Success! I’ve ticked 101 Thai Kitchen off my wish list. The great thing about making easy New Year’s resolutions, like painting my toenails more often and going to the cheap and cheerful Thai restaurant that people keep on recommending to me, is that I can actually achieve them. It is only two weeks into the New Year yet my toes are looking twinkly and I managed to finally drag MTV boyfriend to 101 Thai Kitchen in Hammersmith. I doubt such instant success could have been achieved with a more hard core diet or detox resolution.
For a while now I have been searching for a cheap but good Thai restaurant in London. It has become a sort of holy grail for me, a mythical place which is rumoured to exist but I have never been able to find. Time and time again, from readers comments to recommendations on Chowhound, the word has been that 101 Thai Kitchen could be the answer.
The restaurant certainly looks the goods. Everything including the menus, the waiting staff’s clothes and the paint on the walls is a garish shade of pink. There is a shrine at the front, a picture of Thailand’s king on the back wall and a blackboard menu with specials written only in Thai. Even better the place is thronged with Thai people with only a few other farangs in sight.
Spring rolls – a bit anaemic looking
The menu is extensive including sections for soups, snacks, stir fry dishes, soups, som tum and spicy salads. The food featured is from the Lao influenced Isaan cusine from the North of Thailand and Muslim dishes from the South. Despite the range of options I am convinced that the best dishes are probably listed on the indecipherable (to me) blackboard and so quizz our waitress about the specials and her recommendations which is not a particularly fruitful exercise.
We start with five tiny spring rolls (£4.50) they are pale and limp and could have done with a few more minutes in the deep fyer but are otherwise the filling is crunchy and fresh. The Pad Thai (£6.75) is also disappointing. The menu boasts the dish is made with the chef’s special tamarind sauce. Indeed, all the elements are there: the springy noodles, tender chicken, fluffy egg, spring onions and bean sprouts along with a sprinkling of roasted peanuts, but the noodles are sickly sweet and it seems as if not enough fish sauce and too much sugar has been used.
The Pad Takrai (£6.95), which is a recommendation I eventually prised from our waitress, is a better option. Plump prawns are teamed with green beans and garlic have a fiery chilli heat soothed by the fragrant lemongrass which features in the dish.
The wine list is pretty limited so instead we opt for Singha beers (£2.85) and a Thai iced tea (£1.85) a dark tea mixed with condensed milk and then served chilled.
Thai iced tea
Unfortunately 101 Thai Kitchen did not live up to my (admittedly high) expectations. Perhaps if we had ordered different dishes like the Sea Bass sour curry hot pot (£13.95) which everyone raves about I would have had a different experience. However I still don’t think there is an excuse for a Thai restaurant to churn out a bad version of a dish as simple as Pad Thai. It looks like my search for a good cheap and cheerful Thai restaurant in London continues. I have heard that the people behind Patara Thai are opening a more budget version of their restaurant this year so perhaps that will be the answer to my ongoing quest. Although I still think the trip to Hammersmith was not a complete waste, at least I got to tick one New Year’s resolution off.
Details: 101 Thai Kitchen, 352 King Street, Hammersmith, W6 ORX (Ph 0208 746 6888) Tube: Stamford Brook
Damage: Such a bargain my mother would approve. Our bill came to £25 for two.
If you liked reading this you might be interested in my reviews of some other budget friendly Thai restaurants in London: Thai Rice and Market Thai.