All reader reviews by Jonesy @ The Arbuturian
A great local Thai restaurant. I've been here many times and the food has always been excellent, the service friendly and the restaurant buzzing with contented diners. A great asset to Forest Hill.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
Baan Tha is situated in one of the 15th century timber-framed properties at one end of the stone bridge in the quaint medieval village of Yalding. The dining room is replete with heavy beams, a stripped wood floor and the odd decorative nod towards something Asian.
The food is cooked traditionally without using MSG, leaving the flavours and the quality ingredients to speak for themselves. We've been here many times, and on our last visit we had grilled prawns with a peanut satay sauce, and some dumplings stuffed with pork and prawns. The grilled prawns were huge and succulent, the little dumplings incredibly flavoursome and juicy.
As a main we shared one of their specials, a crispy fried seabass in a tamarind sauce, and a Massamun duck curry. The seabass was delicious, the tamarind sauce rich and unctuous but not too overpowering. The Massamun curry was subtle and well balanced, with the flavour of the sliced duck being allowed to come through.
The service is very friendly, and being a family-run restaurant you always feel well looked after. The two female chefs in the kitchen werenít at all flustered by a full restaurant on a busy Saturday night. Itís so popular that people were prepared to wait for ten minutes in the doorway for a free table.
The restaurant has a relaxed and buzzing atmosphere. Jazz from Jamie Cullen plays quietly over the sound system, the lighting is slightly dimmed and in all itís a wonderful place to wile-away the evening. On cold nights they have the large inglenook fireplace ablaze with glowing logs.
This is a must-stop destination for anyone passing through or living in the North Downs, especially lovers of Thai food. Be sure to book ahead for weekend sittings, as itís a deservedly popular destination.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Food 9 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 9
I dined at Hartnett's new joint for a luncheon and I was pleased to see that the transition from The Connaught to this smart location seems to have gone very smoothly on all fronts. The decor is a tad bland, or what an interior designer might call modern-minimalist-Art Deco-chic, but I liked it.
The food, inspired by Angelaís Welsh-Italian roots, was excellent, though my partnerís starter of squid ink tagliolini was overpowered by lemon and chilli. My starter of quail agnolotti was nothing short of perfect, rich and deep with flavour.
For a main I had roasted halibut, which again was executed perfectly. To accompany all of this, we chose a reasonably priced Rioja that went down very well.
Service was predictably smooth, and in all it was a great meal that lived up to expectations. It may not be anything out of the ordinary or pushing any culinary boundaries, but like most of Ramsayís haute cuisine restaurants, they do classic cooking very well indeed.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 8
Run by a husband and wife team who are clearly passionate about their cuisine, the restaurant offers a wide variety of authentic Sri Lankan dishes.
To start, we tried the Masala Thosai, a kind of savoury pancake filled with spiced onions and potato, accompanied by chutney and sambar. The pancake was huge, light and crispy, the fillings well spiced and the combinations worked pleasingly well together.
As a main I had one of their specialities, a String Hopper Buriyani with lamb curry. String hoppers, despite sounding like something a fisherman would use, are fine shredded noodles which are tossed in an iron chutty (a kind of Indian wok), and mixed with vegetables, fried egg and spices. The dish arrived on a large platter with a huge mound of string hopper to one side, and an aromatic lamb curry in its own bowl on the other; both accompanied by a sweet and sour onion relish called a Seeni Sambol, and a Pol Sambol, consisting of coconut and chilli.
They give you a choice of spicing for the curries; mild, medium or hot. I opted for medium and it was probably what I would describe as mild for my tastes, but then Iím into my tongue-blistering spices. The curry itself was wonderfully aromatic and well flavoured. Itís made by sautťing the lamb with onion and mustard seeds, and then cooking it with tomato, ground jeera and coriander to make a sauce. All the dishes had a pleasing home-cooked quality about them, as if we were dining in someoneís house. We also tried some vegetable accompaniments, the pumpkin curry being the most notable.
By the time Iíd finished the main course I was ready to split my trousers, so rather than a dessert we chose some teas from their extensive tea menu. I had a Ceylon Nuwara Eliya, described on the menu as being the Ceylon equivalent of champagne, but I found it to be a bit too mild for my liking.
The restaurant has a relaxed atmosphere, the decor is modern, fresh and fairly neutral, and the service is friendly and welcoming, if a little slow; I expect they have a very small kitchen staff. The menu is well priced, especially when you consider the quality of the food they serve here, and I will definitely be returning to sample more dishes. The residents of West Hampstead are a lucky bunch to have this place.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Food 9 | Service 5 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 9
Opting to visit them for a busy midweek lunchtime service, I walked into the grand dining room and gawped at the gigantic space; it really is quite breathtaking. Itís a bit like stepping into the cavernous foyer of the Natural History Museum, with quadruple-height ceilings, huge pillars and chandeliers, a black and white tiled floor and polished brass rails; itís the type of restaurant you would find Hercule Poirot dining in.
The menu is somewhat less inspiring. Similar to a French brasserie, you can dine here for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea (okay, thatís not so French) and dinner, from 7am to midnight.
On the day, I wasnít feeling all that adventurous, so I chose the chicken soup with dumplings, and a main of rib eye steak with chips. Both courses were nicely done but nothing remarkable, and the moderate prices reflect this; you get what you pay for.
Service was brisk and in a constant state of controlled panic, but not impolite. Yet the most notable thing was the room itself. The height of the ceilings makes it a rather noisy, airy place to eat, but you really do feel as if youíve been transported back to the roaring 1920s into the hub of Londonís cocktail-drinking society.
For some reason celebrities love Corbin and Kingís restaurants, and on this particular day we had John Hurt sitting at the table next to us. Ronnie Corbett was sat at the other side of the dining room.
Itís notoriously hard to secure a table here at a Ďnormalí dining hour, but I would recommend a visit just to sample the atmosphere of such an unusual space. Itís also one of Londonís most popular venues for afternoon tea.
Donít expect anything dazzling from the kitchen or to be treated like royalty by the staff, but the moderately priced menu and the extravagance of the interior are good reasons to pop in for a bite.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Food 5 | Service 5 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 7