Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Around The World In 80 Cuisines: Thai

Fluid London attempts to circumnavigate the globe, without ever leaving London town itself, by exploring all the best bars, restaurants, pubs and clubs from various countries around the world that reside here in our great city.

(1) Thai by Claire Williams.

Everybody who is anybody is into Thai food. Thai restaurants have sprung up in London from nowhere, all jostling for position in the infamous dog-toothed food industry. And because of its feverish popularity, a lot of these Thai restaurants manage to see it through the recent economic tension, no matter whether the food proved average, good or downright horrible. Pubs serve Thai green curries next to pub grub classics such as sausages and mash or toad in the hole. Restaurants litter the streets of London, serving poor imitations of Thai favourite dishes Pad Thai and curries in vibrant reds, greens and yellows. Because of the sheer number of restaurants that sell Thai food, it’s difficult to weed out the truly great from the weak.

But there are some really great Thai restaurants in London. The Blue Elephant Thai restaurant in Fulham (above) is less about the food (as glorious and truly lovely as it is) and more about the experience. As soon as you step through the doors you’re transported to a different place altogether. Traditionally dressed waitresses lead you through tropical gardens and over manmade ponds and rivers (full to the brim with Koi carp) to your seats on a wooden walkway. The food ranges from the commercially predictable (chicken satay, Thai green chicken curry) to the inventive (som tam – shredded papaya salad, dry shrimps and lemon dressing), with an extensive vegetarian list.

Busaba Eathai (above) is a chain of restaurants in London that consistently serve authentic, interesting and inspiring Thai food. Tables that seat 16 dominate the room, so sometimes chatting in a group any larger than a two (perched at the corner of the large table) is difficult, but the prawn pomelo starters and monkfish green curry main mean that I care less about conversation and more about chewing.

There may be many Thai restaurants in London but that means the chances of finding a diamond in the rough are much higher. As a helping hand, though, check out the Fluid London guide to the Top 10 Best Thai restaurants in London.

Images courtesy of Flickr users simone.brunozzi and Kake Pugh.

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