For every mediocre pad thai in London there is a whole deep-fried sea bass chilli fest that will leave you questioning why you settled for some sad, dry noodles for so long. From an old-school Soho spot with a lamb curry that will have you contemplating whether Patara massaman is a catchy name for your firstborn to the ultimate place for a moo krob KO group meal, here are the Thai restaurants that are worth your time.
Singburi is hot in every sense of the word. Getting a table at the cash-only BYOB Thai spot in Leytonstone is no mean feat. Nor is powering through its legendary daily changing specials board that will likely KO everyone from the performative hot sauce lover to the genuine chilli enthusiast. Everything on that board is sensational. The famous moo krob, a plate of perfectly rendered cubes of crisp, fat pork belly, coated in a fierce and pungent mixture of chilli and basil, is addictive and will turn everyone at the table into hyenas. In fact, there's not much point in conversation at Singburi. Fantastic and fiery food is the focus.
Kiln isn’t just one of the best Thai-influenced restaurants in London. It’s one of the best restaurants in London full stop. The bar is where you want to be at this spot on Brewer Street, where the clay pots sizzle on open flames in front of your eyes, and a bead of sweat forms on your forehead as you take another bite of ox heart laab. Nothing here is watered down. It’s not a wishy-washy take on Thai food, it’s fully charged, chilli-heavy stuff. It’s perfect whether you’re with a friend sharing a duck curry and pork and crab glass noodles, or pitching up on your own.
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
Plaza Khao Gaeng
On the mezzanine level of the bustling and somewhat overwhelming mania of Arcade Food Hall is Plaza Khao Gaeng. There’s officious light, lurid plastic tablecloths, and a cocktail so neon, so pumped full of energy drink, you might well suggest sprinting home from Tottenham Court Road. Basically, it's decked out to the nines in the stuff you find in roadside spots all over Thailand. Food-wise there's miang phuket—a starter of coconut and chestnuts mixed with palm sugar—that might sound Wonka-ish if it wasn’t for the unforgiving slaps of bird’s-eye chilli, ginger, and lime throughout. Pile the mixture into miang (Thai spinach leaves) before popping it into your gob. No polite bite. No dabbing with your napkin. No blinking. Be it the beef massaman or gaeng som talay (sour squid and mussel orange curry), you don’t want to miss any of these plates of excitement.
A picture’s worth a thousand words. Sometimes, a sausage is too. We could write a whole essay on the glorious salt factor of the traditional Isaan sausages that are handmade at 101 Thai. We won’t—the world just isn’t ready—so instead we’ll whittle it down to this: when the oil of the skin hits the garlic pork inside you’re in for a real good time. They’re unmissable and so is the panang curry. And the had yai ‘HFC’ fried chicken. And the crispy pla plaa style lao fish that claims to be a salad but is mostly an ode to all the reasons fried red sea bream and lime leaves are quite clearly soulmates. Yes, you’re going to have to make some very hard decisions at this Hammersmith spot. The good news is that there are Chang beers, cutesy pink walls, and MasterChef Thailand to keep you company while you weigh up your many excellent options. Come hungry, or don’t come at all.
What happens when you combine a relaxed Peckham neighbourhood restaurant with some of the best Thai food in London? The Begging Bowl, that’s what. This place is all about modern takes on Thai classics, from fermented yellow beans with stir-fried hispi cabbage to the ultimate zing factor of rhubarb and green mango with cured cod. Expect upbeat service that will help you make the crucial decision between a deep-fried whole sea bass and the chilli beef rump. Or just bring a group so you can do yourself a favour and try as much of the menu as possible.
If you don’t order the lamb shank massaman at Patara, then you’re doing it wrong. Please excuse us whilst we get a little M&S food ad, but this lamb actually melts in your mouth. The massaman is rich, nutty, sweet, with a jolly little dash of heat and it’s easily one of our top 10 curries in London. Of course, if you’re vegan, vegetarian, or in need of halal options, rest assured that this old-school Thai mini-chain has also got you covered with the purple flower facade chor muang and chilli-lime-papaya party som tum. Patara has locations in Knightsbridge, Hampstead, Wimbledon, and Mayfair, but it’s the Greek Street flagship that’s your best bet for a no-nonsense dinner with mates, dates, or a group of hungry colleagues.
When it comes to recommendations, Supawan is a spot that comes out of our mouths again and again. The Thai restaurant in King’s Cross may be understated on first glance, but once you have a bite of the yum khoa tod—a crispy rice salad that tastes like a live rendition of Luck Be A Lady is going on in your mouth—you’ll get what’s going on. The dishes here are no-holds-barred and you want as many on your table as possible. Phuket-style paneang curry is deeply peanutty and peek gai yad sai (lemongrass-packed chicken wings) are both bowls of food you will not want to share. But that’s the way to do it here. Share, share, share.
Esarn Kheaw is one of the OG Thai spots in London. It’s been open since the ‘90s and unlike the cultural zeitgeist surrounding scrunchies and Tammy Girl, this place has remained reliably popular. For the indecisive among you, prepare yourself for the fact that the menu here spans six pages but our advice is to forego the pad thai and really get into the intensity of the bamboo shoot salad, deep-fried whole sea bass, and the aptly-named Tiger Cry feisty chilli steak number. Basically, anything with ‘Esarn speciality’ next to it on the menu, you want on your table.
The Thai-influenced spot in Highbury has been around since 2017 and quickly became a neighbourhood favourite. Small plates like the miang bites (betel leaves stuffed with prawn and pomegranate) and the curries combine British produce with sweet, sour, spicy, and salty Thai flavours. The space, once an old-school Italian spot, feels very much like Farang's now—the outside facade has been painted black and the tables inside provide bright colours courtesy of dishes like prawn and herb-laden jungle curry, lurid-looking gai prik, and deep-fried chicken in a blood orange fish sauce glaze. Only open Wednesday to Saturday, it’s a spot worth travelling to.
Smoking Goat is right in the epicentre of Shoreditch which, on any given night, can feel like a mixture of 24 Hour Party People and 28 Days Later. But this Thai spot is at its best when you embrace that kind of atmosphere. The drunken noodles will hit right and those crispy chilli fish sauce wings will taste even better than usual. Just be wary that given the area, this place gets booked up and busy, fast.
There’s something uniquely British about a brown-wooded, burgundy-hued, bungalow pub in Paddington where the carpets smell like the memories of a trillion pints too many. Only the food at The Heron isn’t remotely British, instead it’s some of the best Thai food you can get in London. Fierce, sour, and spicy seafood salads will do their best to keep you warm, but if not, an enormous bubbling tom yum soup will do the trick. It’s the perfect spot for a big group celebration—even if the karaoke and eccentric interiors of the past are no more—with its whopping pub garden and, most importantly, the rousing Thai fare downstairs.
And the award for the best grab-and-go pad thai in London goes to…well, it would be awkward if it wasn’t Khanom Krok but luckily, they deserve the title. The quality at this little Thai street food stall in Borough Market is just as good as several of the sit-down spots on this list. All of the produce used in the dishes come from local traders at the market. From the buttery texture of the prawns in the pad thai to the sweetness of the mango that comes alongside sticky rice and coconut, it’s all super fresh. If you happen to be in the mood for something sweet—of course you are—get involved in the khanom krok, a traditional coconut pancake which is poured out of a little teapot onto a brass pan. Lunch and a show, a worthy winner.
As the old saying goes, style and tataki tuna larb are a formidable combination. Never heard that saying before? Clearly you’ve never been to Greyhound Café in Fitzrovia. You should know that some of the things on the Thai-twist menu can be a little hit and miss—DIY ‘Complicated Noodles’ we’re looking at you. But stick to the straightforward classics like the ribeye satay and the confit duck soup noodles and you’ll leave satisfied, especially if you make use of the terrace in the summer.