When Kiln Soho opened last year, everything about it excited me: Northern Thai food, cooked entirely over fire in front of your eyes and relaxed bar seating – two of my favourite things.
So, when we rocked up at 7pm on a Saturday night, we were more than willing to wait our turn, and wait we did. Instead of hanging about, we pottered off into the depths of Soho, where we enjoyed several exorbitantly priced but marvellous cocktails (in The Den @ 100 Wardour Street). When our spot at the bar was ready, we received a text from Kiln informing us that our spot at the bar was ready, which was lucky for my wallet as our drinks tab was starting to make me nervous!
One of my favourite dishes was the chicken – the finest I’d eaten all year, with its crispy skin and a juicy thigh with all the barbecue char of summer. I also loved the dinky lamb skewers dusted with Sichuan pepper, cumin and a hefty amount of salt.
Next up was the langoustines ceviche, which epitomised the taste of Thailand – heady chilli, zesty lime juice and fragrant sweet mint. We also devoured the rich and unctuous brown crab meat and the pork belly and glass noodle claypot.
We rounded all of this off with a ridiculously moreish Southern-style dry, minced pork curry spiked with heat and providing a huge hit of umami. We also had a rich, short rib Burmese curry, which according to my partner, was the best dish he’s ever eaten.
The chefs here all cook with mesmerising skill. Within the restaurant, there’s a gorgeous hum, and a sense of the here and now, which helps keep you present, focusing on the food and the atmosphere.
The cooking station is covered with burnt embers and ash and is laden with precariously balanced claypots that have seen better days alongside ready and waiting red-hot woks. We watched as mussels were scorched momentarily over naked flames until they opened to provide them with a smoky flavour.
Despite the chaos, there is a surprising calm, and the presentation of the food is sophisticated. All the dishes we enjoyed were beautiful, intriguing, feisty morsels that I simply couldn’t get enough of. Quite simply, it’s a place that brings me so much joy it makes me happy to be alive.
58 Brewer Street
Renowned as one of London’s best Thai establishments, Nipa Thai is a 55-seat Thai restaurant located on the first floor of the Lancaster London hotel. Boasting unrivalled views across Hyde Park, it's perfectly situated for those looking for fabulous Thai cuisine in central London.
Nipa Thai strives to be as authentic as possible. Everything from its Thai staff to the decor (a teak panelled interior with traditional Thai furnishings), to its cuisine (made using original Thai ingredients), helps to reinforce this. Given that Nipa Thai has received the prestigious 'Thai Select' award from the Thai Government for its excellence and that it's further bolstered by its 2AA Rosettes rating, and one can gather that they must be doing something right when it comes to nailing authenticity.
The menu at Nipa Thai
The extensive à la carte menu at Nipa Thai includes starters such as Por Pia Tod (crisp spring rolls containing glass noodles, cabbage and crab meat with a sweet plum sauce). Main course dishes include specialities such as Pla Nueng Ma Nao (steamed seabass in a garlic, lemongrass, lime leaf and chilli broth). There is also a wide selection of Thai salads, pan-fried dishes and red or green Thai curries. Delicately flavoured Thai desserts include favourites such as Caramel Lychees (caramel delice with a crunchy lychee centre, chilli and pineapple Carpaccio with salted caramel ice cream).
Our visit to Nipa Thai
During our visit we were well looked after by Nipa Thai’s Restaurant Manager, Kaseam Jongpitakrat. Given the extensive size of the menu, Jongpitakrat talked us through the options and provided recommendations.
We started with the Por Pia Tod (£11.00), deep fried spring rolls filled with glass noodles, cabbage and oriental mushrooms, and a portion of prawn crackers (a classic favourite). Next we tried the Satay Kai (£11.00), char-grilled marinated chicken served with peanut sauce and cucumber relish, which was nutty and scrumptious. It was also recommended that we try the Kao Krieb Pak Moh, a steamed rice wrap, sautéed chicken, shallots, roasted peanuts, served with crisp lettuce, fresh chillies and coriander. The lettuce provided a pleasing crunch and it was very tasty indeed.
For our mains, we had Panang Nuea Rue Moo (£16.00), dry and aromatic beef red coconut curry with basil and kaffir lime leaves, the Kaeng Kiew Warn Kai (£16.00), vibrant chicken and Thai aubergine in a spicy green coconut curry, and the Kuey Tiew Phad See Iew Kai (£12.00), wok stir-fried rice noodles with chicken and oriental greens. All of the dishes had great depth of flavour and were nicely presented. My favourite dish hands down was the Kaeng Kiew Warn Kai,which was gorgeous and had a bit of a kick without being too over-the-top spicy.
After our meal, the waitress provided us with a steaming hot hand towel, which is always a nice touch. Although we were ridiculously full after our Thai feast, my friend and I shared a banana fritter with ice cream.
As Nipa Thai is located in a hotel, it can be a bit lacking in ambience, depending on the time of day that you visit. Overall, the food is fantastic, and it's a great place to visit if you're seeking premium quality Thai food in relaxing surroundings.
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