Time Out.”
In Malay, ‘champor-champor’ means ‘mix and match’ – a fitting name for the interior and the menu. The interior exudes a yogic calm and the cooking is ‘Thai-Malay’, but also fuses East and West with the likes of roasted monkfish with spinach-and-ricotta ravioli and curried mango purée. Fish dishes are well rendered and there are plenty of vegetarian options. Desserts – steamed taro and black rice pudding, say, or green tea and pistachio parfait – are also more than an afterthought.
For more than 25 years, Esarn Kheaw has been serving north-eastern (Esarn) Thai cooking to an appreciative crowd of locals. The dark dining room may be starting to show its age, but the cooking is as good as ever. Think marinated chargrilled beef with a minced catfish, anchovy and green chilli dip (num prik pla sod), and a blisteringly hot vegetarian version of coconut milk-free jungle curry. Don’t miss the boiled and deep-fried ‘son-in-law eggs’ – a delicious mouth-cooling addition to spicy food.
Venue says: “SUMMER MENU LAUNCHED: Come and try our crispy suckling pork belly and pickled watermelon salad with fresh raspberry nham jim dressing.”
Talk about fusion: Farang must be the only restaurant in London that mixes tongue-blastingly authentic north-eastern Thai cuisine with an Italian-style dining room. It matters not. Set up as a residency while the lease on the family’s local Italian was being renewed, Farang has wowed north-Londoners with its ingenuity (some dishes are still cooked in the pizza oven), authenticity (chef Seb Holmes is an alumnus of The Begging Bowl and Smoking Goat) and great value. Try it while you can.
In a shabby boozer around the back of the Edgware Road, the Heron is a rough diamond – beyond its slightly dingy interior, you’ll discover some of the most authentic Thai food in London. It specialises in north-eastern cooking, with an impressive range of spicy salads, sour curries and stir-fries. Expect things to get lively after 9pm as the dining room doubles as a karaoke lounge. The service couldn’t be friendlier.
The decor may be slinky and contemporary, but Isarn’s menu can be surprisingly wallet-friendly – set lunches, served in a bento box, are good value, and include a selection of spring rolls or fish cakes, curry, rice and fruit. Don’t expect authentic Thai fire or superb cooking, but do sample some of the restaurant’s more unusual dishes, along with stalwarts like curries and pad thai – all stylishly presented. The narrow dining room is often packed and it remains a cut above several local establishments.
KaoSarn has always been one of the biggest crowd-pullers in Brixton Village Market and quite rightly so; the food is not only cheap, but bursting with authentic Thai flavours. The menu is pared down to a handful of classic curries, noodle dishes and stir-fries – all well prepared. Soft drinks include fragrant own-made lemongrass or ginger tea, and there’s also the option to bring your own bottle. Service can be a little matter of fact, but staff are unfailingly friendly.
For intense, edgy, exciting Thai food, head to the ground floor of chef Ben Chapman’s second Thai restaurant in the capital, where a stainless steel counter (for walk-ins only) gives terrific views of the theatrical open kitchen. Stripped-back dishes – mostly cooked on the chargrill or over coals in the ceramic charcoal burner – are inspired by rural Thailand but, as at Kiln’s sister restaurant, Smoking Goat, use first-class UK produce. To drink, you can choose from apt wines, cool cocktails and eastern-flavoured iced teas.
Nipa, housed in the Lancaster London, is plush and polished – waitresses wear traditional attire and tables are immaculately laid with white cloths. Grab a window spot for views of Hyde Park across the road. The menu offers classic Thai cooking, including a few less-common dishes. Food is attractively presented, and chilli is used in moderation, so as not to offend the well-turned-out international patrons. Opt for a set meal and Nipa can also deliver smart dining at relatively affordable prices.
The Patara chain menu has a wide choice of dishes, with a good use of UK produce woven into a classic and modern selection of upmarket Thai cuisine. All dishes display a clear respect for quality ingredients, especially the chicken and prawn satay. There’s also a fantastic cocktail menu, making this a great venue for a night on the town. The decor is stylish, with wood panelling, cosy low lighting and minimalist furnishings.
The cooking at this Spitalfields Thai restaurant will blow you away – literally and metaphorically. It’s food from Thailand’s north-eastern provinces, where nothing gets dumbed down and your tastebuds will be held at gunpoint. Unforgettable dishes include the deep-fried sea bass with Esarn (north-eastern) herbs and the dry jungle curry made with guinea fowl. Don’t miss the silky palm sugar ice cream (think burnt toffee and salt), matched with grilled turmeric-tinged banana. Come as a group because you can book ahead and get better seats.
Part of a three-strong chain, including Suk Saran in Wimbledon and Suksan in Chelsea, Sukho exudes elegance and charm. The dining room makes it an ideal setting for a romantic meal, although a banquette by the window is just a little too squishy from regular use. Sea bass marinated in red curry paste is attractively presented on a banana leaf. To drink, there’s plenty for wine-lovers, plus Thai beer and teas including a sweet, herbal chrysanthemum infusion.