Nahm received some mixed reviews when it opened, but it is also Europe’s only Thai restaurant with a Michelin star. Our lunchtime visit showed us it was worth that star, and we were pleased with their modest pricing policy.
The restaurant has a few lunchtime offers: two courses for £15, three for £20 (these two were from a more restricted choice) or a £30 set meal with five courses. We thought this last option would give us the greatest range of food to try. Daniel commented that he liked the focus of the menu, they were not trying to do too much.
We would normally only drink beer in a Thai establishment, but a quick look at the intelligently chosen and reasonably priced wine list made us decide to get a couple of halves of Riesling. Rarely have we experienced such a choice wine list; this set us in the mood for fun. We like fun, don’t you?
We were served some little nibbles as an amuse bouche: dried shrimp and peanut caramelised in palm sugar on pieces of mandarin and pineapple. These had a strong, rich flavour which kept on developing more interest as you chewed. The texture was truly amazing; it was more than just the flavour of the ingredients that worked well together. The fact that I really hate peanut in food and yet loved these little morsels shows how good they were.
The four main courses all came at the same time. There was a hot and sour clam soup which had a strong lemon grass character. There were a reasonable amount of clams in the broth and also some wonderful Thai shallots which were cooked to melting softness. When one thinks of Thai food it is normally in terms of fresh, distinct and vibrant flavours. The soup (and the next two dishes) had those qualities, but also a depth of complexity that made them really stand out as being a step ahead.
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Quail salad with smoky chilli sauce was absolutely delicious, and even though it was quite mind-bendingly hot this did not mask the intricacy of flavours. You know you are alive when you eat food like this. The spicy richness of the guinea fowl red curry was also expressive and perfectly balanced. I found the Thai aubergines, something that normally bores me (because they are vegetables), in this to be flavoursome and expertly cooked.
Stir-fried squid with garlic, galangal and spring onions was our last main course. It was more focussed on purity of fresh flavours, but it was none the worse for that. The squid was brilliantly prepared, not even remotely chewy or tough; it melted on your palate.
The menu included a couple of desserts, the coconut cake with rambutans in jasmine syrup and shaved young coconut was particularly good. Given the quality of the food we were quite surprised that we dined alone for most of our meal. Sure, a Tuesday lunchtime in August may not be the busiest of times, but a restaurant serving top Thai tucker and winning wine at perfectly pleasing prices should be busier than this. Go for lunch there, it will be obscenely better and not much more expensive than [link2post id=”1195″]Addie’s Thai Cafe[/link2post].
David Thompson, the head chef at Nahm, has written the definitive book on Thai food. If you want to try and create such marvellous food at home this is the tome you need.
Contact details: Nahm, The Halkin, Halkin Street, SE1X Telephone: +44 (0)20 7333 1234