48 � squaremeal.co.uk
4 Mill Street, W1S 2AX
020 3794 8448 ££££
We were big fans of breezy fish restaurant
Bouillabaisse but alas, we were in the
minority. So it's no surprise that
owner Kurt Zdesar, founder of
the Ping Pong dim sum chain
as well as Soho's Chotto Matte,
has retreated to his comfort
zone with this dark, moody
Mayfair proposition touting
2016's hottest dish: poke, a sort
of Hawaiian tuna tartare set
to take fashion-conscious,
low-carb London by storm.
Eight kinds of poke are
served, from classic ahi (tuna)
to various fish and seafood
spins, together with beef and
vegetable versions. It's fine so
far as it goes, prettily presented
with exotic edible flowers
MUST ORDER Classic ahi poke with sesame
43a Commercial Street, E1 6BD 020 7324 7790 ££
It's always been a mystery why first-rate �ai food has rarely
thrived in London. But British chefs have taken up the challenge
and things are changing. In 2014, Ben Chapman and Seb Holmes
opened Smoking Goat off Charing Cross Road to rave reviews;
now Andy Oliver has upped the ante further with Som Saa.
and lotus roots, but little more than its
constituent parts: fresh if not particularly
flavourful protein offset by the insistent
presence of sesame, served on rice. �e
second coming of sushi this ain't.
Nor did anything else we ate stand out.
MUST ORDER Shrimp paste relish with wild ginger and coconut cream
Lobster and crab potsticker dumplings and
prawn tempura were both nice enough but,
like most starters, priced upwards of £10.
Smoky lamb rack tasted much as that menu
description promised. Whole lobster mac &
cheese seemed present to be Instagrammed
as much as enjoyed. And octopus aïoli with
chilli salsa and coriander tasted odd verging
on unpleasant, the octopus overcooked and
the flavouring strident. �e lack of carbs,
unless you count a sickly side of garlicbutter
fries with yuzu mayo, might leave
you ordering more than you intended, too.
Not that the substantial cost of a meal
here seemed to concern the glossy, young
clientele, who didn't look as if they'd be
footing the bill. In a city like London, seeand-be-seen
hangouts in its most expensive
postcodes are part of the dining scene - but
Black Roe struck us as a restaurant aimed
at people not very interested in eating.
Oliver might be best known from the 2009 series of MasterChef
but he worked with David �ompson at Nahm - still the best
�ai restaurant London has had - as well as spending two
years at Bangkok's bo.lan, often rated the world's best �ai
restaurant. Last year, Oliver had a smash-hit pop-up in Hackney's
Climpson's Arch; now he's found a permanent home in an
industrial-chic former fabric warehouse near Spitalfields Market,
after a crowdfunding campaign raised £700,000 in three days.
Oliver's calling card is authentic northern �ai cooking,
producing flavours unfamiliar to most Londoners. Lon gapi relish
of shrimp paste with wild ginger and coconut cream was oily-rich,
and satisfyingly dripped off crunchy crudités. Tamarind dipping
sauce for a plump grilled chicken leg was worlds away from the
usual sweet gloop, simultaneously sharp, sweet and sour.
Burmese-style pork belly and shoulder curry arrived as a
comforting pot of melty meat, but there was no hiding from the
slap-in-the-face sour heat of som tam Isaan, a green papaya salad
with snake beans, tomatoes and fermented fish sauce.
Too full for dessert (palm-sugar ice cream with grilled
banana, for example) we opted for a Dragon's Milk cocktail
(a heady combination of sticky-rice rum, Kahlúa, coconut
cream, condensed milk, salt and sesame) from a list boasting
interesting takes on the classics. Dispiritingly, Som Saa doesn't
take bookings for tables of fewer than four, but the bar is no bad
place to wait for dinner at one of 2016's hottest openings.