Nipa Thai is polished dining that’s refreshingly unpretentious.
As with all cuisines, there’s Thai, and there’s Thai. There’s the green curry you get from your Hungry-House approved takeaway, and then there’s the transcendentally delicious Por Pia Tod (crisp spring rolls containing glass noodles, cabbage and crab meat with a sweet plum sauce) that you get at Nipa Thai, the restaurant situated on the first floor of the Lancaster London hotel. It’s all very ‘authentic’ with the expected teak panelling and Thai furnishings. But, as we all know, authenticity is a funny old thing: easy to talk about, difficult to pin down.
If we were to hazard a definition, though, then Nipa might just fulfil it. First, there’s the front-of-house staff – all Thai. Then there’s the kitchen brigade – all Thai, and, more interestingly, all female. Then there’s even that pervasively atmospheric smell in the air of Lemongrass oil – hopefully from Thailand, but who can be sure? Of course, all that would be wasted if the food wasn’t up to the mark. Fortunately, as you’ve probably already guessed, that’s not the case.
We went for one of the wine paired set menus which feature such chef’s specialities as Keaw Nam Koong, which is an elegantly prepared prawn dumpling consommé with bean sprouts, spring onions, and coriander. Another highlight – with a name so long it doesn’t warrant writing here – were some wonderfully tender, stir-fried fresh scallops served with asparagus. The wines were all Thai (Monsoon Valley), not a style I’m particularly well-seasoned in, but they were all well-chosen and now I would probably think twice about settling on a beer the next time I have Thai. To round things off, we had caramel lychees, which were a refreshingly delicate conclusion to the bombastic flavours that had preceded them.
If you’re a guest at Lancaster London it would be criminal not to try at least one or two dishes at Nipa Thai. Though with a pre-theatre menu on offer as well, there’s no reason not to head there before an evening in the West End.