LDNReview

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

A spread of food at Kolae, including the chicken skewers, mussel skewers, and deep-fried prawn heads.
8.4

Kolae

Thai

London Bridge

$$$$Perfect For:Eating At The BarBig GroupsCatching Up With MatesDate Night

Included In

Every so often, a whoosh of jagged flames shoots up from the wok in Kolae’s open kitchen. Diners at the counter squeal, the chef expertly manoeuvres his wrist and then, once the 999 anxiety around Borough Market has subsided, attention returns to food. A clockwork occurrence like this could be misinterpreted as all show, but this southern Thai restaurant has the same crackle of energy in its food.

Spread across three floors, Kolae comes from the team behind Som Saa. Like there, it pairs ASOS industrial chic for the bridge-and-tunnel crowd with vigorous Thai cooking made slick for the mass market. The mussel skewers are some of London’s great molluscs (even if that category isn’t exactly teeming) and the £5 martini should be mandated by law. 

People eat at the bar and at the front tables at Kolae. A chef is seen cooking on the grills behind the bar.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Two grilled mussel skewers and a lime wedge on a ceramic plate.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Chefs cook in the open kitchen at Kolae.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

A plate of crispy prawn heads and a lime slice on a grey ceramic plate.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

People eat at the bar and at the front tables at Kolae. A chef is seen cooking on the grills behind the bar.
Two grilled mussel skewers and a lime wedge on a ceramic plate.
Chefs cook in the open kitchen at Kolae.
A plate of crispy prawn heads and a lime slice on a grey ceramic plate.

Downstairs is the proverbial party. Whether you come for a solo skewer at the bar and kitchen counter or pile into one of the booths, Kolae hits you with a flavour-fuelled charm offensive. From the first munch of a deep-fried prawn head to the final spoon of sticky pandan rice with coconut sorbet. This food will live long in the memory but not on the plate.

Go upstairs, away from the flamethrower-ish action, and the thrills of the grill dissipate. These two dining rooms are more sedate and conversation-heavy. There are booths of colleagues contractually obliged to talk to each other and groups of friends attacking herbaceous kale fritters. Kolae’s off-white, Soho House-lite space feels like somewhere trying to appeal to everyone—its menu is where it shows real personality.

A long leather booth snakes around a corner at Kolae.  There are square tables with wooden chars, brick walls and a hanging pendant light.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

A person scooping up a forkful of kale fritters from a shallow bowl.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Violence is never the answer but ensuring you get the final bite of the sole dessert is an exception to the rule. That said, the menu has a dozen-or-so things worth gently fighting for. The roasted shrimp paste is a pungent bowl of oomph to be constantly spooned and smeared. While the chicken kolae—essentially satay post-bulking season—is good for the heat adverse. At least one lively curry should be on your table, but nothing is intensely hot.

Kolae image
People sitting at small tables at Kolae.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

A spoon digs into a bowl of southern gati curry.
The light pink exterior of Kolae. There are two tables, plants, and hanging pendant lights.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Kolae image
People sitting at small tables at Kolae.
A spoon digs into a bowl of southern gati curry.
The light pink exterior of Kolae. There are two tables, plants, and hanging pendant lights.

London’s history of Thai food is storied and we’re blessed with some wonderful options. Kolae is probably the most preened of them all, but its cooking is also some of the most electrifying. Given that you can easily have a good meal here for around £60, it’s no wonder that they made this place big because people will be piling in for some time. Even so, Kolae’s soul is in the food and you want to be as close to it as possible.

Food Rundown

A person squeezes a lime over the crispy prawn heads from Kolae.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Crispy Prawn Heads With Turmeric And Garlic

If you could buy a bag of these from the newsagent then Walkers, McCoy’s, the Kettle empire—all of them—would be in serious trouble. One of the most irresistibly snackable starters around, these crunching prawn heads are showered in turmeric, coriander root, and little golden nuggets of crisp Thai garlic.
Two grilled mussel skewersand a half of a lime on a raw white ceramic plate.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Grilled Mussel Skewers

Steamed, smothered in a gently spiced and faintly nutty maroon marinade, and grilled (twice), these silky mussels are pretty much unlike any mussel we’ve had before. A squeeze of calamansi brings a touch of acidity and combined with the grilling over a smouldering coconut, it makes for a truly revelatory mollusc.

Roasted Shrimp Paste Relish

Every table at Kolae should have a bowl of this oomph. It’s a glorious mix of pungent roasted and dried shrimp, pounded into a paste, grilled, and then laced with feisty bird’s eye chillies. It’s not all funk and fire though. There’s a generous load of coconut palm sugar and a shower of lime juice too, and it makes for a brilliant addition to everything you order.
Two chicken bamboo skewers on an oblong ceramic plate.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Chicken Bamboo Skewer

A bulkier, saucier, and extremely juicy relative of chicken satay, this kolae chicken skewer is great. The chicken thigh is repeatedly marinated in a nutty, coconut curry sauce and slowly grilled to juicy perfection.
A spoon dips into a bowl of southern gati curry.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Southern Gati Curry

This glowing yellow curry of prawns, stone bass, and betel leaf is a creamy and aromatic combination well worth your time. The seafood is plump and although, initially, there doesn’t seem to be a tonne of chilli kick, it’s a curry that creeps up on you in a warming way.

Another Curry

There are usually a couple of curries on at Kolae, be it a wet pepper curry of grilled chicken and Thai aubergine, or a dry kua kling curry of minced venison. If a little kick is your thing, we’d highly recommend you order it. Kolae’s curries aren’t slap-in-the-face bowls but are balanced, flavour-packed dishes with a little bite.

Sour Mango Salad

A crunching bowl that mixes sweet roasted coconut, salty dried anchovies, and whacks of chilli, this mango salad isn’t for the faint hearted but you’d be missing out if it wasn’t on your table.

Coconut Water Pickles

A good pickle plate is an essential order and this one is excellent. A mixture of radish, cabbage, cucumber, and iron-rich chard. It complements pretty much everything else you’ll order with a welcome bit of crunch and acidity, but it stands fantastically on its own (or with a dollop of roasted shrimp paste).
A bowl of coconut sorbet, pandan sticky rice, crushed salted peanuts, and sliced mango.

photo credit: Jake Missing

Pandan Sticky Rice With Young Coconut Sorbet

There’s only one dessert on the menu. It’s a bold move. Then again, this dessert may well be knocking on the door of the greats in London restaurants. Sweet rice that’s a little stodgy, paired with ripe slices of fruit, light coconut sorbet, and salted peanuts. Like most things here, it hits pretty much every flavour mark.

Included In

FOOD RUNDOWN

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