As unlikely venues go for lip-smacking Thai food that transports you straight to the streets of Bangkok, this pub-and-dining-room in a Paddington back-street has to top the list. The street-level boozer is so full of bric-a-brac and royal memorabilia that it’s like an antique shop run by a die-hard monarchist. A cosy log fire expels flames alongside a display cabinet of Victorian medicine bottles, black-and-white photos of the Queen Mother and a Henry VII diorama which proudly bestrides the wall when the big screen isn’t down for the football.
But in its basement lies a bright yellow restaurant serving flavour-packed Thai cuisine so unadulterated for Western tastes that calling it spicy doesn’t really do it justice (try ‘made us feel as though our mouths have spontaneously combusted’). A starter of plah goong was a salad of expertly butterflied prawns packed with crunchy coriander stems, served with a crazily zingy, citrussy, sweet dressing (which left us wanting to plunge your tongue into a stranger’s pint). The pleasingly chewy noodles, big curds of egg and monster crustaceans in a portion of prawn pad thai felt hearty and rustic (as well as making you wonder what the days when you could feel your lips were like). A sour, orange curry of gang som goong kai cha om is not the sort of dish you usually see in Thai restaurants – all tart and tamarindy and wonderful, full of chunks of ‘omelette’ that are hefty portions of green veg in a light egg coating. It was also the only dish we tasted that didn’t leave our eyes streaming.
It’s worth saying that compared to the cosy pub, the bright lighting of the basement dining room can feel sterile, so you may prefer to opt for a table in the bar (reservations are placed downstairs unless specified). If you do, you may well find a tourist-heavy crowd adding to the brilliant incongruence of the place: chilli-induced nose-blowing being performed by holidaying Irish families, Norwegian couples and the odd local hunkered down near a Winston Churchill figurine. This is a place where the full-flavoured cooking and interiors are as memorable as each other.