I have a secret to share with you. There is a great little Thai restaurant at the grungy, cheap end of Portobello road called Thai Rice
. I first discovered the joys of Thai Rice when I was at a Book Slam
. Book Slam, if you haven’t heard it it, is a monthly event in London which bills itself as a literary nightclub but is more like a book club at a bar. On the night of my first visit, the only food available at Book Slam was delivery from Thai Rice. As I tucked into my plastic takeaway container perched on a bar stool I remember thinking to myself, wow this is actually pretty good Thai food, even taking into account the fact I was a few drinks into the night.
Like many people I do suffer from a technical impairment where food is perceived to be of higher quality and tastier than it actually is in direct correlation to how many drinks I have had and the time of night, which I like to call the kebab effect. Still, even factoring in the kebab effect, the stir fried beef and broccoli laced with oyster sauce and a hint of chilli (£6.50) was subtly spiced and the beef had been cooked to just the right degree of tenderness.
Since that first encounter I have become quite a fan of Thai Rice, usually for its home delivery but I do also sometimes venture to the restaurant which is fairly unassuming. The small shop front opens up into a larger dining area out the back in a glass atrium. The walls are painted a bright aqua colour and everything is rather modern and sparse with none of the carved wooden screens or other bits of Thai paraphanelia that you usually find in Thai restaurants.
Instead the focus is firmly on the food. The menu is extensive and contains special menus on top of special menus but I like to stick with some old favourites usually. For starters, the spring rolls (£3.95) are four plump little cigars of fried pastry filled with vermicilli noodles and matchsticks of vegetables. These deep fried beauties are served with a bowl of sweet and sticky chilli sauce to dip them in. Besides spring rolls, I like nothing better than to order a steaming hot bowl of Thai rice’s green curry (£5.50) and inhale that fantastic rich coconut milk scent. The curry is filled with slices of chicken, pepper and onion and is always spicy.
From the specials menu I have tried the pad thai with soft shell crab (£8.50) given that pad thai and soft shell crab are two of my favourite things I considered that perhaps this would be my ultimate Thai dish. The pad thai itself walked the fine line between sugary sweetness and the sourness of fish sauce and lime however the combination of noodles and soft shell crab was a bit dry and in my view Thai Rice’s standard pad thai with chicken or prawns is a better option.
I can’t tell you about the wine list as I always just have a Singha beer when I eat in, but I can say that Thai Rice is a hidden gem of a place. There are no dumbed down spices for Western palates, the prices are reasonable and the service is always charming if you choose to eat in.
Details: 303 Portobello Road, Ladbroke Grove W10 5TD (Ph 020 8968 2001)
I think Thai Rice is a better option than nearby Thai restaurant, Market Thai
which is just a bit further down Portobello road. My favourite Thai restaurant in London is probably Patara Thai
, however it is quite a bit more expensive than Thai Rice, so for cheap and cheerful Thai, Thai Rice it is.