With endless eateries to choose from in London, we don’t blame you for wanting to skip the chain in search of a more ‘authentic’ alternative. But hold on – before you chuck the chain, check out Putney Bridge’s Thai Square.
Recently crowned ‘Best Chain Restaurant 2017’ in the British Restaurant Awards, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to sample their new executive summer menu.
As it turns out, it was a scorching hot day – the kind that makes you question your sanity as you step onto the underground in rush hour – and I can’t say we were overly enthused about the prospect of being crammed into a dark, sweaty restaurant.
We needn’t have worried. It comes as no surprise that the building’s beauty has received praise from the likes of the ‘Royal Institute of Architecture’. Shaped like a ship from the outside, the two-tiered restaurant boasts floor to ceiling glazed windows overlooking the River Thames. The interior feels light and airy, and, seated next to the windows, we might as well have been outside.
Restaurant chains often lose any feel of authenticity, run by people who care less about the food and more about their pay cheque at the end. But the waiters, all of which were Thai themselves, were not just knowledgeable about the food, but seemed genuinely passionate about the dishes they were serving . One glance around the restaurant to scope out our fellow diners showed us that this was a popular spot with the Thai population of London – surely this had to be a good sign!
As we sat down, one bubbly waitress handed us an equally bubbly – and lengthy – drinks menu, talking us through their most popular cocktails and even letting us know which were most photogenic (had she met us before?!). In case you’re wondering, ‘One night in Bangkok’ ranks as most popular in flavour, possibly due to its Oriental base – Thai black tea is infused with vodka, elderflower and lime. And the most instagrammable? The waitress recommended fruity, gin based cocktail ‘The Lovers’ which she claimed was her go-to for both flavour and aesthetic.
In the end, Jodie opted for the aptly named ‘Skyfall’, a beautifully presented vodka and lychee based drink served in a martini glass topped with blue caracao – it almost looked too good to drink. I opted for the ‘E-sarn Rocket’ and whilst I’d never have thought to mix gin with Japanese beer before, it was fragrant, delicious, and again, beautifully presented. With cocktails costing around £10-12 each, they might not be the cheapest but you certainly get your money’s worth in terms of quality.
By this point we were starving, and one glance at the food menu had our mouths watering. Although the waitress recommended the grilled scallops to start, we are both avid aubergine fans, and we decided to share the ‘baked aubergine’ and the ‘grilled wild tiger prawns’.
Despite the high-end feel of the restaurant, we were surprised – and impressed- to find the starters were not served as tiny molecules in the middle of huge plates, and instead both were generously sized. Both dishes were rich in flavour but the aubergine won us over, with the lime and truffle oil dressing acting as the perfect accompaniment to the minced chicken and lamb scattered on top. Really, the only improvement that they could make is to offer the dish as a main…
When it comes to deciding on mains in a Thai restaurant, I’m usually a sucker for a Thai green curry, but on the waitress’ recommendation we opted to share the ‘whole steamed sea bass’. We flirted with the idea of sharing the ‘lobster pad Thai’ before settling on the ‘noodles with sliced truffles and crispy fried prawns’. We also shared a portion of green vegetables, which was more than enough for two hungry stomachs. The only downside to the menu was that whilst there was a lot of variety in terms of meat and fish, there was a distinct lack of vegetarian options.
Nonetheless, the sea bass was a show-stopper. It was perfectly cooked, and, once we had dissected the bones (warning: the sea bass might not be the best option for a first date!) we agreed that it was one of the best fish dishes either of us had tasted in a long time. It had a slight kick to it in terms of spice, but the noodles and prawns were much milder, and counteracted the heat of the sea bass. The ‘real’ icing on the cake was the coconut milk drizzled on top of the coconut rice we had ordered – divine!
After we had devoured the starters, mains and two cocktails each, we had sunk into our seats and were debating whether or not we could physically manage to squeeze in desserts.
We decided that we would find room, even if it meant boycotting half of our wardrobes for the next month. And boy were we glad we did. Jodie scoffed down the melting lava chocolate cake with ice cream as if she hadn’t eaten for a month. Meanwhile the lychee mousse I opted for presented itself in the form of a pale pink, jelly-like affair, and acted as the perfect end to a perfect evening.
The relaxing atmosphere and beautiful views of Putney Bridge meant that we were in no rush to leave, and if it weren’t for the fact we both had early starts the next day, we would probably have stayed there all night. We left feeling full and refreshed, and most importantly with a new found love for ‘the chain’.
Perfect for: A romantic dinner/ A Celebration
Problematic for: Those on a budget/ Vegetarians
For the full menu and bookings: