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Farang

London’s best Thai restaurants

These impressive Thai restaurants have a whole lot more to offer than a solid green curry

Sarah Cohen
Written by
Time Out London editors
&
Sarah Cohen
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The capital’s Thai food scene is hugely underrated – and way more varied that you might expect. London’s best Thai restaurants do the staples – green curry, pad thai, tom yum et al – extremely well, but also offer spicy street food, tangy tapas and fiery regional fare. And you can enjoy your Thai feast everywhere from a buzzy pub basement to a luxe hotel. What are you waiting for?

RECOMMENDED: London’s best Chinese restaurants.

London’s best Thai restaurants

101 Thai Kitchen
  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Hammersmith

The cooking at this no-nonsense Hammersmith establishment is largely from the Isaan region of north-eastern Thailand – including multiple versions of green papaya salad, accompanied by anything from salted duck egg to sausage. Also expect various southern dishes such as sour prawn curry or turmeric-marinated sea bass prepared by ‘Auntie Bee’ from Hat Yai, a city near the border with Malaysia. Staff treat locals with congeniality – whatever their age.

Begging Bowl
  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Peckham

Tapas-style sharing is the name of the game at this Peckham favourite, and much of the menu is built around less familiar street-food options, such as a curry featuring firm-fleshed yam bean root. Seasonal western ingredients are also given the Thai treatment – perhaps stir-fried hispi cabbage or palourde clams in an aromatic broth of ginger, celery, samphire and pickled plum. The dining room’s contemporary feel is matched by enthusiastic young staff.

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  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • London Bridge

In Malay, ‘champor-champor’ means ‘mix and match’ – a fitting name for both the interior and the menu at this long-running restaurant. The interior exudes a yogic calm and the cooking is Thai-Malay, although you’ll also find some east-west fusion in the shape of, say, pan-fried red snapper with Malaysian sambal sauce and squid-ink linguine. Veggies get a decent deal, and desserts such as steamed taro and black rice pudding are also more than an afterthought.

  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Shepherd’s Bush

For more than 25 years, Esarn Kheaw has been serving north-eastern Thai food 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 – witness marinated chargrilled beef with a minced catfish, anchovy and green chilli dip or a blisteringly hot vegetarian jungle curry. Also don’t miss the boiled and deep-fried son-in-law eggs – a delicious mouth-cooling foil to the spicy food.

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  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Highbury
  • price 2 of 4

Talk about fusion: Farang must be the only restaurant in London that mixes tongue-blasting Thai cuisine with an Italian-style dining room. It matters not. Set up as a residency while the lease on the family’s local trattoria was being renewed, Farang has wowed north Londoners with its keen prices and ingenuity – some dishes are still cooked in the old pizza oven. But with chef Seb Holmes (ex-Begging Bowl and Smoking Goat) at the helm, authenticity is guaranteed.

  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Paddington
  • price 1 of 4

Housed in the basement of a shabby boozer around the back of the Edgware Road, the Heron is a rough diamond, but beyond its slightly dingy interior, you’ll discover some of the most authentic Thai food in London. The kitchen specialises in north-eastern cooking, with an impressive range of spicy salads, sour curries and stir-fries. Expect things to get lively after 9pm, when the dining room doubles as a karaoke lounge. Service couldn’t be friendlier.

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Isarn
  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Islington

The decor may be slinky and contemporary, but Isarn’s menu can be surprisingly wallet-friendly – bento box lunches including spring rolls or fishcakes, curry, rice and fruit are particularly good value. Don’t expect authentic Thai fire or top-of-the-range cooking but do sample some of the restaurant’s more unusual dishes, alongside its stylishly presented curries and pad thai. Isarn is still a cut above the local norm, and the narrow dining room is often packed.

  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Brixton

KaoSarn has always been one of the crowd-pullers in Brixton Village Market and quite rightly so: the food is not only cheap, but is also bursting with authentic Thai flavours. The menu is pared down to a handful of classic curries, noodle dishes and stir-fries, although everything is up to standard. Soft drinks include fragrant homemade lemongrass or ginger tea, and you can also BYO. Service can be a little matter of fact, but staff are unfailingly friendly.

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Kiln
  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Soho
  • price 2 of 4

For intense, edgy and exciting Thai food, head to the ground floor of chef Ben Chapman’s Soho barnstormer, 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 much of the produce comes from the UK. To drink, you can choose from spice-friendly wines, cool cocktails and eastern-flavoured iced teas.

  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Bermondsey
  • price 2 of 4

As a modern Thai restaurant, Kin + Deum (literally ‘eat + drink’) is the full shebang: a laidback, minimalist space serving up big helpings of thrilling, Bangkok-inspired food with the help of some genuinely lovely staff. Our top picks? The crunchy, chewy red rice curry salad, the soft aubergine with a tangy tamarind dip, the pitch-perfect som tam and the eye-wateringly fiery pad spaghetti prawn kee mao (spiked with ferocious bird’s eye chillies). 

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Nipa Thai
  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Bayswater

Squirrelled away in the Lancaster London hotel, Nipa Thai is plush and polished – note the waitresses in traditional attire and immaculately laid white-clothed tables. Grab a window spot for views of Hyde Park across the road. The menu offers classic Thai cooking (including a few less-familiar dishes), everything is attractively presented, and chilli is used in moderation, so as not to offend the well-turned-out international patrons. For smart dining at relatively affordable prices, opt for the set menu.

  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Soho

It may be part of an international chain, but Patara still feels distinctive: the low-lit wood-panelled dining room exudes an air of confident sophistication, staff are polite, and the cooking is a refined take on generic Thai cuisine overlaid with westernised ideas – think osso bucco braised in massaman curry sauce with lotus seeds. With a zesty cocktail list added to the mix, Patara is great for a night on the town. There are branches across the capital.   

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Singburi
  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Leytonstone
  • price 1 of 4

A veteran of the Leytonstone scene (and still something of a local secret), this tiny family-run Thai café scores in every department. The BYO policy is definitely key to its boozy appeal, but the food is also a blast – staunchly traditional, potently spiced and delivered without ceremony from the open kitchen. Prices are fair, service is matter of fact and the place is rampantly popular – despite the hassle of booking a table over the phone.  

  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Shoreditch
  • price 2 of 4

The brazen Shoreditch reincarnation of Soho’s teeny-weeny Smoking Goat promises smack-in-the-face Thai barbecue in a jam-packed industrial-meets-rustic setting – all smoke, loud music and high-strength alcohol. The food is laced with volcanically hot mouse-dropping chillies, and the flavours will hit you for six (try the lardo-fried rice or the signature fish-sauce chicken wings) – although your wallet won’t be seriously dented, even if you go heavy on the booze. This is really drinking food at its best.

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Som Saa
  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Spitalfields
  • price 3 of 4

With full-frontal, never-dumbed-down flavours from Thailand’s north-eastern provinces, the cooking at Som Saa is guaranteed to blow you away. Unforgettable dishes include deep-fried sea bass with regional herbs and a dry jungle curry made with guinea fowl – but don’t miss the silky palm-sugar ice cream (think burnt toffee and salt), matched with grilled turmeric-tinged banana.

  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Fulham

A spicy favourite in Parsons Green, Sukho exudes Thai elegance and charm. The dining room is tailor-made for a romantic meal, while the menu offers some good-looking dishes for sharing and ogling – we’re thinking of the sea bass marinated in red curry paste, which arrives attractively presented on a banana leaf. To drink, there’s plenty for wine lovers, plus Thai beer and a sweet, herbal chrysanthemum infusion. Related to Suksan in Chelsea.

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