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Project A (Bar, Restaurant)

Picture of Project A in Shoreditch, London

Gainsborough Studios West, 1 Poole Street, Shoreditch, London, N1 5EA
Cuisine: Thai
Tel: 020 7033 7880 | Email to Project A | Transport: Old Street | Write review

Project A Review

Gainsborough Studios is the birthplace of intriguingly titled movies such as ‘Two Thousand Women’, ‘The Wicked Lady’, and ‘Fanny By Gaslight’ (you couldn’t make it up). It’s also the location at which greats like Ivor Novello, Gracie Fields and Alfred Hitchcock used to earn a crust. But the days of rationing have long since disappeared and in 2002 the studio, in true thriller fashion, was killed off unceremoniously. On its grave was built a snazzy apartment complex replete with fitness centre, sleek infinity pools, and an eco-lush Co-op supermarket.

Alfred Hitchcock lives on at Gainsborough in the form of an ominous semi-submerged sculptured head the size of the Bates Motel; an enigmatic and disturbingly lit edifice that should, at least, keep young children away.

The pertinently named Project A forms the resident bar and restaurant at the complex and stands equi-distance from Angel, Old Street and Essex Road. There’s something eerily uncomfortable about this Thai eatery; a definite Bates Motel vibe. Poised majestically between the bank of Regent’s Canal and the shady expanse of Shoredtich Park; no wonder Hitchcock liked it.

Fans of the thriller genre, however, will be disappointed to learn that this is one of those communities that is often described as ‘lovely’ and ‘nice’. The kind of place where the restaurant manager knows everyone on a first name basis.

Like any good thriller, though, Project A has a cast of goodies and baddies. The stark, brown, cold decor, for example, is about as inviting as an empty, floodlit cave suffering from depression and the hard surfaces lend it an acoustic atmosphere that sits firmly on the ‘needs recharging’ side of electric.

There was life there at 8pm on a Friday night, but most of it either worked there or ended up on the grill. That said, the fairy lights offered an ethereal mystique, and the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the murky canal were the portal through which (at least) the gaze managed to escape.

The window tables are prime real estate and provide ample coverage of the graffiti-adorned walls and shimmering moonlit shadows cast by ghostly, bicycle-mounted hoodies as they drift past the dawdling narrow boats. This true vista of London is both tranquil and outstanding. It’s just as engaging as the view of Trafalgar Square from The National Portrait Gallery restaurant or the Borough Market mêlée as seen from the window at Roast. During the summer months the trajectory of the sun is most favourable from 4pm until dusk, thus providing a veranda hotspot for early evening ciders from the downstairs bar.

Truth be told, the hard interior is possibly the only thing worth moaning about at Project A. That, and the incessantly loud phone that rings with annoying frequency due to the amount of customers ordering up a bounty of delicious take away.

So, the food. Oh, the food.

Fact: The owner was part of the team that opened Victoria’s popular Mango Tree restaurant

Fact: the chef has been cooking for 25 years (not continuously, allegedly)

Fact: in the year it launched, Project A won Best Thai Restaurant in The Islington Gazette and the Archant Food & Drinks Awards

Fact: Michael Caine, Abby Clancy, some bloke from Motorhead, and various actors from The Bill have all eaten here. If it’s good enough for Abby Clancy....(it wears a size 15 shoe?)

The menu is plentiful and contains more options than Jade Goody could count in a lifetime (too soon?). If you have issues with sharing then Project A is not for you. Small and fantastically inexpensive, the dishes are created with a strong presence of ginger - essential for Thai - plus a healthy dose of garlic which resurfaces several hours later in an enjoyable, eruptive belch. That great garlic combines prolifically with the chilli and lemongrass residing in the crispy prawn and baby squid, a favourite amongst the starters.

Project A is famous for certain dishes. The Pad Thai has its own star on Hollywood Boulevard and the lamb Massaman would make any vegetarian question their ethics. Honorable mentions should also go to the beefy Pad king Neur, the Sui Mai surf n turf Dim Sum, the Kow Krati coconut rice delivered in an actual coconut shell, and the Red Ped roast duck with sweet basil and chili which provides just the right amount of boot to the face to make a mildy (such as myself) experience a modicum of momentary confusion; most enjoyable.

Even though the restaurant is empty, each dish takes an age to arrive. This shouldn’t been seen as a negative. This means everything is made fresh and rightly encourages longevity in your visit.

Desserts are mostly cheats, so stay clear of iced goods and stick with anything involving a banana.

Beers are average, whereas the house red is remarkably decent.

Being so isolated, Project A does require a following; which is exactly what is has. For the same price as a second - nay THIRD - rate Thai at your local pub, you could be enjoying a love/hate relationship with Project A. If you don’t, the suspense will surely kill you.
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Customer Reviews for Project A

Average (based on 3 votes): 3 Atmosphere: Value: Quality:

The following customer reviews are not endorsed by Fluid London and are simply those of users who wish to publish their independent experiences of Project A.

“OK so it might be a bit on the quiet side and it might be in an area of town that isn't the easiest to get to but my goodness what a cool restaurant. The great canal setting makes for a perfect summer restaurant and the Dim Sum is phenomenal. And so cheap too!”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Leigh, Tooting (8 years 10 months 16 days ago)

“Lovely setting by the canal. Relaxed atmosphere and good service. Recommend the Dim Sum and Phad Thai. Tried a few Thai Restaurants in Islington and Old Street area and this one defintely my favourite.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Helen, Islington (9 years 1 months 22 days ago)

“Great service and food. Lovely selection of Dim Sum which we shared for starters. Went for a friends birthday and management and staff helped create a great evening. Couple of vegetarians in our group and lots of options for them too.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Ruth, LONDON (9 years 1 months 22 days ago)

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"Door staff are apalling, i turned up at 9pm on a weekday and the Eastern European doorman said they were closed despite bring clearly open, returned a month later at 7pm on a weekday and once again the..." Which venue is this?

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"Door staff are apalling, i turned up at 9pm on a weekday and the Eastern European doorman said they were closed despite bring clearly open, returned a month later at 7pm on a weekday and once again the..." Which venue is this?

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