If you love Thai food, you know you can’t ignore that craving for fresh lime, ginger, chilli and basil. As spring runs along and we dream of summer, we give you our list of London’s best Thai restaurants, for those days when a direct flight to Bangkok, Phuket, or Samui doesn’t fit into the agenda.
Serving modern Thai food with a light, casual café vibe, Rosa’s started as a humble street food stall, and has slowly expanded to a small chain with several branches across London. The family-run restaurants provide homely street food dishes at reasonable prices, often with a modern twist. Particularly noteworthy are the stir-fried crispy pork with kra pow (a crunchy Chinese take on a Thai classic), and the fragrant fresh summer rolls in peanut sauce. While they do provide the usual staples of green curry and pad Thai, be sure to browse the drinks and dessert menus, which boast a number of hot and cold Thai teas and coffees, as well as Thai whisky and Chang beer. Seated on little stools in this charming café, spooning coconut ice cream almost seems just as good as sitting by a stall in the streets of bustling Bangkok.
With an ever-growing number of branches across London, you may find yourself walking straight past Busaba – but that would be a mistake. The menu is simple yet flavoursome, providing an array of Thai salads, noodles, curries, and particularly noteworthy starters. While the dining environment is perhaps not so intimate, as guests are seated at communal tables, this is easily forgotten once the flavours of the food take the stage. Definite must-tries include the peppercorn squid calamari and the chargrilled duck breast in tamarind sauce. Amongst incense, floating orchids, and dark wood, the atmosphere here is sleek and stylish, yet try to avoid peak lunch and dinner times where possible – Busaba is a popular choice, and it is clear why.
Serving contemporary Thai cuisine, Patara is an import to London straight from Bangkok. While there have been a few changes in the menu, this West London chain still holds plenty of variety with well presented, genuine dishes, in a modern environment. Highly recommended is the seafood at Patara, in particular the sea bass wrapped in chargrilled banana leaf. Whilst the restaurants are small and tables are close, get into the groove and imagine yourself in a hot Thai market after hours, as you order that local speciality of fragrant sticky rice with mango, a true favourite whatever the weather.
Barbecued meat is certainly a favourite in Thailand, whether it is eaten on the rural roadside during a pit stop, or during lunch hour between skyscrapers. Within a dimly lit, smoky space in Soho, The Smoking Goat captures some of this essence, featuring meats and seafood combined with exquisite flavours cooked on a wood-fired grill. The sweet and sticky fish sauce chicken wings are a must-try, and will take any Thai native right back to the days when mum made them. The Smoking Goat certainly embraces more of the cool, modern vibes of Thailand. Be prepared to leave messier than when you arrived – this food calls for using your hands and licking up every last bit of sauce.
The family-run Esarn Kheaw boasts many charming homemade dishes, such as the typical sour Thai style sausages. The atmosphere here is modest, but certainly comes with a genuine, homely Thai charm. The dishes are reasonably priced, and have the flair of a local market place restaurant in north Thailand. There is always a lot of native Thai clientele, which is a good sign, and the food really shows the beauty of cooking with tradition and care.
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