27 June 2011
I attended on a hot Sunday at the end of June and was offered the choice of sitting in or outside – it was early, 6ish, and was relatively empty – I did not need to book ahead although had decided to give it a go having read reviews that promised flavour within a budget. We sat inside and thankfully a side door provided a bit of cooling draught – it was not too hot inside, although the open door made us a little too close to the traffic outside and we also played host to a hungry fruit fly. The inside wasn't much to look at; humble brown walls, but well presented tables. The light jazz music played switched between cool bebop (Miles Davis) and more modern takes, such as Jamie Cullum, although we were somewhat surprised to hear White Christmas, almost exactly 6 months either way from Christmas! It can be noted that one corner appeared to provide a table suited for younger visitors. There is a large wine list, though due to the weather we went for lighter drinks – there are 5 or 6 eastern brand beers. A 330 mL bottle of coke costs £1.60 as a price indicator.
The service was efficient and respected our indecision over a glorious looking array of meals, although once ordered the food arrived within 10 min. We started with a classic Thai starter combination, the Monkey Mixed Starter (for 2) – two of each of prawn toast, fish cake, crispy wonton, spring roll and satay chicken, served up with a little salad and two dips; a chunky peanut and a sweet, inoffensive (hot-wise) chilli sauce both of which were delightful – the salad was a great way of enjoying the dips. These starters were exquisite; the chicken was tender, juicy and lightly infused with a peanut flavour throughout, with soft lemon grass pieces encrusted around the surface with a heavenly aroma. The prawn toast was one of the best I've eaten, combining a light but crispy English style “fried bread” with a prawn layer and sesame seed topping. The starter was great value at £8.95 for the two of us. Other options included some traditional Thai soups and assorted tempura and we were spoiled for choice.
There are plenty of main courses to choose from priced on average at £8-9 with cheaper vegetarian and more expensive fish dishes. There are the classic Thai curry choices – Jungle and Masaman as well as the Green and Red classics. These are available with a meat of choice including to my delight, duck. I ate the Masaman duck curry, which was superb. A sweet, creamy coconut, peanut and tamarind juice sauce with firm potato pieces and onion chunks. The sweet rich duck flavour was intense, although the (plentiful) tender meat was a little fatty and whilst the crispy skin of duck is appreciated in Chinese pancakes, it was less welcome here. My accomplice ordered a spicy squid dish – there are plenty of seafood dishes, as long as you want squid, prawn or sea bass, although the odd salmon or mixed seafood dish exists. They all have a Thai twist, lemon grass or tamarind often providing the key flavours – the Thai are big on basil too and there is plenty of this about. The squid was good, tasty and not too chewy, lightly battered, complimenting the chewy with the crunchy and topped with a “dry sauce” – little pieces of spring onion, chilli and batter in a chilli oil.
All in all, the food was excellent value and most pleasing. I would return again if the chance arose. The last Thai restaurant I ate at was Thai Square in South Kensington. I'd say Thai Square is comparable in value and style but that Monkey and Me is a fresher experience.