I’d never been to a Thai restaurant until last week. Nuts I know. My horizons needed some serious broadening, so off I went to the Blue Elephant for my first experience of fine dining, Thai style.
Recent reviews have claimed the Blue Elephant is about as close as you can get to being in actual Thailand, whilst still in London. Nonsense, I thought – no eating will transport me to a faraway place. ‘Tis the stuff of fairytales and Disney movies… but upon arrival I knew exactly what they meant.
You’re greeted and treated like royalty from the moment you arrive at the Blue Elephant. As I was dining with the boyfriend our server was terribly concerned that we should be seated in a romantic area, and found us what she described as the ‘lover’s bench’ so we could ‘gaze longingly into eachother’s eyes’. She was keen to continue the myth, telling us that we were ‘in Thailand’ and offering us cocktails to begin. Presumably this charade was designed to trick us into imagining we were on a beach sunning ourselves, as we enjoyed the subtle sounds of waves lapping at the shore. Didn’t quite work. I remained in London for the duration of the evening, but I grant them points for trying.
Décor at the Blue Elephant is designed to impress, and it really does. The whole restaurant has an incredibly regal feel, with intricate oriental design features and flower arrangements – there’s even a great gold replica of the Royal Barge in the bar. Tables are arranged on two levels but all feel private and spacious.
We started off with the house cocktail, Mai Thai, and a Passionfruit Mojito, because I can’t resist anything passionfruit related. Especially where alcohol is involved. The Mai Thai was most enjoyable for the fact that I got to watch the boy try to drink it in as manly a fashion as possible – that is one camp looking drink…
Our server suggested we try the ‘Memories of Siam’ tasting menu due to my inadequate knowledge of Thai cuisine, and so we began a feast of many courses…
We began with an amuse bouche of duck and what I will call fire soup. When it touched your lips an immediate burning sesation warned of the danger within. Our waitress was concerned that we try the soup, and so brave little me soldiered on and tried a sip. It tasted of fire, and spice, and burning. Hot hot very hot. The duck though was fantastic.. succulent and full of spices I could never distinguish.
We were then presented with a starter platter of chicken satay with peanut sauce, Ma Auan, a combination of steamed minced chicken with crab meat and foie gras and a catfish and prawn salad, which was served with lemongrass and ginger, in a spicy lime dressing. The satay was the star, despite being accompanied by rather more expensive ingredients – but the moist chicken and home-made peanut sauce were fantastic.
Next our tastebuds received further testing, with a pair of soups. We tried the Tom Yang Koon soup with prawns and Tom Jew Kai, a chicken soup. The hot and sour prawn soup was exactly what I imagined authentic Thai cuisine to taste like – incredibly spicy but tasting of more than just hot, with sour notes and more spices than I could count. The menu claims the chicken soup will help you to recover from a cold, but don’t heed this advice. I got a cold the very next day.
Mains appeared next, a feast of four main courses with mixed vegetables and coconut rice. Apologies for the poor photography, but had the sun not set you would’ve seen sea bass, a Massaman lamb curry, black pepper prawns and tamarind duck.
Sea bass was perfectly cooked and perfectly spiced, with lime and chilli, the marinated sweet and sour duck and the prawns were fantastic and also enormous! I’ve never seen such giant prawns. They filled the bowl. Imagine that! My real favourite though, weird as it is, was the rice. The coconut rice was absolutely amazing, rich and sticky complementing all the dishes perfectly. We roared through the bowl before trying two of the main dishes and our waitress quickly replenished it. It’s as if they knew we’d need it to soak up the spicy… although the mains were far less lethal than their predecessors (or perhaps we’d just become accustomed to it by this point).
We were getting rather full by this point but we didn’t let that put us off trying our Thai desserts. Look how pretty they are! How could we not? I wasn’t sure these were strictly authentic Thai, but what would I know… We had coconut jelly (possibly Thai), vanilla ice cream (not so much) and chocolate mousse (really?). We munched through them despite their questionable authenticity, though… a perfect sticky sweet end to a fantastic tour of Thai cuisine.
The Verdict: Brilliant; beautiful presentation, fautless service and the sort of food you’re thinking about for ages afterwards. Definitely worth a try.