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Ora (Restaurant)

Picture of Ora in Fitzrovia, London

6 Little Portland Street, Fitzrovia, London, W1W 7JE
Cuisine: Thai
Tel: 020 7637 0125 | Email to Ora | Transport: Oxford Circus | Write review

Ora Review

Best for: 80s flashbacks; grilled meat; decent Thai cuisine.

Great: wine list; diversion from the hell of Oxford Street.

Oxford Circus intersection at 7pm; picture it; a horrid moment to be caught in. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, the commuting drones begin to remove all their clothing, simultaneously bursting into a collective rendition of the theme tune to popular kids’ TV show, Rainbow.

“Up above the streets and houses, rainbow climbing high,”
(off come the blouses and T-shirts)

“Everyone can see it climbing through the sky. Paint the whole world with a rainbow!”
(bras, socks, pants, boxers, all hit the pavement)

Once they reach the zenith of the song, in full glorious nudity, the giant marshmallow man from Ghostbusters stomps from behind H&M, booms the words “None shall pass”, before the entire naked crowd vehemently sets upon its white alabaster skin, frenziedly gorging of its sweet, sweet innards.

This phenomenon is bound to happen eventually, and if, like me, you’re the type who wildly fantasises about something that is essentially a forgone conclusion, you’ll need a distraction in the interim, something to keep you busy while you await the inevitable. Sustenance, refreshment, and possibly a backstreet time travelling machine from Thailand should do it.

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the 1980s. Step right this way - through the small, dark entrance - for a nostalgic peak at a bygone era peculiarly trapped in the body of a fairly decent Thai restaurant in central London. Your resolve to witness the fall of the Stay Puft beast will dissipate once you begin to notice the ambient, up-lit, pink and purple laser show, where mirrored globe lighting, black glass and words like ‘snazzy’ are commonplace; snazzy cutlery, snazzy glasses, and snazzy staff with snazzily coiffured hair wearing snazzy matching uniforms. Him behind the substantial back bar; that’s the Thai Gary Numan. Those plate-laden ladies skipping punctiliously amongst the media sect, couples, and nattering girlfriends; they’re the Thai Pepsi & Shirley.

The swirling, digital, kaleidoscopic spiral projected onto the wall behind the bar combines with the strong, nose-sniffing, chilli pungency of the simple yet vast, non-fatty, beautifully textured, Kor Moo Yang pork neck with hint of mint to create a near-hallucinogenic 80s throwback experience. I was told it would not be too powerful; a 1 on the chilli scale. It was clearly a 2.5. My back sweated. The underside of my thighs stuck to the leather seats. It was an overall enjoyable learning curve.

Sadly, vegetation was conspicuously absent. Any sensible caveat would highlight the cultural differences between Thai cuisine and that of our meat-and-two-veg Western leanings, but surely there is no discernible lack of vegetables in Thailand? I may not have been myself, but loads and loads of my ex-girlfriends have visited, and neither of them returned bemoaning the dearth of roughage in their holiday diets. And how authentic does this Thai time machine need to be, anyway? Our effusive remarks about the gorgeous Stump Jump Riesling-Marsanne-Sauvignon would have been incongruous in Chiang Mai, would they not? Plus, I was told a salad would be superfluous when the grill favourites were recommended.

In the end, sides and rice were missed. With asking prices in the high teens, perhaps the intriguing salad section would have been sagacious. Lesson learned: ignore recommendations. That said, avoid the Kanon Beurng Sai Gai savoury chicken pancake starter because, although the payoff is good, the process is fiddly. Instead, opt for the nicely presented crab cakes that have endured a medium degree of battering. You owe them that much.

Likewise, other meritorious recommendations you will probably choose to ignore are the deliciously plummy tamarind duck and the surprisingly pleasant dessert options, which, oddly, don’t all rely on glutinous rice puddings (ice chestnuts in coconut offering the best opportunity for me to say “I told you so.”)

Speedy service, a lavish wine list, outstanding grilled meats, and reasonable prices for starters and desserts mean Ora will be popular with hyperactive, alcoholic, carnivorous cheapskates (that’ll be everyone, then), but essentially it’s just a poor man’s Tamarai, for greater reasons than the obvious decor similarities.

The lack of windows and the abundance of spice, however, mean this would be an ace/skill/rad restaurant to eat in when doing the Christmas shopping along Oxford Street. You wouldn’t want to get caught in that maelstrom of madness for too long, not unless there’s an assurance of mass nudity and large scale marshmallow death.
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