Plaza Khao Gaeng | Bib Gourmand-Winning Thai
Luke Farrell is obsessive about his ingredients.
At Plaza Khao Gaeng, the flagship Thai restaurant occupying the upper mezzanine level in the excellent Arcade Food Hall, he sources everything he can from Thailand. And anything he can’t get, perhaps because it’s too perishable to travel, or too expensive to source, he grows himself. Here. He has a huge greenhouse in Dorset (he calls it a “living library”) complete with wildlife, tropical rain showers, butterflies for pollination, and dozens of herbs, spices, fruits, and vegetables. It’s like a mini Thai rainforest down on the south coast.
We’re just establishing a little context here, because it helps to explain just how bloody good the food is here.
The space itself looks like it’s been ripped out of the streets of Bangkok, with a throughly hole-in-the-wall vibe bought out by fluorescent lighting, plastic tablecloths clipped to the tables, and simple wooden furnishings. It’s the closest thing that Arcade has to its own sit-down restaurant concept, and it doesn’t feel like fine-dining, but then, that’s the point.
Pull up a chair, and you’ll be whisked through the menu, which is reassuringly concise. One move is to spring for the Deep South Menu, inspired by Southern Thailand’s thick, blazing curries, and fresh, vibrant seafood. You’ll get eight dishes in all, slung on the table as fast as the kitchen can make them, ranging from a bright, sour orange curry of mussels & squid with garcinia; to a fiery plate of stir fried morning glory with fermented soy beans; a medley of freshly chopped vegetables with a zingy shrimp paste relish; and a rich beef shoulder massaman curry with potatoes & shallots, among many others.
The other move is to see if you can brave the Southern Crab Menu, which is only available on weekends. By brave, we mean it’s a proper heat-seeker, headlined by a whole hen crab curry that you disassemble yourself, armed with a pair of scissors and (hopefully) a bucket of ice-cold Singha beers. Once you think you’ve polished off the crab, the remnants of its brown meat disperse into the flavour of the sauce (you’ll also find paste from Thailand’s Phattalung province and clove basil from Farrell’s greenhouse in there), all of which should be mopped up with another portion of rice.
It’s all uniformly excellent, and you can wash it down with cocktails like a complex Nam Keng Sii Faa (calamansi citrus vodka, honey, lemongrass butterfly tea, & fermented pineapple soda), or the slightly more simple highball with gin & snakefruit.
Which, for some reason isn’t called a bananaconda.
NOTE: Plaza Khao Gaeng is open now, seven days a week. You can find out more, and make a booking at their menu right here.
Arcade Food Theatre | 101-103 New Oxford Street, WC1A 1DD
Arcade makes a great place for a quick bite… before checking out one of London’s best theatre shows running now.