When you go to Patara, you order the lamb shank massaman. We don’t make the rules. We like to think that they are decided by some glorious restaurant deity who understands that coconut milk, spices, potatoes, and almonds are the ultimate reward for the fact that you live in a city where you get four hours of decent sunshine a year. This hefty, hearty dish will arrive on your table in a huge oval ceramic dish, a leg of tender braised lamb jutting out from the centre like a trophy for a fictitious award show called The Golden Sheepies. You’ll look at the luminous orange curry and think, this white tablecloth doesn’t stand a chance. And that’s okay because Patara isn’t a restaurant that’s about polite little bites. It’s about merrily devouring some of the most comforting, classic Thai food London has to offer.
Patara first opened in Kensington back in 1990. Since then, choker necklaces have gone from the height of sexy to despised and all the way back to being hot again, and during that time Patara have opened restaurants in Knightsbridge, Hampstead, Wimbledon, Mayfair, and this large Soho flagship. We’re very glad they did because their Greek Street location offers the perfect respite from the area's many fancy schmancy wine restaurants where you can find yourself nibbling on some tarted-up burrata and wondering if you’re going to need the sustenance of a Pot Noodle and some Pringles when you get home. No, Patara is about big satisfying slap-dash dishes, all served with brisk no-nonsense smiles.
Packed out with red banquette seating, sleek black chairs, and long group tables, it’ll work just as well for a business lunch over their £15.95 set menu as it will for a relaxed birthday meal where you order three more pints of Singha than you were intending to and ask if anyone fancies sharing the supersized garlic king prawns. If you’re in the market for a little drama, request the table next to the giant temple statue and order the signature whole sea bass, a towering pile of fish, batter, and luminous sweet chilli sauce that the servers walk through the dining room like it’s their firstborn. That’s right. Shockingly, we are capable of recommending something outside of our coconut soulmate and Golden Sheepies nominee, that lamb shank massaman.
The great news is that Patara is no one-hit wonder. If you’re a vegetarian or a big-time spice enthusiast, there are plenty of other dishes on their huge menu that are worth an order. The som tum is a bowl of zingers; chilli, peanuts, papaya, and palm sugar all fighting for your attention. The chor muang is a sweet-meets-savoury flower-shaped dumpling masquerading as Soho’s cutest purple accessory, caramelised chicken included. And the pineapple red curry achieves the tricky task of making tofu taste like something other than wet feet. Nice work, Patara. All those years of experience have paid off in the form of a Soho restaurant that’s as reliable as it is satisfying. And in case we didn’t already mention it, it’s also home to one of the best massaman curries in London.
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Confession: we ordered these because they looked cute. But behind the purple flower facade is a nutty sweet chicken surprise that is highly addictive. The winner of the starters.
Papaya. Fun to say, fun to eat, and something we always think huh we really should eat more of this about whenever we eat this salad. The papaya and peanut base stops all that loud and proud chilli and lime from being overwhelming and for under a tenner, it’s a salad that provides so much more than your five-a-day.
Spicy Crispy Mushrooms
This is our favourite dish at Patara that doesn’t involve fish, meat, or the word massaman. Deep-fried veggie crunch covered in a vinaigrette that we like to think of as the ultimate showdown between lime and chilli. Spoiler: the chilli tends to win out.
Lamb Shank Massaman
The lamb. The myth. The legend. Please excuse us while we get a little M&S food ad, but this lamb melts in your mouth. It is oh-so tender and combined with the creaminess of the curry it creates this rich, nutty, sweet, dash of heat wonder dish with endless comfort factor. It’s entirely worth the £22.95 and importantly, it’s big enough to share between two.
Garlic & Pepper King Prawns
These prawns are large and in charge and they are not afraid to give you some of the most profound garlic breath of your life. The prawns have that whole buttery could-be-meat thing going on and although garlic and peppercorns are pretty casual sidekicks, it makes for a nice seafood number. One to get for the table and share.
A bit of a snooze fest compared to some of the other big banging flavours on offer here, but if you’re in the mood for simple noodles and low-key vegetable friends, you’re in safe hands. Or, alternatively, for £6 you can add the XXL prawns to the party.