The best Thai restaurants in London.

July 26, 2015 1 Comment

Brisket & Bone Marrow dish in review of Smoking Goat restaurant

Brisket & Bone Marrow Massaman @ Smoking Goat
I’m often asked which are the best or most “authentic” Thai restaurants in London and it’s a question that I have problems answering. On the surface, it should be an easy question for me to answer. I’m a Thai cook who has sampled her way through more or less every Thai dish in existence. I think that may be more hindrance than help; I tend to be super critical. More than that though, it is because I’m Thai and my tastes are Thai that I have problems recommending Thai restaurants. For many years, the type of Thai food served in the UK has become largely homogenised. We give you what we think you want to eat.  “Farang can’t eat spicy” has been the mantra of Thai restaurateurs since the year dot. ("Farang” is how we refer to non-Asians.) And to say that farang can’t eat spicy may well be a generalisation, and it’s certainly something that has changed in recent years, but it seems ingrained in many Thai restaurant owners. Something that is largely borne out by my own experiences as well; I sell a lot more of the milder Bangkok style green curry paste than I do of the spicier Southern green curry paste. As one woman wrote about the Southern paste, “this made my husband cry”, he kept eating it though I’m glad to say:-)

Of course, Thai food is not simply about levels of spiciness but recently there has been a move to more “authentic” Thai restaurants opening up.  In this instance, the word authentic mainly seems to describe restaurants serving food characteristic of northeast Thailand, a region known as Issan. I grew up in Issan, and many of my favourite dishes originate from there. Therefore, this is certainly a style of cooking that I should be able to pronounce judgement on and yet I’m hesitant. I have friends that I know would most definitely not appreciate a night out in one of these places. My daughter has friends who think they are a riot! I think this largely accounts for the mixed reviews that these restaurants get. It’s an age thing.  Often communal tables, loud music, and even louder conversation. Compare that to the more traditional Thai dining experience and you can see that these restaurants differ in far more than just the food that they serve. If you can take the noise and the bustle then certainly, any of the restaurants listed below are worth your time. As for the food being more authentic, it’s really more a case of you being able to order food that you wouldn’t come across in your average Thai restaurant. That is a further problem for me in reviewing any of these restaurants, sure, I love the food, it tickles my Issan Thai taste buds, and I haven’t had to cook it myself:-). But I'm a Thai girl from deepest Issan and there are dishes on these menus I would devour and you would refuse to eat, see the problem ? Issan food is also thought of as peasant food, in the best sense of the word of course. Have to say you need to be a fairly well heeled peasant to afford the prices in these establishments. How good are they? Well I would have problems going along with the reviews that state that they are as good as any in Thailand. To believe that is the case indicates some very limited eating experiences in Thailand. However, they are certainly as good as any you will get in the UK. Beyond that, I think the wisest thing for me to do is just to point in their direction, to me these are “Marmite” restaurants that you will either love or hate. Don’t shoot the messenger! At least not before she has come back from her jaunt to try Thai food in Edinburgh :-)

The Heron
Norfolk Crescent, London W2 2DN

Smoking Goat
7 Denmark St WC2H 8LZ
UPDATE: May 2018. Due to Crossrail works this branch has now closed but the fun continues at  Smoking Goat 64 Shoreditch High Street, , England E1 6JJ.

Som Saa
43a Commercial St
London E16BD


1 Response

Peter Doubleday
Peter Doubleday

January 07, 2022

I realise this is neither Issan nor London, but can I recommend the Chaophraya chain? If anything the inspiration seems to be from Khiri Mat (southern end of Sukhothai), but the chain does offer a “different” menu. (Ignore TripAdvisor. Every commenter seems to have gone for Pad Thai, for no good reason.)

Visited the Birmingham version a few years back, with my ex-boss (English) and his Thai wife, who I believe is also from Issan. We ordered everything on a combination of her recommendations and her conversations with the cooks, so I’d imagine we got as close to “authentic” northern provincial Thai food as you can get in this country.

I hugely enjoyed it.

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Also in Blog

Thai Green Curry Paste Ingredients
Making your own Thai green curry paste

March 23, 2017

Making your own curry paste can be fun and wonderfully therapeutic as you bash away with a mortar and pestle. A great Thai green curry depends on the quality of the paste and, so often overlooked, the quality of the coconut milk. Those two factors are the most important in determining the success of the final dish.  Not your cooking skills, not the quality of the meat you are using, be it fillet steak or the finest organic chicken.  It’s the paste and the coconut milk. It is as simple as that.

Continue Reading

The author with plate of Som Tam
My Story

July 26, 2016 10 Comments

 I grew up in a small village in the north-east of Thailand. Our methods of preparing food were very traditional and I was set to work with the mortar & pestle from a very early age. We would grow most of our ingredients ourselves, raise our own chickens and catch fish in the nearby rivers or rice paddies. Supermarkets had yet to make an appearance and what shopping we did was in local markets. Although many things have changed since then, a lot of the values remain the same. We have supe...

Continue Reading

Young coconut
How to open a young coconut

May 22, 2016

There are several ways to open a young coconut, however, if the aim is to keep the coconut shell to use as a serving bowl just a little more care is needed. You will need a strong sharp knife as you see in the pictures. Most of the time I use a meat cleaver but not everyone has one so on this occasion I've used the type of knife can be found in most kitchens. You will also see that I placed a nonslip mat under my chopping board, if you don't have one of these just make sure your chopping boar...

Continue Reading

★ Reviews

Let customers speak for us

2394 reviews
Mild Thai Green Curry
Conrad R (Glasgow, GB)
Loved the green curry!

Ordering more. Made a double batch - was tasty even after freezing!

Thai Green Curry Paste
Richard Sharp (Rotherham, GB)
Thai Green Curry Paste

Delicious. Way ahead of all those Shop bought attempts. This is the real deal.

Massaman Thai Curry Paste
Dean K (Stoke-on-Trent, GB)
Very tasty flavours

I purchased the massaman curry sauce and cooked it with beef shin, using a good quality coconut milk. It was delicious! Quite an unusual sauce with flavours that I have never eaten before and also slightly sweet which I very much enjoyed especially with the slight kick of heat at the end. I will definitely be trying some more flavours. Thank you.

Thai Green Curry Paste
Michael Williams (Oxford, GB)

These curries pace are very good and will order again brilliant

Massaman Thai Curry Paste
Julia (Croydon, GB)

Absolutely delicious. Will definitely be a repeat customer. Looking forward to trying the others. Verified Reviews Badge
Verified Reviews