01 June 2011
Patara in South Kensington is a small, intimate Thai restaurant with subdued lighting, mosaic tiles and glowing candles. On a weekday evening the restaurant is busy with Sloany couples staring lovingly at each other across flickering candles while lonely businessmen whisper sweet nothings into their Blackberry’s. I popped in on a Tuesday evening after visiting the Curzon cinema around the corner to see Made In Dagenham (a thoroughly enjoyable and poignant film and far more than just woman nagging). Patara was humming from table conversations and piled orders being delivered. A friend and I were lucky enough to bag a table by the window, staring out on to the drab Fulham Road as taxi’s whizzed along and old, lonely women walked their terriers into the night.
Inside, there’s a clean and exotic feel. Terracotta walls and stripped wood create warmth in the evening and the attentive service is brisk and charming. We began with miang guaytiew with its beautiful plated decoration and assorted rice paper rolls filled with prawns, crabmeat and spiced duck with lime and chilli sauce. They were fine for starting, dainty and light and the translucent rice paper presented a sweet glow from the colourful ingredients. Steep, no doubt, at £8.75 for an appetizer, but we’re in South Ken, darling, and it’s all very Michael Winner here.
My order of pla tod rad prig gaeng (deep fried sea bass fillet served with light red curry sauce) was quick to arrive and appeared to be a butchered fish whose guts had been removed, fried and then placed back into its origins with both head and tail (seared) placed either side to painstakingly recreate its former glory. Despite this unusual and quite captivating presentation, the meaty sea bass was stunning. Several blocks of chunky fish had been lightly seared, with crispy silver skin crunching in the mouth against the white and moist flesh. The red curry sauce was not that of a fiery or punchy curry but enough to add a little excitement to the dish. Oddly presented, gloriously executed.
A simple side order of kao sury (steamed fragrant rice, £2.35) was enough to complete the sea bass – simple is often best – and proved enough to fill up this hoggish customer without expanding the waistline too much. Piled high in a small bowl it was sticky and, well, fragrant.
My friend chose the ‘do-it-yourself’ kamon bueng DIY, which resulted in over spilling tacos and as always in these make-it-yourself scenarios, the chicken and prawn being piled on excessively, eventually leaving you with no contents left for your tacos (think of those bulging, over-heaped duck pancakes). Accompanied by cucumber and a tomato salad, this fusion of Mexican meets Asian resulted in a dry and over-chewy breakdown. Salted tacos failed to add anything to the chicken or prawns, yet for £7.25 was passable for an appetizer, and one that was substituted as a main.
No sign of desserts, which means that they either do not serve them or that they were pushing us to leave? Probably just as well as cinema popcorn followed by a few beers and some rather upscale Thai cuisine was popping the jeans (and the wallet). I’d defiantly recommend Patara if you’re a fan of Thai food. It is a little pricy but the mains make wonderful use of good ingredients and are alluringly presented.