In just under three weeks I am going to be holidaying in Thailand with my best friend. We are going to be sitting on beaches doing absolutely nothing, other than soaking up the 35˚C sun (Yes, 35˚C! Take that, London!) and eating as much of the amazing street food as we can. Pad Thai, Mango & sticky rice, Massaman curry, Penang curry, Spring rolls, fruit salads, fried rice, Barracuda skewers, fried insects (I really want to try a grasshopper!) and fresh fruit smoothies, milkshakes, milk from coconuts and buckets of Pineapple Mojito… I’m going to have it all! I completely adore Thai food. I adore Asian food in general if I’m honest. From Thai to Japanese to Chinese to Vietnamese, I find it all delicious. And London has a great selection of restaurants that pander to my love of Asian food, and I have comprised a list of some of my favourites for you, to get me in the holiday spirit.
Busaba Eathai, Store Street
This is a chain of fantastic Thai restaurants which can be found in and around the West-end (5), Chelsea, Westfield (Shepherds Bush & Stratford) and Shoreditch. They also have a restaurant located in Bicester Village; their only restaurant located outside of London. This restaurant has a huge menu of deliciously made Thai dishes and side plates, all of which you enjoy whilst sitting on wooden benches on large tables that you share with other diners. The best thing to do here is order yourself a small selection of side dishes to share, as well a bowl or two of rice, and then choose a main dish each – this is the way to get the best out of this extensive menu. The Thai Calamari (£6.50) is sweet with a small chilli kick and unlike generic calamari, it’s not coated in greasy batter which makes them even more enjoyable. The rice is beautiful too; either opt for the classic Sticky rice which works perfectly with the saucy curries, or the Coconut rice which goes wonderfully with the grilled dishes (both £3.10 each). In regards to your main, I don’t think there is a better dish than the Duck Mussaman Curry (£10.50). A thick creamy sauce, with a sweet undertone, soft potatoes, crisp peanuts and tasty onions coating tender chunks of duck. Or you might wish to opt for the classic Pad Thai (£7.90) which is fresh and full of flavour. The prices definitely don’t reflect the prices you’d pay on the Khao San Road, but considering you’re dining in London, this isn’t a badly priced meal. Service is quick and the atmosphere is enjoyable.
East Street, Rathbone Place
This pan-asian restaurant can be found in cities around the country (Manchester, Bristol, Reading) but there is only one that can be found in London, just off Oxford Street. This restaurant specialises in all Asian cuisines from all the main cuisine countries: Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Korea and Japan, and allow guests the options of curries, stir-fries, wok-fried noodles, salads, soups and side dishes. The dishes are reasonable prices and their even have a selection of offers, including an express dinner menu for £7.95 (2 courses) and a student discount of 20% with a valid student ID. The Japanese Yaki Udon is delicious, with big thick noodles and an injection of strong flavours from vegetables and fresh seafood (£8.95) As well as this, the Thai Penang curry with its aubergines, peanuts and a taste of fresh lime, accompanied by a choice of prawn (£8.95) or chicken (£7.95) is also a great choice.
Ping Pong, Great Marlborough Street
Dim Sum is my new favourite food, and by extension Ping Pong, a London-based chain, is one of my new favourite restaurants. The restaurants themselves are chic in decoration, and allow you the option of independent of shared table dining, just in case you’re feeling sociable. Once you have your seat, you can review the extensive menu of all types of Dim Sum you can imagine, with a large choice of money-saving meal options which allow you to try the best they have to offer. Not only is the food in this place gorgeous, the drinks are too. Try the Strawberry and Vanilla Ice Tea, which is sweet and thirst quenching (£3.05) or if you feel a bit adventurous, go for one of their cocktails – the Wasabi & Amaretto Sour (£6.15) is well worth a try as i’m almost certain you won’t have tried a drink like this before. However, if you’re not a fan of wasabi, steer clear. You won’t like it!! I believe the best way to go in regards to food is a set menu. If there are two of you, opt for the Sharing Selection (£36 for two) which will allow you to sample a selection of steamed, fried, griddled and rice dishes, as well as a tasty dessert! The best dishes of this selection for me were definitely the duck spring rolls, char sui buns and the king prawn and scallop sticky rice. Alternatively, if you visit on a Sunday it is definitely worth opting for the Sumdays offer, where you can try as many dishes as you wish for £20.95 each. It’s an ‘all you can eat’ offer, with no time limit, so you can keep eating and trying new dishes until you’re ready to pop! Some terms and conditions apply, but the menu is so broad you won’t notice the restrictions. This is an awesome restaurant to go if you fancy trying something different.
Feng Sushi, Southbank
This is a lovely sushi restaurant that can be found directly next door to the Royal Festival Hall on the Southbank, as well as at several other locations within London, including Fulham and Chelsea, Borough Market, Chalk Farm and Notting Hill. This Southbank restaurant is small, but can seat a reasonable number of people. Unlike successful chains like Wasabi and Yo! Sushi whereby you can serve yourselves delicious dishes from a belt, this is a table service restaurant, and you choose your dishes from a menu that offers many different types of sushi, from hand rolls and sashimi to miso and tempura. If you’re new to sushi and up for trying a bit of everything, it’s worth ordering the 22 piece dish (£18) which includes squid nigiri, cucumber and tuna maki and salmon, tuna, yellow tail and salmon faux unagi. This is great even if you’re a sushi pro – you get a good selection of your favourites. Their house wine is great too, and the white complements this selection really well.
Hare & Toiroise, Brunswick Centre
This cheap and cheerful London chain with restaurants in Bloomsbury, Ealing, Putney, Blackfriars and Kensington predominantly specialises in Japanese food, but you will be able to spot the occasional Thai, Chinese and Singaporean dishes on the menu. The food is cheap but tasty, and service is quick and efficient. The restaurant itself is set out a bit like a canteen – it’s not a particularly attractive looking restaurant, but for the price you pay for the food, you’re not really going to be bothered by this. There are plenty of promotions available on a daily basis, including Kani Tempura for £1 and seasonal offers such as Pad Thai for £6.30. A very tasty option is the Yaki Udon (Wok-fried thick white noodles with prawns, squid, char siu pork, naturo, crabsticks, Chinese mushroom, carrot, onion and beansprouts), which is incredibly filling for a regular sized portion and will only set you back £6.80. This is a great place to come for a speedy lunch.
This is only a small list of my favourite Asian restaurants in London, I obviously haven’t included my favourite ‘end of the night’ China Town haunts (Hungs, Wardour Street if you were wondering) or any of the generic country-wide chains that I enjoy on a regular basis (Yo Sushi, of course), you can find out about those yourself. But hopefully the ones I have spoken about might inspire you to go and try some of these cuisines if you haven’t already, and if you have, then good – these are great places to find your favourites.