Benja Bangkok Table, 17 Beak Street, London, W1F 9RW
Last Friday after a manic week at work and a severe lack of sleep, we visited the Benja Bangkok Table in Soho. I had been fantasising about having a Thai green curry all day, it’s what got me through the mayhem.
Benja Bangkok Table was created when five young Thai friends got together to offer Thai food like that served every day in Bangkok and throughout Thailand.
We were very warmly greeted when we arrived, despite being late due to our cab not being able to get through the traffic and the fact that the tables were all quickly being filled. The table next to us was occupied by three personal assistants who, very loudly, were pointing out that everyone else’s job are so much better than theirs!
The restaurant is set over three floors, I was unaware of this until the end of the meal. I wish we’d known this, the downstairs floor is by far the best. So if you get the chance, head for the basement (which is also available for private parties). Talking of bad decisions, I stupidly sat with my back to the tv screen showing a video of Thailand on a loop, so Ade was staring at that for most of the evening instead of his new wife!
We loved the menu, great little explanations of the dishes, and three brilliantly priced set menus named after three popular destinations in Bangkok : Silom Road, Sukhumvit Road, and Khao Saan Road.
I would’ve had the Khao Saan Road which is a mecca for backpackers, where young travellers (like me!) are eager to try anything local. It consists of Papaya salad, Fish cake lollipops, a choice of Green curry chicken fried rice or Prawn pad Thai or Spicy Basil beef sirloin on rice for an amazing price of just £10 per person!
However, I NEEDED my Thai green curry. In case you’re not a regular reader of our blog, I have a huge addiction to them, my absolute favourite thing to eat. The menu also offers tapas style sharing dishes and One dish fits all meals reminiscent of road-side dining in Bangkok, which we may well be trying out for real in December.
Anyway, I ordered the Papaya salad (Som-tum) to start, it was fab, unlike anything I’ve ordered in a Thai restaurant before. Juicy, fresh crunchy papaya and apple (the apple a Benja Bangkok Table twist). Just the right amount of spice. It went great with Ade’s Fish cake lollipops starter (that I stole a bit too much of) they were tender, hot and full of flavour, not like the chewy, lukewarm, bland variety we sometimes come across. You really must have these fish cakes when having a Thai meal here – it’s the law!
Next of course was the Thai green chicken curry, now I always scrutinise this dish everywhere I go, still trying to find one better than the Thai cafe in Tufnell Park. It was a pretty good one, and it was a welcome relief to have well-cooked aubergine, not bitter or hard.
We also ordered the steamed asparagus and oyster mushrooms, simple yet lovely. And the Pad Thai had the biggest prawns I’ve ever seen in my life. I wasn’t particulary fond of this dish, it’s not one of my favourites, far too sweet for me. However the prawns were fantastic and tender and massive! Ade said they looked like something from District 9. Ade’s Prawn coconut fried rice was a rich, sweet Thai style risotto with plump, juicy prawns and a delicious sauce (served with a very fancy carrot!)
I was going to skip dessert as I was so full I thought I may burst, but I was intrigued by the Banana in warm coconut milk found in every Bangkok market, as the menu told me. I managed only a couple of mouthfuls as it was very sweet and rich. Ade certainly wasn’t going anywhere without having dessert and ordered the Apple fritter served with honey and pistachio ice cream. Their signature sweet was lovely although Ade said he could have done with more fritter and less ice cream (he’s a bit of an expert on pistachio ice cream).
We had a little peek at the other floors as we left, as I said earlier, the downstairs floor is very cool, more of a relaxed bar vibe and a little private area at the back. Apparently there’s a screen that has a live Twitter feed of Benja Bangkok Table’s tweets. We definitely want to come back and dine down there. The room at the top felt more like a formal dining area and didn’t quite have the same atmosphere as the other two floors.
We left full and happy and ready for a nightcap (or three so it turned out) at Bob Bob Ricard which is just round the corner, perfect!