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You don’t have to look very hard to find a Thai restaurant, but which ones will deliver? Square Meal takes some tips from Thai Select
In recent years, Thai restaurants have sprung up on almost every high street in the land. Such is the demand for the fragrant, colourful dishes of Thailand that fishcakes and green curry seem to be on offer everywhere you turn. But with so many restaurants to choose from, how do you know which of them are actually worth a visit? The answer couldn’t be simpler: just look for the Thai Select logo.
Awarded by the Thai government, this mark of quality guarantees that regardless of the price point – from casual cafes to upmarket fine diners – you can expect delicious food made from genuine Thai ingredients. It also means you can expect to receive that characteristically warm Thai hospitality and a welcoming ambience.
For a restaurant to receive this coveted seal of approval, it must first meet a strict set of criteria. So while there are 1,000-odd Thai restaurants operating across the UK, only 130 have achieved Thai Select status to date. Applicants are visited in secret by members of the selection committee, which is made up of Thai government officials from the Royal Thai Embassy.
For a restaurant to be successful, firstly, the head chef, while not needing to be a Thai national, must have had a minimum of a year’s training in the preparation of Thai food. Secondly, the restaurant must use traditional Thai ingredients, such as lemongrass, galangal, Thai basil, coconut and tamarind, though these can be used creatively within the individual dishes. At Belgravia’s Nahm, for example, chef David Thompson may be Australian, but the quality of his innovative dishes – and the authentic Thai ingredients that go into them – means that both his Michelin star and the restaurant’s Thai Select status are richly deserved.
So wherever you are on your culinary travels, be it at home or abroad, look out for the Thai Select logo. For a full list of restaurants and more about the Thai Select scheme, visit www.thaiselect.co.uk
at Taste of London, 18-21 June 2009, Regent’s Park
This year, the world’s biggest restaurant festival, Taste of London, will be showcasing the best of Thai food and culture. The ‘Taste of Thailand’ section will feature a number of the capital’s favourite Thai restaurants – all worthy Thai Select standard-bearers – such as Benja, Busaba Eathai, Blue Elephant, Mango Tree and Nahm, serving up a selection of their signature dishes. Nipa and Patara will be leading cookery demonstrations, while Thai Square is creating a cosy bar area to serve Thai drinks, including a cocktail created especially for the festival. There will also be a range of other cultural experiences, including live music and dancing, Thai produce for sale, plus a selection of award-winning Thai wine to sample and purchase. For more information, visit www.tastefestivals.com/london/features/taste-of-thailand.html
There are numerous restaurants holding the Thai Select award across the capital. Here are five of Square Meal’s favourites.
4 Fulham Broadway, SW6 1AA
020 7385 6595
Fulham institution with outstanding service and decor reminiscent of eating in a lush jungle. Serves up modern classics such as salad of green papaya with dried shrimp and lemon, and spicy fried sirloin with Thai aubergines.
The Halkin, 5 Halkin Street, SW1X 7DJ
020 7333 1234
Michelin-starred restaurant within The Halkin, where the neutral decor is a blank canvas for the perfectly balanced flavours. Sample crispy fish salad with sweet pork and green mango, or a fiery curry of minced quail with wild ginger, white turmeric and holy basil.
15 Greek Street, W1D 4DP
020 7437 1071
Soho outpost of this mini-chain, where the upmarket Thai decor is matched by a classy menu. Opt for a salad of smoked salmon, pomelo and tamarind, or tender lamb shank with red curry sauce spiked with kaffir lime leaves.
855 Fulham Road, SW6 5HJ
020 7371 7600
Regulars at this traditionally decorated Parson’s Green favourite can’t get enough of the beautifully presented, high-quality dishes: think fresh tuna in spicy lemongrass and mint vinaigrette or roast duck with cherry tomatoes and lychee.
347-349 Upper Street, N1 0PD
020 7704 2000
The sleek interiors of this buzzy Islington branch have clean, modern lines, complemented by Thai artefacts, but the real star of the show is the menu. This covers all the staples of Thai cuisine, including satays, hot and sour salads, stir-fries and curries, plus a few more exclusive dishes such as steamed lobster with ginger, soy and dried mushrooms.