Thankfully for the food historians, there are still a few working examples of the lazy predecessor to the gastro pub. The Windmill on the Cut in Waterloo is one (though the clientele and the actors spilling from the nearby theatres mean it's still one of my favourite pubs in London, albeit not for the food). Latymers in Hammersmith suburb Brook Green is another. Pre-prepared tasting sauces, frozen veg and factory spring rolls, old sticky rice and tough fatty duck all reared their heads. This is food you'll keep eating for a while afterwards, and not in a good way.
Thankfully, within London at least, there are enough people out there who manage to cook decent Thai food, taking it out of its inauspicious start to provide a solidly egalitarian lunch or dinner option. Around the capital I'd note a few worth popping into; Rosas (Spitalfields and Soho), The Pepper Tree in Clapham, Thai Corner Cafe in Dulwich, Brixton Market's Khaosarn and Spicy Basil in Kilburn (an old favourite on trips to the Tricycle Theatre).
Its bright, open corner location opens up wonderfully in the early January light and large open windows and outside seating will be a godsend in the summer and will near double its capacity. Fashionably small wooden tables and communal bench seating are lovely, but we were left with little room for the multiple small plates of food (yes, that again) once water and a cute little pot of Jasmine tea were stacked up.
There's not much delineation between plates that would be starter or would be main other than the price, so it helps if you're happy sharing. Prices vary from £5.50 to £12.50 and with a recommended 2-3 plates per person it can get pricy for a neighbourhood restaurant. Thankfully they include the rice in that price. While there are a few staples featured, there isn't a focus on the thick curries many will associate with the region, instead more is made of subtle and steamed melanges of exotic vegetables, herbs and fruit like galangal, morning glory, krachai and the rarer members of the aubergine family. On our trip there weren't too many dishes on the regularly changing menu, but still enough to construct a reasonable selection from.
One of the best Pad Thai dishes I've had was a smashing demonstration of how unctuous and satisfying this often bland noodle dish can be. Soft and pillowy pork belly in a light peanut sauce came with a sharp papaya salad, though the portion size was a little disappointing for the price. The only disappointment were a handful of satay pork skewers, cooked, but not charred, and without enough texture or flavour correspondingly.
There's easily enough here to bring me back, and it's a fantastic new local spot for the local lads and ladies who lunch. Given Bellenden Road's firmly cemented position as an extension to East Dulwich's Lordship Lane, I don't think that they've got anything to worry about.
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