Nipa Thai has found itself a nice little spot to set up shop, located just 2 minutes away from Lancaster Gate station the restaurant has a beautiful view over Hyde Park to accompany your food. The only problem is that it is hidden from the average punter, tucked away on the second floor of the Lancaster London hotel, meaning the only people likely to go are hotel guests or those in the know.
The restaurant is a curious mix of traditional Thai cuisine and upmarket fine dining. It has the customary all-female kitchen who produce a host of authentic dishes with produce sourced and flown in from Thailand every day . On the other hand it is kitted out with an almost colonial style décor; glass cabinets are filled with golden urns and statues, sculptural napkins adorn tables whilst waiters cautiously eye your table waiting to see if your glass needs topping up with one of the*** Mi eir specialty Thai wines. A far cry from the busy street food that most associate with Thailand.
When it comes to delivering those satisfying and exotic dishes though, Nipa Thai doesn’t disappoint. To start we thought the Ruam Mitr, a selection of the chef’s special starters, would give us a good idea of what they’re going for. It was a very ornate and well-presented dish with rows of spring rolls, chicken satay skewers, fish cakes and the exceptional golden fried soft-shell crabs with super fresh and flavoursome crab meat. In fact everything tasted incredibly fresh, though quite familiar, you might be better off trying some of the stand-alone starters on the menu. The Kao Krieb Pak Moh are recommended, rice dumplings filled with a sweet mix of chicken, shallots and peanuts, they were moreish and delicious as well as looking lovely, coming in an array of pastel colours.
There is a massive selection on the menu and in true Thai form, you can spend an enjoyable few minutes just looking through it. It was rather unfortunate that the choice I landed on turned out to be one of the plainer dishes I saw that night. The fried seabass was fresh and perfectly well cooked but I didn’t expect it would be fried in batter, with no vegetables but for a few deep fried basil leaves, and with the recommended bowl of plain rice it felt just a little too, well… plain.
That’s not to say the food at Nipa Thai is, in what is becoming a worrying trend, my old friend Chris had ordered something much better than me. The pan fried salmon with minced prawns was a powerful seafood combo draped in a thick glaze with fiery slices of red chilli and clusters of green peppercorns hanging like grapes. It is certainly spicy (the staff will adjust the levels of spice for you though) and it is full of flavour with a nice mix of texture between the salmon, minced prawns and crunchy peppercorns. The mains both come in at £22 each, which is a little pricey but considering the location and the fresh Thai ingredients shipped in and, makes sense and for the most part feels justified.
South-east Asia is not a region known for its desserts and we didn’t have high hopes, or a lot of room left, for the treats on offer. You will be pretty surprised, they’re great and it’s nice to see some ideas using traditional Thai ingredients, from mango sticky rice with coconut cream to a Pina Colada pudding consisting of coconut panna cotta, pineapple carpaccio and a lime sauce. The deep fried ice cream with chocolate sauce was a delicious blend of richness, creaminess and crispiness! A good end to the meal and with all desserts costing £9, not bad value either.
Nipa Thai offers some beautifully presented, excellent food with well sourced authentic ingredients. The move away from traditional, cheap and fast Thai food with it’s very no fuss attitude might be estranging to some purists but does allow Londoners to get a real taste of south east Asia in style. Now you’re one of those in the know, keep it in mind next time you fancy an extravagant Thai feast.