Thai comes second to Japanese in terms of my favourite cuisine. It has diversity in both methods and ingredients, using spices and herbs unheard of on this side of the world. Back in Chelsea, Thai Rice used to be my number one restaurant. The menu a variety of Thai curries, and it doesn’t try to integrate the odd Chinese black bean sauce stir-fry into the menu.
Unfortunately Canary Wharf is on the wrong side of London. Sri Nam doesn’t even pass as an oriental eatery, let alone fine-dining Thai. Nakhon is located on the quieter West Ferry Road, it boasts full-length windows, an outside terrace, and a downstairs bar.
We were led upstairs upon arrival. The restaurant was decorated with the stereotypical golden Thai Buddha, masks and chocolate brown wood against purple painted walls. It was exotic elegance. The servers were dressed in traditional gold-lined costumes, stunningly beautiful. We were the only couple apart from a party of 6 on a Friday evening.
The menu was printed in a string-bounded booklet, on thick gold-dusted papers. I was impressed. Instead of the usual mix & match (where curries can be paired with any meat of choice), the chef has shown insistence. Green curry tastes best with chicken, Massamun best matches with lamb, Red curry goes hand-in-hand with duck.
Hoy Shell Yang (Grilled scallops with a red chili & lime sauce) - £8.95
The scallops were round, plump and downright gorgeous. They were grilled on shell, with a generous drizzle of lime chili sauce, dabbed with oil. The scallops were just cooked, if not slightly under, to retain its creamy texture that blended effortlessly with the zing in the chilies and zest of the lime.
Satay Nuea (Marinated chargrill sirloin beef) - £7.15
This was one of the chef’s specialties, the one which he completely failed. There was no marinade to speak of. The meat was grilled to death and so sinewy that no amount of peanut sauce could help to restore its “swallowability”. One dead dish.
Tables were being filled with more couples around 9. The atmosphere eased up with soft murmuring in the background.
Lamb & Herbs (Stir-fried lamb with a spicy coconut sauce with thai herbs) - £8.70
(Right). I remember it being very spicy, very herby, but most importantly, the lamb was again cooked to absolute lifelessness. Might as well replace the lamb with cardboard, which would have soaked up more curry than the meat did. The spicy coconut sauce, on the other hand, was complex with distinctive layers of flavours, balanced by the fragrance of coconut.
Gaeng Ped Yang (Roast duck in unique tangy pineapple & grape coconut sauce) - £9.80
It’s basically red curry. Guess what I’m going to say? Yup, you got it. The duck must have been cooked 5 times to make sure it was certified. Roast duck carries an intrinsic dense texture with a hint of gaminess, and here the duck turns rubber with a flimsy trim of stringy fat attached. The red curry itself was great.
Mango Sticky Rice - £4.80
No Thai meal is complete without the mango sticky rice. I have developed a second stomach chamber for this. Glutinous rice rarely goes wrong, given enough sugar, cooking time and coconut milk. Nakhon got it all right. I don’t blame it for an under-ripe mango, we are deep in the winter afterall.
As you can tell, I only have one complaint: the meats. Everything else about the dishes was authentic and delightful. Was it a huge problem? Not really for me. I just left all the meats on the plate. It just somewhat defies the purpose of pairing the meats with the protein. Given the lack of choice in the neighbourhood, this is the best it has to offer.
Tel: 0207 719 8888