You know how we all strive for authenticity when the topic of cuisine from around the world arrives. Questions like where do we go for the best pho, or who serves the definitive ‘fire-exploded kidney flowers’ and indeed if we can’t make it to the Andes where in London can we seek out The Cuy chactado instead? It’s always gratifying to witness Italians (fussy lot they are) dining in Locatelli but wouldn’t been seen embalmed in Café Uno, or Asians (ditto fussy) tucking in at Tayyabs instead of let’s say a typical curry improvisation like Mill Hill Tandoori and of course the Chinese (fussy but thankfully blessed with enough appropriate eateries in the capital) wouldn’t touch Mr Chow with a barge pole.
Esarn Kheaw is one such restaurant, it fits the criteria of the first paragraph; real Thai food (well the Northeast at least) and Thai diners have been seen dining here (an amazing feat in itself). EK is located in the United Nations’ vicinity of West London otherwise known as Shepherd’s Bush.
It’s run by a pretty miserable chap known as Mr Puntar, to be fair he has mellowed considerably (he smiles naturally now as opposed to forcibly subjected to) of late and has also been known to crack rather unfunny jokes (well it’s the effort that counts in the end) with diners. The dining room is reminiscent of time stood still from the early eighties, ugly carpet designs and rickety furniture come to mind.
Oh, lest I forget, another good test for whether the tag of ‘The Real Thai’ is deserved; the entire side of one of the walls at EK is wholly dedicated (or enshrined) to the King and Queen of Thailand, a commitment beyond belief!
The food here is authentic. I’m qualified to state this, as three of my Thai buddies are chefs working in various inferior conjoined Thai/pub joints. If they want some Thai, this is apparently the only place in London worth its ‘pad thai’.
Super intense Tom Yum Koong- properly sour, spicy and wonderfully fragrant. Lovely soup.
Spiced Papaya Salad (Northeast style)- pungent, sour and super chilli hot. Excellent.
Son-in-Law’s Eggs (famous Thai standard)- deep fried (hard boiled) egg in sweet and sour sauce. This has got to be one of the biggest rip off dishes in the history of catering. I’m effectively looking at one sliced up egg (battery dare I say) and we’ve been charged £6.95 for it. Poor show Mr Puntar!
Num Prik Pla Sod (Northeast special)- should be renamed numb sod. Although initially tantalising, this fishy dip served with raw veg progressively became inedible, its Scoville rating must have been prohibitive. The Thais don’t do lassi (wish they had), the cold lemonades we had did very little to extinguish the fire on our tongues.
Spiced Pork (another Northeast special)- Chargrilled pork. Amazing, but eaten with care due to the copious amount of chopped Bird's Eye peppers.
EK is a bloody marvel of a restaurant, once you’ve been here it’s unlikely you’ll want to seek out the other so called Thai restaurants (except perhaps my much loved Market Grill). Absolute authenticity of any cuisine does not always appeal to every member of the public but at least we must all be grateful to EK for its existence; real Thai served here mate, take it or leave it!
My previous review at Trusted Places.
314 Uxbridge Road
London. W12 7LJ