I do love Great Britain. When a country names chicken tikka masala as their national food, you know the British have good taste. Out in Kensington, the Beverly Hills section of London, food comes at a price, but the restaurants have survived ’til now have made it by serving some of the best the city has to offer. Thai food isn’t as big as Indian restaurants or the classic British pub, but if you’re in the mood and have a bit of cash to splurge with, Patara is a good place to go.
Located on Beauchamp Place alongside taverns and some upscale restaurants, Patara is extremely easy to find. The restaurant itself is quite small, but it serves the purpose of creating a quiet and intimate atmosphere. The staff is all from Thailand (or so they say), so it takes a bit of time to understand what they’re saying, but you can get used to it after talking to them for a while. Each of them are quite courteous and willing to work with you if you want dishes changed a bit.
Appetizer-wise, there’s a lot of the standard Thai fare here. There is an excellent satay platter that comes with chicken, lamb, beef, and prawns, and provides a peanut sauce with a splash of cream for added richness. The meat is cooked well, and isn’t subject to the toughness overcooking satay can get. It’s a classic Thai appetizer, and it’s worth looking into. Another is a soft shell crab dish with green mango salad. Normally, you’d see a papaya salad here, but the mango is fresh and delicious, and takes the place of the papaya quite well. The soft shell crab legs were also cooked well, but I can’t say much for the seasoning. There isn’t a lot to taste here other than the raw, unfiltered taste of the crab. Still, it’s effective with the green mango salad, and it’s a unique dish worth trying.
As far as main dishes go, there is a lot of classic Thai tastes to be had. Beef with red curry sauce has always been a favorite of mine, and I’m glad to see that Patara’s rendition is also quite good. I’m a bit disappointed with the overall spiciness of the curry, but the amount of spices used covers for it very well. Combined with the fragrant rice included with the curry, this is still an excellent dish. An even better curry, however, is the lamb paneang. It doesn’t come to you as a typical curry; instead, there’s a humongous lamb shank sitting in a sea of curry. The lamb itself is cooked as if it were in a British tavern. Strong spices cut the taste of the lamb significantly, and makes it so the lamb doesn’t overpower the other ingredients in the dish. After you cut up the lamb shank, however, it becomes a more recognizable curry. It’s a strange dish at first, but then you realize the brilliance of this dish. It starts with a sweet flavor from the peanuts in the curry, but quickly evolves to a much stronger, spicier flavor. It’s a gradual shift of flavors that leaves every taste bud on your tongue quite happy. The lamb curry is on my “must try” list.
With the curries aside, there are still a variety of other dishes to try. One is a sea bass with peanut sauce, a dish that is deceptively spicey. It’s a good dish that relies on the strong sauce; however, I didn’t get a sense of balance with the fish itself. The sauce was a bit overpowering and maybe lessened the impact a bit. The pad thai, quite possible THE Thai dish, wasn’t as good as I’ve had before. The noodles were cooked well; however, I wasn’t too thrilled with the dish overall, since it was almost bland in taste. I know for one that Thai food is supposed to be more tasty that what I had for the pad thai.
On the plus side, the desserts offered at Patara are tremendous, offering some classic Thai recipes to the British. The sticky rice and mango was simple but effective. It uses fresh mango and homemade sticky rice to really make an impact. I don’t think you could be disappointed with any of the offerings here.
Patara does its curries well, but is a bit lacking on some of its other dishes. Nevertheless, it’s still a good place for some homestyle Thai cooking if you can afford the prices. Look for it at its locations throughout London (four of them!).
**Excellent curries and cooked satay
**Good use of fresh ingredients
**Expensive. Very expensive
**Small restaurant is small…
Important Information (Kensington Location):
181 Fulham Road, London, SW3 6JN
Tel. +44 (0)20 7351 5692