Borough Market has been gently reasserting its position as one of London’s premiere dining destinations in recent years. Wander down Stoney Street and you’re spoilt for choice by the likes of El Pastor, Rambutan, Elliot’s and Bao, and that’s before you swing a left towards new-kid-on-the-block Kolae, or the new Borough Yards development where smoke wafts from the big open grills at Parrillan.
That’s all good for diners, but means plenty of competition for Kolae - a new Thai concept from the founders of the excellent Som Saa in Spitalfields. The specific technique under the microscope here is in fact called kolae (or golae, or gaw lae), where ingredients are skewered, dunked in coconutty curry marinades, then grilled over open flames.
The delicious potential of kolae cooking is shown off by the signature chicken bamboo skewer. The sugars in the marinade catch over the flames, multiplying their complex flavours and dotting the hefty chicken thigh with angry black char marks. Inside the chicken is tender, juicy, utterly delicious. The grilled mussel skewers might even go a step better, applying the same philosophy to a neat line of meaty molluscs.
There’s plenty more good stuff on the menu, from a rich, spicy venison curry to crisp herb fritters, hit with a dash of piquant fermented chilli. Offering a solo dessert is a risky business but we can’t find fault with this one, which combines pandan sticky rice, coconut sorbet, roasted peanuts and jackfruit in a few delicious mouthfuls. Best of all, Kolae is excellent value - nothing on the menu clocks in at over £20 and we ate dinner for under £50 a head, which isn’t easy to do in Borough Market.
The space covers three floors, from a buzzy downstairs open kitchen and bar to a plant-laden upstairs dining room. The team has done a great job with the design, blending some industrial chic with some exotic foliage, and affable service whizz up and down ferrying bowls of curry, skewers and cocktails between floors. The cocktails, too, are excellent, particularly the lemongrass and pandan rum milk punch. It’s clear that real thought has gone into every aspect of the experience at Kolae, and it might just be one of our favourite openings of 2023.