Best for: A cozy, inviting Saturday night out with friends or the other half; and Chia pets.
Great: Waiters; temple; posh prawn crackers.
“They're prawn crackers, only more prawny,” says my plus one for the evening at Patara Thai restaurant on Greek Street in Soho.
“Expensive prawn crackers,” I respond.
“Ah, yes, that's it,” he says.
We've been sat at Patara for ten minutes at a cosy corner table from which we can view the hubbub without being interrupted by passing waiters and guests squeezing in behind or beside us. The prawn crackers arrived almost immediately; perfect for my hungry belly which has been starved most of the day in anticipation of a hoard of Thai food, one of my favourite cuisines.
?The crackers are, most certainly, posher than your standard cracker. They're crunchier, weightier and, well, more “prawny.”
But, then again, we are in a “fine” Thai dining establishment, according to the sign I noticed above the door. In the past, my Thai restaurant experiences have usually been in brightly lit, buzzy places with cheap, tasty street-food offerings served quickly, and with a beer. This is definitely a step up from that notion but it's far from the “fine” dining one might find in Mayfair or Knightsbridge. A point, I would stress, that is not to the restaurant's detriment in the least.
Patara, instead, manages a more upscale atmosphere without the least bit of pretension that “fine” dining restaurants often exude. It is warm, with dark brown leather booths along the teak coloured walls and inky wooden floors. Purple orchids offer a colourful accent, while a large beautifully lit, intricate temple dominates the middle portion of the upper floor. Small green pots (reminding me of the “Chia pet” which dominated my childhood TV channels) surround the temple, acting as mini hedges; these are removable and appear on each table as a centrepiece before guests are seated. It's satisfyingly saccharine.
What's even more heartening is the fact the restaurant is filled with glowing, smiling people; almost as if there isn't a gloomy recession happening outside in the gloomy January. This shift seems to happen as soon as people enter the doors. Despite a long queue on this, a Saturday night, there are no frowns. Either they're spiking the air supply with happy gas or there really is a feel-good atmosphere inside Patara.
Our waiters add to this. They are subtle but always beaming. Every question is answered carefully and with eagerness. But they're never hovering, never pushing to fill up our wine glasses and get us onto a second bottle. Instead, they appear almost silently while we – too engrossed in the food that has arrived at our table – barely notice their presence.
Our starters of salad rolls with crab, duck and shrimp, and poached king scallops appear garnished to the highest degree: delicate cucumber flowers and artfully arranged vegetable peelings show the care put into making each dish. Both starters are plump and rich; the scallops some of the biggest I've seen on a starter course.
Yet, it's the mains that really turn our heads. I opt for the “moo pah pad kati sod”; not, as it might sound, an elongated insult, but a course of wild boar steak in a coconut red curry sauce. My other half goes for “gae yang, somtam”; a rack of lamb with rice rolls and spicy salad. We share the baby aubergines and each order rice; an overestimation on how hungry we would be. The boar – although, unfortunately overcooked – is redeemed by the incredibly succulent sauce it bathes in; it's so good, I would actually bathe in it. The lamb, meanwhile, is so tender and rare that it melts on the tongue. It's the best I've had in months.
By the time the ninja-quiet waiter appears to whisk our dishes away, I'm lost to the world by way of full-belly heaven and find myself only able to stare unblinking at the flickering candles near the temple, watching the surrounding smiling people with contentment.
Patara has made our Saturday highly satisfying. As I move my overly heavy self off the cushy booth to face that gloomy January weather whirling outside, I begin to ponder the idea of “fine dining” once more. While Patara might boast “Fine Thai Dining” on its door, it is only so in the quality of the food it serves and the people it employs. Which, for me, is just about right.
Customer Reviews for Patara
Average (based on 1 votes): 1 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 Patara.
“This place is all about presentation. The decor, the food, even the way that the staff are decked out, it's all meticulously measured and crafted. A delightful little hang out in the middle of Soho. The beef is outstanding. And if they're in season, try the soda-fried oysters: delicious and surprisingly light.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
The Restaurant Hunter, London (7 years 9 months 26 days ago)
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- Cuisine Type: Thai
- Group: Patara
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