All reader reviews by MaYa

Blue Elephant

The Blue Elephant - apparently the best Thai restaurant in London... or not, as we found out with utter disappointment.

Due to a special occasion, I booked a table for eight people at this restaurant on a Sunday evening. On the telephone I asked if it was possible to have a waterside table and was told that this would be noted down on the booking, but could not be guaranteed. When we arrived, we were greeted by very friendly Thai waitresses and lead to our table (not at the waterside, but somewhere at the back - it felt like we had the table right next to the toilets as the area around our table was used as a walk-through path by the staff). The table was too small to seat eight people but we were assured that this was the 'best table' for the number of diners in our group. So we sat down with our knees and elbows touching. The decorations and atmosphere in the restaurant were quite impressive.

Our napkins were promptly folded out for us onto our laps and we were asked if we wanted any cocktails, which we ordered within 10 minutes of arriving. The "attentive" service went downhill from there. The table water we ordered arrived 50 minutes earlier than our cocktails, which arrived nearly an hour after we had arrived. The one bowl of prawn crackers had long since been eaten but had not been refilled. We all went for the Royal Thai Banquet Menu with the soup (4 Courses at £39) and it took one and a half hours for our starters to arrive. We were told that there would be a nice selection of Paper Prawns, Samui Crab, Sim Sim, Som Tam, Chicken Satay and Spring Rolls - these all arrived lukewarm and to my surprise there were only eight pieces of each starter, which meant that each person had one mouthful of each starter. This was extremely sub-standard as all the starters were real miniature versions too.

Our soups arrived about 20 minutes after the starters (we had a choice between Tom Yam Koong and Tom Kha Ped Yang) - I opted to pay an extra £9 for the Floating Market soup and was again bitterly disappointed. All the soups were lukewarm and I was shocked to find that my soup had exactly the same seafood in it as the Tom Yam Koong although I paid extra money to have something special. The soup base tasted exactly the same except that mine had more lime in it - I felt thoroughly ripped off. Furthermore, the squid was so chewy it was not edible.

The main course (Fresh Blackpepper Tiger Prawns, Chu-Chi Pla Salmon, Kai Himmapan, Tamarind Duck and Massaman) came at 10.30pm - two and a half hours after our arrival! Again, the dishes were only warm when they arrived and as no hot plates were provided, the food went cold before you could even try the second dish after the first one. As with the starters, there was not much for our money and the only reason we did not finish all the food was because it was cold. I kept on having to chase the waiters for more water and wine as we kept on running out and they did not notice once.

The dessert (Kanom Thai - basically a tiny ball of coconut ice cream, a small square inch piece of melon and some coconut custard) was suddenly served super quickly after our main course (two minutes after they cleared the table). It was 11.15pm and we got the feeling that they wanted us to leave, as suddenly there was a cold draught going over our table (as if they opened a backdoor to air out the restaurant). The dessert bowls were whipped away quickly and coffee was offered. We declined as the restaurant was now nearly empty and the draught was getting worse - we thought they would actually pull the chairs from beneath us if we did not leave promptly. The total bill was a shocking £600 for even more shockingly bad food - the service charge alone was over £50 for a very inferior service.

Once we paid, the staff seemed to disappear all at once and we were left to find our way out of the restaurant ourselves. Overall, a very disappointing experience from such a well recommended restaurant. I certainly won't be returning and would not recommend it to anyone - there are far better places in London which are more competitively priced with excellent Thai food, super selection and amazing portion sizes! Here you will just pay for the name and then their outrageous service charge for an incredibly slow service and appalling food. The Blue Elephant has a certain “Wham! Bam! Thank you ma’am!” attitude - once you’ve paid, they couldn’t care less about you.

Friday, April 28, 2006
Overall rating 4 stars
Food 3 | Service 1 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 2

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