As big fans of asian cuisine, myself and my guest – who have travelled Indonesia and Thailand respectively – have each searched on our return for somewhere to deliver us fleetingly back to that experience at home.
We find, as food lovers, cuisine to be the most vivid gateway aside from imagination.
While we have come close on many occasions to truly authentic asian cuisine we have yet to pin down somewhere that has been officially noticed for keeping true to the high standards and quality enjoyed on our travels.
Nipa Thai, situated in the iconic Lancaster London hotel across from Hyde Park, is one of few elite UK restaurants to be presented with the Thai Select award for authenticity by the Thai government; It also brandishes two AA rosettes.
We were eager, to say the least, to give it a go.
One thing to say: During our visit the Lancaster London was undergoing extensive building works, leading us to enter through another restaurant behind the hotel with some confusion.
However, once Nipa Thai we were welcomed with open arms to a park view table and – along with complimentary prawn crackers and sweet chilli dip – all was forgotten.
The decor and furnishings seem to be in some sort of argument with that of the hotel; while we didn’t feel submerged in a corner of Thailand as described small details did bring subtle tastes of the unique fragrant atmosphere. We just hoped the dishes weren’t subtle.
Nipa Thai’s in-tune attention to detail brings commonplace dishes to life; the Satay Kai, a meaty portion of chicken skewers and peanut sauce, was adorned with a cucumber relish that revolutionised a favorite for us while the Pad Thai was probably the liveliest we’ve had outside of Thailand.
With a tough choice between steamed or fried sea bass I treated myself to the latter, the Pla Phad Char, accompanied with Thai aubergine, lemongrass, red chilli, lime, sweet basil and peppercorns; it keeps you on your toes with a swift heat that demands a side of rice to cool off – authentic Thai spice, hooray!
My guest’s stir-fried prawns gave the same effect; with a twist of fresh basil leaf and another punch of chili a second bowl of glutinous rice was on order.
I made an error in my dessert order; I look across at my guest enjoying a trio of creme brûlée – mango, green tea and infused lemongrass and coconut – as I weep into my safe, but pleasant, vanilla cheesecake with fresh fruit.
I chose to look at this as an opportunity to learn to always choose the standout dish.
Nipa Thai offered us a clear window into our time in Asia, more so for my guest and his time in Thailand, that no other restaurant has with such attention to detail and gusto.
It’s plain to see Head Chef, Sanguan Parr’s sixteen years have been used to continually fine tune a menu that cleverly blends authentic Thai tastes and cuisine with the familiars of western culture that allows both to challenge one another further and further.