Explore regional specialities as well as a roll-call of classics at our pick of Thai restaurants. London offers quality chain Thai restaurants alongside innovative joints putting unique spins on Thai street food. You'll find them all in the list below. Do you agree with the choices? Use the comments box below or tweet your suggestions.
Best Thai food in London
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 colour-coded by price, and designed for sharing tapas-style - much of the menu is built around less familiar street food options, like curry featuring firm-fleshed yam bean root. Seasonal western ingredients are given some Thai treatment, in dishes like trout in sour orange curry, or fennel and chicory with a relish of minced pork, prawn, coconut and yellow bean. The dining room has a contemporary feel and staff are young and enthusiastic.
The international Blue Elephant chain has been wowing diners with impeccable service and innovative dishes since the 1980s. The London branch has all the grandeur of an imperial palace, and riverside views to boot. Food is beautifully presented on a range of bespoke tableware: weaved bamboo containers, heavy ceramics. The menu is divided into ‘past’, ‘present’, and ‘future’ dishes. Though dishes are pricey, portions are generous, and the setting and staff are first-rate.
Busaba’s ten-strong chain has spacious shared tables, no reservations and brisk service, making it a great spot for a casual meal with friends. There are still a few dishes that aren’t often seen in London, such as the sen chan pad thai (a pimped pad thai with crab originating from the Chanthaburi province of eastern Thailand). Busaba may not be as polished or as innovative as when it opened, but you’ll still find a measure of inexpensive charm here.
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 both 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 gruyère cheese and lime with river prawns, served with wasabi-spiked potato salad. Fish dishes are well rendered and there are plenty of vegetarian options. Desserts – steamed taro and black rice pudding, say, or chocolate-chilli cheesecake – are also more than an afterthought.
For over twenty 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 chargrilled beef with onion, coriander and lime, 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.
In a shabby boozer round 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. Service couldn’t be friendlier.
The décor may be slinky and contemporary, but Isarn’s menu is surprisingly wallet-friendly. Set lunches 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 their 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 is 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 BYOB. Service can be a little matter of fact, but staff are unfailingly friendly.
Venue says: “You can now indulge some Nipa Thai delectable specialities with our early bird set menu between 5-6.30pm. Price: £23. See website for more.”
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 encompasses 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.
Find more Asian flavour in London
The Park Lounge
A comfortable, sophisticated lounge and drawing room at The Milestone Hotel. It's where they serve their popular afternoon tea. It's an afternoon tea as traditional as they come. That means a selection of teas alongside finger sandwiches, fancy pastries and fruit scones served with Devonshire clotted cream and own-made preserves. And if you want to do it a little differently? Keep an eye out for themed and special occasion teas, such as 'gentlemanly' afternoon teas, or one served with Ruinart Champagne.
Venue says: “Tuck into delicate finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones served with Devonshire clotted cream, éclairs, tartlets, cupcakes & macaroons.”