One of my main memories of Summer 2011 is the smell of Thai food. More specifically, the memory of standing outside the Fitzroy Tavern on Charlotte Street, cider in hand and catching the scent of the Thai restaurant opposite that made the Salt & Vinegar crisps we were sharing between five feel even more inadequate (the realities of being students/publishers in London, eh).
|Outside Siam Central. Photo Credit: Square Meal|
That restaurant was Siam Central. It being on Charlotte Street – home to many an expensive and upmarket restaurant – I had always assumed it would be out of my price range and made do with the crisps and cider. How wrong I was! A couple of weeks ago, tasked with finding a restaurant for a department meal, I decided to take a walk up said Charlotte Street to find affordable options (there are more than I first thought, incidentally). But it was Siam Central’s smell, alongside its Express Lunch Menu options starting at £6 that sealed the deal. I mean, for that price even if the food was awful then we wouldn’t have paid much for it. And at least it would smell good (hopefully).
Even at 12.45 on a Tuesday, Siam Central was pretty busy; it filled up considerably in the time we were there so I’d recommend making reservations. We were seated in the basement which was quite simple but more than adequate. Upstairs has a bit more of a ‘Far East’ theme, but nothing particularly extravagant. Not that you’ll be concentrating much on the decor once the food comes along.
One of Siam Central’s USPs is that you can choose from either a regular menu (mains around £7-£8 out of lunchtime) or to have ‘Thai tapas’. Although these cost a little less than the standard mains, other reviews suggest they’re worth indulging in – interesting and tasty.
However, we all went for the express menu, 2 courses for £8 option (you can also get 3 for £10). For starters most of us opted for the spring rolls (fresh, rather than crispy) and prawn toast. Although the latter might sound more suited to a Chinese menu, it still went down well with our crowd and looked tasty. My spring rolls were full of flavour, and the accompanying dip was perfect.
|Pineapple fried rice, duck penang curry (I can attest to the lamb version being excellent), chicken pad thai (very popular with our group) and chilli and basil stir fry with beef. Photo Credit: The Catty Life|
For my main, I had the lamb curry. I was a little concerned that the spice might overpower the taste, but needn’t have worried. My only quibble was that there wasn’t more of it. Not because the portion wasn’t generous – it was what you’d expect really – but because I loved it!
Other popular choices were the Penang Curry and Pad Thai. A perpetual favourite with those who chose it, they all agreed that this was an excellent version of the dish. The only critique I heard was that the drunken rice was a little spicier than expected, but still tasted good.
The only downside to the meal is that express menu really did mean express. We didn’t take particularly long over out starters, but some main were brought out while some still had food on their place from the previous course. That said, we still spent an hour or so in the restaurant and otherwise the service was fine so it’s not something that would stop me recommending the place or even returning and eating from that menu again.
The perfect place to go if you’re looking for cheap and tasty Thai food in Central London.
|The minimalist Far East interior. Photo Credit: Square Meal|
No website, but reviews can be found at London Eating.
Location: 14 Charlotte Street, W1T 1LX
Price: Express lunch set menu costs from £6 – £10. ‘Thai Tapas’ cost more. Drinks are anything from £2 for non-alcoholic to around £15 for the cheapest bottle of wine (apparently).
Reservations: 020 7436 7460