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 jumped at 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 it’s safe to say we weren’t overly enthused at 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.
Chain restaurants often lose any feel of authenticity and originality, run by people who care less about the food and more about their pay cheque at the end of the month. But the waiters, all of which were Thai themselves, were not just knowledgeable when it came to the menu, but displayed genuine passion about the dishes they were serving. One glance around the restaurant told us that this was a popular spot for Thai diners- 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 we met 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? She recommended a 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 while I’d never have thought to mix gin with Japanese beer before, it was light, fragrant, and again, beautifully presented. With cocktails costing around £10-12 each, they certainly aren’t the cheapest but you 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 uncontrollably. Although we were recommended the grilled scallops to start, we are both avid fans of the aubergine, 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 that lay underneath. Really, the only improvement that they could make is to offer the dish as a main.
Speaking of mains, when it comes to deciding on a main dish 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 split a portion of green vegetables, which was more than enough for two hungry stomachs. The only downside to the menu was that although there was a lot of variety in terms of meat and fish, there was a distinct lack of vegetarian options.
That said, the sea bass stole the show. 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 a drizzling of coconut milk on top of the coconut rice that accompanied it. Delicious!
After we had devoured the starters, mains and two cocktails each, we had both 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 could 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: https://thaisq.com/restaurants/putney-bridge/