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The Thai Pavilion, Rupert Steet, London W1

Huw Pryce finds a somewhat Nearer Pavilion

British Thai cuisine has grown over the last ten years. Not so many years ago there were only a specialist few restaurants, many of which still command an international clientele and some of which offer weird fusions (think of The Walnut Tree's remarkable Italian/Thai menu!).

These days you can buy Thai food in your local pub. Some of these establishments boast a real, Thai chef, or at least a real chef - sadly others tend to boast a bank of microwaves and a selection of plastic baggies marked Centralised Thai Kitchen from Hell.

The Thai Pavilion, if not among the first wave, must, at nine years of age, count among the well established in its ethnic group. Behind a modest window in the heart of London's Theatreland, the TP boasts a series of sparsely lavish eating areas on several levels, including a floor devoted to traditional, cross-legged dining, which is available for parties and block bookings.

The hors d'oeuvres, 11 items out of 85 on the main menu (desserts don't quite push it up to 100), are a rich and varied lot. I chose the Second Paradise - a selection of appetisers including delicate, aromatic fish cakes, prawns in sarongs of light oriental batter and the ubiquitous spring rolls. It looked wonderful, so we ordered a second, which, coupled with our order of Huy Siam - mussels in a delicious chilli sauce with lemon grass and other spices - brought the total of starters to three between two. We washed these down with a glass of Bouvet Ladubay Saumur Saphir Brut, a delicious Loire sparkler.

The Huy Siam was so good I was only vaguely aware of the embarrassing collection of sauce in my beard. I was eventually reduced to trying the various bits and pieces left in the sauce after the mussels had run out - not a good move: these bits and pieces are largely lemon grass and inedible.

The Kai Tom Kha, a soup of chicken in coconut cream flavoured with galangal, was so filling after one and a half starters, I was given both to envy my colleague his Kang Chued Pla Muk Sot Sai (baby squid rings filled with chicken, floating in a clear soup), and fear the arrival of the main course.

Which was huge and - as a result of our ordering everything at once and then sending in an additional order which slowed us, but not the kitchen, down, - a bit old. Nevertheless my unadventurous order of Talay Thai or barbecued seafood paid off, allowing me to eat a meal composed almost entirely of small nibbles. Colleague's grilled duck with crushed peppercorns was also something of a winner. In one of many departures from Thai orthodoxy the TP uses Madagascan pepper for much of its seasoning, because it is uniquely aromatic. Only the Khao Nioe - Thai sticky rice - had really suffered from our self-indulgent delay and had dried out a little.

The wine we chose was Château Loudenne, a Bourjois cru Médoc, Bordeaux of impeccable character, at a very reasonable price. The TP wine list is every bit as extensive as the menu and the prices are set well below the West End norm.

The thought of desserts was even more daunting, and this is where a good menu comes into its own. Both desserts were light and small but amazingly intense; the Mousse de Mangues (mango mousse) and Crème Caramel Sang Kaya were a triumph of quality over quantity. The Crème caramel was particularly good, dripping with a sweet, nutty sauce.

Coffee cups at the TP are not bottomless as is the custom in some restaurants; this is worth remembering if you want more than a thimbleful.

Thai food has yet to gain the level of availability of Chinese or Indian Cuisine in the UK, but if you wanted to try it out, or if you know the ropes and are looking for a good meal the Thai Pavilion has to be one of the West End's better options at these prices.

Huw Pryce - February 1999

 

Menu:

Hors D'oeuvres £4.95 - £6.95

Second Paradise & Hoy Siam - both £4.95

Soups £4.50 - £9.90

Kai Tom Kha & Kang Chued Pla Muk Sot Sai - both £4.95

Main Courses & Salads £5.50 - £16.75

Talay Thai - £11.95 Grilled Duck - £8.95

Side Dishes £4.50 - £4.95

Rice & Noodles £1.80 - £5.95 Sticky Rice £2.95

Wine

House White & Red £10.95 - £11.95

Bouvet Ladaubay Saumur £14.95 or £3.95 per glass

Château Loudenne £15.95 (!)


Thai Pavilion 42 Rupert Street, Piccadilly, London W1
020 7287 6333 Fax 020 7587 0484

Also at: 11-15 Melbourne Grove, Dulwich SE22
Tel: 020 8299 3973

The Thai Pavilion's own website: http://www.thaipavilion.com

For functions and special occasions call 020 7587 0455 Fax 020 7587 0484


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Dine Online Copyright by Clifton Media Associates, London UK February 1999, All rights reserved.

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