We all know the drill by now; there’s much, much more to Thai food than fluorescent green curries, teeth-achingly sweet phad Thai, and heaps of chilli.
It’s become something of a tired old refrain to repeat and reframe this fact, usually followed by a riff on the diverse regionality of the country’s cuisine, the breadth of its flavour profile beyond that much-trotted ‘spicy, sour, sweet, salty’ metric, and something about David Thompson’s influence on Thai restaurants and British chefs in the city.
Instead, let’s just get into it, and take a look at our favourite Thai food in the city, whether you’re looking for faithfully recreated, note-perfect food from the Kingdom or British takes on Thai cuisine using seasonal ingredients. Either way, it’s here, in our guide on where to find the best Thai food in London.
Plaza Khao Gaeng, Tottenham Court Road
It’s been pretty impossible to miss the buzz surrounding the JKS-backed Arcade Food Hall since its opening in April of this year.
Housed in the Centre Point building on New Oxford Street, and just a few second’s stroll from Tottenham Court Road station, Arcade Food Hall offers a veritable feast of global cuisines, with 8 restaurant concepts currently operating here, and a fully-fledged Southern Thai joint on the mezzanine above the communal dining area.
That Southern Thai restaurant is Plaza Khao Gaeng, which, despite only being six months old, is already doing some of the most faithfully composed, fiery food from The Kingdom anywhere in London.
Though much has been written about the fearsome chilli levels on display here, it’s the vivacity of the ingredients that really shine through. The coconut cream in the massaman and chicken curries tastes freshly pressed (a labour intensive process that’s rare to find in the capital), the sour curry sparkles with garcinia fruit as opposed to just lime and tamarind, the khua kling’s green peppercorns bring rasping heat alongside the undulating presence of various fresh and dried chillies. It’s magic.
Our only complaint? More elbow room on the tables, please; because it’s impossible not to order every dish on the menu.
Speaking of finding room, if you’ve somehow managed to save stomach space for seconds, then on the floor below there’s sushi, smash burgers, shawarma and more.
The team behind Plaza Khao Gaeng have just opened a new Central London spot, specialising in the food of Bangkok’s Chinatown. It’s called Speedboat Bar, and we can’t wait to try it.
Our favourite Thai restaurant in all of London, period, Singburi is a heavy-hitter of the highest order.
No longer Leytonstone’s best kept secret, Singburi has shed its reputation as a ‘hidden gem’ in recent years, picking up accolades from the likes of Time Out London (who named it ‘restaurant of the year’ in 2021) and a whole host of plaudits from the capital’s culinary cognoscenti.
A family affair, with chef Sirichai Kularbwong working the stoves and his mother Thelma the room, it’s a cash-only, bring-your-own-booze situation. With the compact restaurant not having a website, and ”begrudgingly taking DMs for bookings” via their Instagram, there’s a slightly chaotic feel to proceedings, which is precisely what you want from your favourite neighbourhood restaurant.
Inside, the welcome is warm and the atmosphere electric. Whilst there’s plenty to enjoy from the ‘normal’ menu, with familiar Thai dishes like chicken satay skewers, tom yum and phad Thai, it’s on the restaurant’s blackboard that things get properly, outrageously delicious. A recent southern curry of prawn and betel leaf was rich, luxurious and capsaicin-forward, whilst a riff on Thailand’s favourite comfort food, pad grapao, used minced mutton to wonderful effect.
And then there’s the moo krob (crispy pork), which is, quite simply, as good as it gets, and well-deserving of its cult status as one of London’s best dishes.
Kin + Deum
Meaning ‘eat and drink’ in Thai, the restaurant’s name is a gentle, straightforward invitation that seems to translate to the wholesome plates, plant tonics and general easy-going vibe at Kin + Deum.
It’s a family-run affair. Led by three stylish Thai siblings from the Inngern family, there’s a real focus on nutrition and balance here; the restaurant doesn’t use refined sugars or MSG (for better or worse) and it’s a 100% gluten-free affair to boot. The paired back but gorgeous interiors of the restaurant further reflect this.
The recipes here are nominally based on dishes heralding from Bangkok, though really the menu spans the whole country, with laap salad from the North East, khao soi curry noodle soup from the North, and panang from the deep south of Thailand. Hey, there’s even a katsu curry, Kin + Deum style, if you’re hankering for it.
Regardless of origin, the cooking here is fantastic; though there’s a lightness of touch in the dishes, that isn’t in the name of sacrificing chilli heat or punchy acidity. Nope, it’s all here, and it’s all very delicious, indeed.
Som Saa, Shoreditch
It’s a well-trodden path to restaurant success – earn fans through supper clubs and pop-ups before crowd-funding your way into permanent premises, but Som Saa did this well-trodden path in some style. £700’000 was pledged by friends, fans and financers and a place on a busy, East London street secured, all on the back of some superbly grilled chicken, pounded-to-order som tam salads, vibrant laap and other assertive dishes largely (but not exclusively) from Thailand’s north.
It’s no wonder this place is so confident in their delivery; the two chef/founders were schooled by Thai food deity David Thompson, and it shows. Flavours are bold but balanced, ingredients well-sourced, and spice levels prevalent and assertive.
Arrive early and enjoy a drink at the bar with some of Som Saa’s excellent snacks; we’re absolute suckers for their naem (grilled fermented pork served with ginger and peanuts) and would happily come here only for a few plates of it.
That said, to do so would be to miss out on the restaurant’s iconic deep fried seabass with herbs and roasted rice powder, which has never left the menu due to its enduring popularity. It’s easy to see why; it’s delicious.
Smoking Goat, Shoreditch
We’ve been huge fans of Smoking Goat since its raucous, ramshackle days on Brewer Street, Soho. Rest assured; since the Thai barbeque restaurant’s move to Shoreditch, the vibe remains rowdy, the chill levels still Scoville baiting, and the aroma of smoke even more pervasive, in the best possible way of course.
This is food designed to reinvigorate. Though the fish sauce chicken wings have gained deserved cult status, and their Tamworth pork chop with spicy jaew dipping sauce is a real crowd pleaser, it’s the restaurant’s work with the offal which keeps us coming back.
With liver, heart and kidney featuring heavily in various laap, you could go to the Goat and dine very well on these intoxicating Laotian/Thai salads alone. With several rounds of sticky rice, a som tam salad and a couple of cold ones, it’s the ideal meal, any time of day in the city.
The food here is ultimately excellent Thai drinking food. As such, the drinks and cocktail list at Smoking Goat is thoughtfully curated to complement. Order a ‘Tray of Joy’ which features globetrotting, esoteric liquors including a a Coco Leaf Liqueur from Amsterdam, a watermelon Liqueur from Serra Di Conti and, of course, Mekhong from Bangkok.
The second restaurant from the aforementioned Ben Chapman, Kiln is quite the spectacle, with bar seating overlooking flames, coals and clay pots. The vibe transports you right out of central London and to somewhere altogether hotter and more rustic.
The restaurant works proudly with a close clutch of suppliers, with fish sourced directly, daily, from fishing boats in Cornwall and heritage vegetables earning equal billing on the menu to protein. During game season, that menu comes alive with jungle curries of wood pigeon or wild mallard and minced laab salads of raw venison (whose season begins in April through October, incidentally).
But even better, and on more consistently throughout the year, is cull yaw, a type of mutton from retired female ewes that has been fattened with high degrees of welfare in mind. The meat has an incredible depth of flavour, and has been making appearances on the menu of several acclaimed London restaurants in recent years. At Kiln, it’s often served as a collar chop accompanied by a spicy dipping sauce, or in grilled skewers with a little sprinkle of cumin. Just so damn delicious.
Thai food in the capital is now so popular that the usual explanatory diatribe seems unnecessary; you probably know farang means foreigner, dishes are designed to be shared, everything revolves around rice, the food of the country is hugely different from region to region……
But just because we’re all now so well versed in the vernacular, it shouldn’t overshadow just how splendid the cooking is at Farang. Their gai prik – deep fried chicken wings with a sweet fish sauce glaze – are simply divine, and the larger, sharing curries, cooked low and slow, consistently pack a huge punch of depth and verve, whilst remaining resolutely comforting.
Just make sure you order a side of turmeric and roasted garlic butter roti to mop up all the sauce! Bliss.
Begging Bowl, Peckham
Located on Peckham’s foodie strip Bellenden Road, the Begging Bowl uses Thai street food to form gorgeous small plates of zest and fire. The building is beautiful and airy, adding to the buzz this place generates even on a weeknight.
On the menu, dishes boast real clarity and punch, with excellent sourcing evident in the precision of flavour. The jasmine rice, so fragrant and nourishing, is limitless. A real treat.
Next up, with the chilli heat still dancing on our tongues, here’s where to eat the spiciest food in London.