Quick and tasty Thai food
Thai Square Restaurants (London)
Member Name: sunmeilan
Thai Square Restaurants (London)
Advantages: Great food and service
Disadvantages: Not much atmosphere, expensive
There is no shortage of Thai restaurants in London - great ones, bad ones and average ones. This particular one, in Central London along The Strand, is not the most atmospheric that I've ever been to, but the food is good. Best of all, it is extremely central, so if you are planning to go to the West End, it is right on the doorstep. It is part of a chain and there are a number of branches across Inner and Outer London, including Putney, Aldwych, Soho, South Kensington, Richmond and Windsor.
=== Location and opening hours ===
148 The Strand
London WC2R 1JA
Tel: 020 7497 0904
It is incredibly easy to reach on public transport - the nearest tube stations are Temple, Holborn and Covent Garden, Charing Cross train station is just down the road and it is on a number of bus lines that go down The Strand. Drury Lane is literally just across the road.
The restaurant is open from Monday to Saturday (restaurants near The City are often closed on a Sunday) from noon to 3pm and then 5.30-11.15pm.
=== First impressions ===
Walking in, it is immediately obvious that the restaurant is roomy - it can fit around 100 people at a time, although it was virtually empty when we went on a Saturday. The decor is very clean and there are few decorations to make it look like a Thai restaurant, but what does exist is very sophisticated and well chosen. Apart from that, there is very little to mention about the decor. It does its job, but this isn't a restaurant that is going to leave an impression with the diner. There is a feeling that people are expected to eat and leave as soon as possible - purely because of the functionality of the place, rather than any suggestion that the staff wanted rid of us.
=== Food and drink ===
The menu is one of the best I've seen in a Thai restaurant. Most restaurants have the same few dishes - a couple of varieties of curry and some stir fries, but a couple of choices of starters. Here, the menu is several pages long and there is enough choice to suit even the most picky of eaters. There are a couple of set menus, which is almost certainly aimed at the theatre crowd who really do just want to eat and go. There is a really great choice of starters, including the usual wontons, fish cakes and spare ribs, but also including a very tasty Thai 'sausage', which is apparently a Northern Thai dish. For those who like soup and salad, there's a reasonable variety. I didn't have it this time, but the Larb Gai (salad of minced chicken with lemongrass and lime) was really tempting.
The main courses are mouth watering. The menu is divided into pan-fried dishes, seafood, curries and chef's choices, all of which give a choice of about 25 dishes - and that's not including the vegetarian options. In fact, there is a whole vegetarian sub-menu, which will please the non-carnivores in the party. There are also a few noodle and rice dishes for those who want something simple - the Pad Thai would have made a great lunch on its own, it certainly looked big enough. The different spice levels are illustrated by chilli peppers - three obviously means it's very hot, none means it's virtually not spicy at all.
Our starters included the Thai sausage, fried wontons and fish cakes. I was a little disappointed with the wontons - they were supposed to be stuffed with minced chicken and prawn, but there was so little that it couldn't really be tasted. The wonton shells just tasted of oil and were really only improved by the chilli sauce that they came with. However, the sausage was divine - I think it was made of chicken and the lemongrass came through very strongly - and the fishcakes were lovely, with a hint of curry.
The main courses were even better. They included chicken stir fried with basil and chillies, a duck curry with lychees, coconut milk and peppers and beef stir fried with a chilli sauce and peppers was ordered with rice to accompany. Each dish was divine. The chicken was spicy, exactly as required, the beef and duck perfectly cooked and the vegetables as fresh as they could be. I was impressed; for a chain restaurant, the food was really very good. I was also impressed to find out that each restaurant has a slightly different menu, so if there is something you particularly want to try, it is worth looking at the online menus to compare and contrast.
We had water and Tiger beer with our meal, but there was a comprehensive wine list and spirits are available too. I thought the Tiger beer was expensive, at £4 for just a small bottle, but it was worth it.
=== Service ===
As is often the case in Thai restaurants, the serving girls were charming - very young and not always with excellent English, but that was a small price to pay. The dishes were served very quickly. The toilets were very modern and spotless - nothing to complain about.
=== Cost ===
It's not cheap, but then it is a restaurant in Central London, so that is to be expected. Our meal came to about £45, so around £15 per person, although it could easily have been a lot more had we gone for more drinks and coffee or dessert. Theatre goers should look at the set menus, which could be much better value - but to be honest, I thought it was reasonable for the quality of the food.
=== Conclusion ===
If you're looking for a good meal and don't really care about your surroundings other than it needs to be in Central London, then this is an ideal choice. I don't have any long-lasting memories of the restaurant itself, but the food was great and there is so much choice that I doubt anyone will have a problem finding something they enjoy. There are better Thai restaurants in London (I particularly love Spicy Basil in Kilburn and The Bourgainvillea Cafe in Putney), but this is definitely worth a visit. Recommended.
Summary: Good Thai food in Central London