Having never been to Thailand it’s hard to say this with much conviction, but Plaza Khao Gaeng feels legit. There are beachy neon blue cocktails, plastic covered canteen-style tablecloths and bright strip lights that feel more hawker territory than a plum London address.
It’s hard to remember a JKS restaurant (the group behind Gymkhana, Lyle’s, Bao and more) which hasn’t been a swiftly won success. Heading up this opening is Luke Farrell, who has brought with him a fiery passion (more on that later) for Thai food, after spending fifteen years in the country.
An extremely jolly team keeps things pacey and despite a general vagueness about what each dish is, everyone is at least enthusiastic. The joy of this is that plates come out more or less a complete surprise.
The Miang Phuket is a bowl of sticky, sweet and spicy cashew nuts that are ready to wrap in leaves and eat as little parcels. The chicken curry is fragrant but ferociously hot – the slightly alarming colour a neighbouring diner was turning should have given the game away. It soon becomes clear that Farrell has an impish disregard for western spice sensibilities. While we respect his allegiance to authenticity, favourites for us included a more mellow soft, sticky pork belly that been braised low and slow until it was falling apart, served in its caramelised juices which were rich with fat. Accompanied by the perfect fried egg (crispy on the bottom, soft on top), some fluffed up rice and a plate of morning glory, it was a reminder that sometimes pared back plates pack the biggest punch.
The utilitarian aesthetic and the unyielding heat won’t be for everyone. But it takes a lot for a restaurant to stop London in its tracks these days and Plaza Khao Gaeng undoubtedly offers a hot new haunt for jaded foodies sick of 'seasonal small plates'.