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101 Thai Kitchen (Hammersmith) [London]

I just ate at the best Thai restaurant in London.

When we first walked in we were pleasantly greeted by second brightest and most garish interior of any restaurant I've ever been to. Thankfully the 1st (3rd and 4th) brightest and most garish interiors are all at my favorite Thai restaurants in New York. I knew we struck gold! There's just something about a Thai restaurant that's painted the brightest and most non-matching mix of colors you can think up that says quality.

Our waiter was very friendly and obliged our Thai spicy. We ordered the laab gai, the som tum, and the mixed seafood soup which is basically a tom yum with a variety of seafood rather than just prawns.

Everything was AMAZINGLY good.

The laab gai came first with a bowl of lettuce and fried crispy fish maws to make wraps. Oh yes, their sticky rice is also VERY good. The laab was some of the best I've ever had, but it was pretty much lacking in spice. Not in a bad way, but in a way that made me think they had still knocked down the spice level.

I was wrong!

The som tum and the soup were both packed with chillies, but still deliciously flavored. They both had a perfect balance of salty, citrusy, and spicy. The som tum portion was also quite generous. Really incredible stuff. Not Srip or Chao Thai level, but great som tum. The laab is IMO better than Srip but not Chao. The soup was great but not on par with Nusura or Chao, but muuuch better than Srip (which IMO can't do soup.)

I can't wait to go back. It's very far for me, but it didn't take terribly long (we went from Canada Water after we found that Cafe East closed early because it ran out of food and that it's sister restaurant at the old location closed early in order to help stock up Cafe East for the next day.

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  1. glad you agree dude, it's definitely the best thai food i've had in london also

    1. also man you've got to give the stuff at the back of the menu + the specials board a go

      2 Replies
      1. re: t_g

        Their specials board was basically a game menu (complete with adorable little pictures of what you'd be eating while it still roamed freely with other wild boars and pheasants... awwww....) I think the other board was juices or iced drinks.

        1. re: JFores

          oh ok, last time i went it had a green mango salad, a jellyfish salad, and some sort of dish that was a mix btwn a stir fry and a curry (not a v good description i know)

      2. Interesting. I must have visited on an off-night as everything I had was average. I ordered the som tum when I went as it's one of my favourite things and it wasn't very good at all. Not a patch on anything I've had in Thailand.

        6 Replies
        1. re: greedygirl

          Really have to go here since everyone on Chowhound seems to rave about it. Greedygirl sadly I think you are going to struggle to get Thai food as good in Thailand anywhere in London...


          1. re: Gourmet Chick

            I think the stfuuf at 101 is nearly on par with what you'd find in Thailand. I think GG had an off day. I only hear good reviews on this place.

            GG - try again!

            1. re: Nii

              I also had a decent experience but obviously the place is great for those hard-to-find items.

              I actually prefer the Thai food at the Churchill pub in Kensington / Nott Hill, despite the limited menu. They don't seem to mind making it genuinely spicy, I'm guessing when you serve a pub crowd there are less likely to be complaints about that sort of thing.

              1. re: kidtofu

                i think you'll find addies thai in earls court and thai origin on ken church street superior to the churchill arms.

                if you want to spend a bit more, try nipa in the royal lancaster hotel. beautiful views of the park and 'posh' thai food.

                1. re: howler

                  I had another great meal at 101 last night.

                  I ordered the special - pigs ear salad with sticky rice. I loved the hard texture of the meat mixed with all the sweet/sour/hot flavours of the mint, sweet basil, coriander and chilli. 101's sticky rice is the best.

                  I could go back there every night. I'm still on the lookout for more great Thai places.

                  1. re: Nii

                    same! esp closer to the east side

        2. One of my faves and they do marvellous takeaways as well....

          4 Replies
          1. re: LotsC

            not a huge expert on thai food - but based on this rec took 3 relatives there a few weeks back

            we ordered about 8 dishes off the thai menu

            fast forward 2 hours and i was in the kitchen personally thanking each cook for a spectacular meal

            everything was wonderful, up to and including the durian ice cream

            1. re: feelinfoodie

              I went here a couple of weeks ago, and also had a fantastic meal. Very helpful staff, even with some language barrier issues. We had the special som tam (really enjoyed the pea aubergines and dried salted fish in there), the Isaan sausages (amazing sour tang, great consistency and some good charring on the outside) and then the larb gai, as I can never resist it. The larb was also seriously tasty, though by this point, the chilli was even getting to me and my tolerance levels are seriously high. To finish, some nice thai dessert that I can't remember the name of and some taro cake. All in all, a really great place and I'm itching to go back. I think I've finally found somewhere that does good thai food in London!

              1. re: Sharmila

                went back here for the first time in a while and had an AMAZING meal. the menu's now changed, they've moved the isaan stuff up to the front and have added a few things - e.g there are now 5-6 different types of som tum you can order. also, at the front of the menu they've put a sheet of paper that has an english translation of the specials that are up on the chalkboard.

                anyway, what my friend + i had was:
                - a southern dish that consisted of steamed rice in the middle of the plate surrounded by lots of raw ingredients (lemongrass, carrot, chili powder, crushed shrimp, roast coconut). you then poured some sort of tamarind sauce over it and then combined everything.
                - a pork rib curry w/ pea aubergines
                - a fish salad w/ fresh ginger + herbs, this wasnt the same as the laotian fish salad that i've had other times but was just as good, but w/ a lighter fresher taste since there was no curry paste.
                - a glass noodle salad w/ minced chicken + prawn

                everything was fantastic (and so affordable! this all cost £33 which included 2 beers) and the waitress was v helpful, assisting us w/ putting together a balanced meal.

                so yea still highly recommended + if you havent been there then i would get along

                1. re: t_g

                  been back here a few times in the last few weeks - man this place is killing it. there specials board is different every time i go and it's always interesting. 2 new things i've had recently that i loved were raw prawns w/ dipping sauce and bamboo shoot salad (this was served hot + was incredibly spicy + delicious). also for dessert they had that dish w/ little rice flour balls in coconut milk (not sure what this is called) anyway - also delicious.

          2. you sound like you know your thai we too have ate at churchills but are far from experts we just really enjoyed our meal but to the point we are going to new york for the first time in november and would appreciate your recomendations while we are there.thanks trev smith

            3 Replies
            1. re: emtrs99

              Having moved to Cambridge i am really missing the London Thai scene. i definitely think the Churchill is underrated, their entire family of restaurants seem to do well - I went to the Prince Albert in Twickenham and had a great Pad Khee Mao there too.

              Apparently the best Thai in Cambridge is also at a pub, called the Wrestlers...we shall see!

              re: NY, I'm sure there are infinitely more experienced voices here but we had a spicy, delicious meal at Jai Ya Thai.

              1. re: kidtofu

                I had another AMAZING meal at 101 lst night

                I had the Papaya salad with marinated raw blue swimming crab. I've never had raw crab, but it was simply delicious, completely fresh and tangy which complimented the hot, fiery chillis and mint. The chunks of crab meat on the claws and legs were so meaty and tender. I was enjoying it so much, I must have looked like such a heathen.

                I followed it up with duck in a red curry sauce - it's the balance of flavours at 101 which sets it apart from the rest - just perfect!

            2. went here last night with a mix of anticipation and trepidation and it was... fine. Had some mixed starters, the peanut sauce was particularly good but the rest (prawn toast, chicken wings, sweetcorn cakes etc) were nothing special. Very good laap gai, intensely spicy with lots of fresh herbs. Though i think not as good as Rosa's a couple of weeks ago.

              Then a beef red curry - fine, very chewy beef. A ginger seabass - this was very good, with lots of ginger and different types of mushrooms, in a not-too-fishy broth. Slightly marred by the great wafts of lighter fuel coming from the burner underneath it. And a Screaming Nun, who can resist that name?! Very soft well-cooked aubergines in a light crispy batter, spicy but slightly non-descript brown sauce.

              Then Jewel of Siam for dessert, very odd, and not the dish i was expecting. A kind of banana-y coconut-y iced soup with chunks of jelly in various colours, textures and sizes, and all unflavoured, as far as I could tell. Once I got to the clear-coloured cubes that had the texture of cartilege I stopped eating. Maybe it was cartilege. Don't tell me!

              Anyway if I lived in the area I'd probably go back because it was a good meal, but having made the trek over from my part of town which took nearly an hour I was a bit disappointed. Have definitely had better thai in London - Rosa's, Simply Thai. Will have to try Addie's/Churchills etc next time!

              24 Replies
              1. re: gembellina

                101 specialises in northern and southern dishes, so you really have to order the stuff at the beginning of the menu (or the specials). i dont really know what you would be expecting from things like prawn toast etc, pretty hard for them to be exciting...

                1. re: t_g

                  things i would recommend ordering (from what i remember looking over the menu) -

                  fried chicken
                  som tum mua sua
                  isaan sausage
                  sea bass 'sour curry' hot pot
                  catfish with chili
                  laotian fish salad
                  sapiya fish
                  sour prawn curry
                  kua kling

                  1. re: t_g

                    no i agree. the things i was expecting them to be good at - the laab, and this whole fish, were good, but not as outstanding as I had thought they might be. sticky rice in the little baskets transported me straight back to laos! avoided the som tum on the basis of two recent posts saying it had been stale.

                  2. re: gembellina

                    Your experience mirrors mine, gembellina. Went expecting great things, but was somewhat disappointed. Especially in the som tum, which is my all-time favourite Thai dish. Haven't tried Addies or Rosa's, but to be honest when I want Thai these days I make it myself.

                    1. re: greedygirl

                      I really love 101, and everytime I go I'm never disappointed. That saying, I always stick with the Issan stuff .

                      1. re: Nii

                        For me, it's not worth the trek across London. Having said that, might try it again at some point as it's not that far from work. But as for the Issan stuff - the som tum I had was pretty bad and that's their national dish.

                        1. re: greedygirl

                          i have to admit that theyve been a bit inconsistent w the som tum ive had as well... but like i said, id give the other dishes i listed a go

                      2. re: greedygirl

                        I thought the som tum was world's better than anything I've had at Addie's. I've also heard horror stories about Rosa's, but eh.

                        A meal at 101 last night was probably the single best meal I've had there and therefore the best Thai meal I've had in London. Som tum and laarb gai were both absolutely fantastic. Pretty much flawless. I wish the service was faster (and that the sticky rice actually came when your salads did) but it was still great. The soup (tom yum with prawn) was also very good as usual but I've had much better in New York where as both aforementioned salads are very competitive with Srip, Chao, etc. In fact, the laarb gai I had last night might be the best rendition I've ever eaten. A prawn sour curry was amazingly well flavored with perfectly cooked prawns and loads of mango, but I warn you that the spice level is truly off the charts on that dish. It was spicy for me, but I could keep eating where as my companions (both good with spice) literally could not continue. As a note, things are not usually spicy for me. It was Chao Thai in 2002 level spicy (aka your tom yum soup arrived with a layer of birds eyes coating the entire surface of it.)

                        1. re: JFores

                          BTW, re: all the varying reports on this thread -- I remember there was a chef change somewhere along the line (after I ate there) -- perhaps mentioning dates could help us figure out whether it's really variable or just due to a different chef.

                          1. re: limster

                            i'm not sure what it is - i go there pretty often, like usually once a month? - and i've definitely had some inconsistent meals (like i said, usually problems w the som tum for some weird reason). maybe they have a few different chefs?

                            but anyway yeah i will always stick up for this place cuz i've had some amazing meals there + i dont really understand anyone who prefers other places

                            1. re: t_g

                              btw the kua kling is highly recommended (and v hot) it's not in the front section of the menu where the other southern/isaan dishes are listed so it's easy to miss (we only ordered it because we saw it on the table of the thai ppl sitting next to us)

                            2. re: limster

                              My first ever visit to the place was about 2 years ago and that was with the old chef. All of my visits in the last year were with the new one. The tom yum's broth seems to have decreased in quality just a bit, but everything else is on the up (I prefer the clearer brothed preparation.)

                              1. re: JFores

                                hmm...maybe this is a weekend issue. Papaya is also expensive so one can imagine them stretching it out.

                                (ps. Jfores - can you suggest a great mexican in NY?)

                                1. re: kidtofu

                                  Howdy, sorry to interrupt the chow talk, but please continue the NY Mole on the relevant boards, so that it will garner maximal responses and allow other mole-seeking hounds to benefit as well.

                                  1. re: kidtofu

                                    It is probably an ingredient issue.

                                    I read a recent interview with David Thompson from Nahm Restaurant in London (a Michelin starred Thai restaurant at the Halkin hotel), he was talking about the opening his new place in Bangkok and mentioned how different it would be to cook in Thailand as it was so tricky to get good Thai ingredients in London. If Nahm is struggling to get good ingredients with the prices they charge it would seem logical that other places, especially ones with lower budget, also struggle.

                                    1. re: kidtofu

                                      the problem isnt that there's not enough papaya in the som tum, there's plenty, it's just that some times it's a bit bland - not sour enough

                                      1. re: t_g

                                        The papaya I had was not fresh, that was the problem.

                                      2. re: kidtofu

                                        Just email me and I'll get back to you with an area to walk around and a couple of sit down places in it.

                                        I see what you mean regarding the sourness of the papaya, but might that be a seasonal thing? I've had som tum there that had that flavor and I've had som tum that basically did not. Bit luck based.

                                    2. re: limster

                                      This month I unusually visited twice in 3 weeks and really noticed the inconsistency. I generally always order the same dishes - som tum, sour whole fish hot pot, fish salad etc but on these two occasions it felt like I was eating at two seperate restaurants.

                                      First trip the som tum was very watery and lacked flavour, and the fish hot pot had little 'soup' and wasn't served on a bed of morning glory as it usually is. Second trip som tum was almost perfect, papaya fresh and sour fish hot pot served with the usual condiments...

                                      1. re: buzzarfood

                                        Great to get a direct comparison between trips -- sounds like there's some serious inconsistency. Was it a weekday vs weekend? Trying to guess out if there's a theme to it e.g. chef's day off.

                                        1. re: limster

                                          went there last night for the first time in ages, meal was so amazing. krua kling might be my fav dish now, also they've started giving everyone a new dipping sauce w/ yr meal which is v tasty. love this place.

                                          1. re: t_g

                                            cool...i went there last month for the first time and loved it too...at least on that visit, i thought it may be the best Thai food i've had outside of Thailand...

                                            1. re: Simon

                                              yeah when they're on, they're ON, and it can be my fav restaurant in london. i'd also agree the food is comparable to what i had in thailand.

                                              1. re: t_g

                                                Just came across this thread - i went to 101 Thai tonight and have to say the durian icecream alone will be worth me going back. The beef salad is also very good, as is the penang curry. Not so sure about the Isaan sausage. but overall, very enjoyable meal!

                              2. Interesting new thing -

                                Please try Our special menu " Southern Specialities"
                                by 101 Thai Kitchen on Thursday, March 3, 2011 at 12:41pm
                                อาหารพิเศษ            SPECIAL MENU
                                ครัวปักษ์ใต้              Southern Specialities
                                แกงคั่วกระดูกหมู        £6.95
                                Pork spare ribs with a spicy dry curry sauce
                                 แกงพริกเนื้อเปื่อย       £6.95
                                Spicy coconut curry with tender beef and Thai Aubergines
                                แกงขี้เหล็กหอยลาย    £6.95
                                Clam meat curry with cassia leaves
                                แกงเทโพปลาซาบะผักบุ้ง     £6.95
                                ‘Tay Po’ Curry with mackerel and morning glory
                                แกงแขกไก่เหลืองพริกหยวก         £6.95
                                Muslim curry with corn fed chicken, tomatoes and sweet pepper.
                                ต้มขมิ้นไก่เหลือง                                ถ้วย  £6.95        หม้อ  £14.50
                                                                                        Bowl                        Hot Pot
                                Sour turmeric clear yellow soup with corn fed chicken,
                                lemongrass, garlic, galangal, lime leaves and ‘asam’ sour slices.
                                 น้ำพริกมะขามกุ้งเสียบ         £6.95
                                Tamarind and prawns chilli paste served with fresh vegetables,
                                sweet prawns and boiled egg.

                                9 Replies
                                1. re: t_g

                                  Was this a one-day special? It says March 3. Maybe they do this every Thursday?

                                  1. re: zuriga1

                                    that was on their facebook page, i dont know what the deal is, whether its a permanent new thing or a temporary special. i will be investigating tho

                                    1. re: t_g

                                      went tonite + had the beef w/ aubergine from the specials menu + the catfish w/ chili from the normal menu, both were great and v spicy. i hadnt had the catfish + chili before, it was sort of a stirfry w/ curry paste + peppercorns, really good, altho quite bony. the curry was kind of similar to a massaman i guess

                                  2. re: t_g

                                    Wow those prices are amazing. The beef and aubergines are calling me.

                                    1. re: stilldontknow

                                      Had a another great meal with friends at 101 over the weekend. One of my friends (who's Thai) hadn'tyet tried 101, by was an immediate convert and confirmed it's authenticity as 'real' Thai food. We ordered amongst other things - Laab Gai, Som Kut something, Jungle curry and Laotian fish salad -all terrific! I must add that the chilli levels were through the roof that night!

                                      1. re: Nii

                                        haha we went last night, and our meal was great too. i love that laotian fish salad so much, i think we've ordered it almost every time we've gone + i'm still not sick of it.

                                        btw if you want something ridiculously hot then i recommend the krua kling, it is insane (and delicious)

                                        1. re: t_g

                                          I tried the Kaeng Tai Pla (fish kidney curry) at 101 a few weeks ago - it's the hottest thing I have EVER tried and I love spicy food! Certainly a dish to share around several people.

                                          1. re: zedman_1

                                            i've never had that one! the ppl i'm w/ are always scared away due to the fact that its called 'fish kidney curry' :(

                                            1. re: t_g

                                              I've had the fish kidney curry before, in fact one of the waitresses recognised me from a previous visit having been one of the 'few people who order that dish'

                                    1. re: t_g

                                      I haven't been here in ages. I really need to get around to it as I only had one meal there under the new (Southern Thai Muslim?) chef.

                                      It also looks like The Independent got a new food columnist. I black listed that paper for all things food related after their reviewer went to Golden Day (Hunan place) and wrote a review which can be summarized via the following:

                                      "Man shows up for a "Chinese." "Chinese" was "weird." Man did not like said "Chinese" and cracked a few racist jokes. Man does everything short of questioning why he was not given milk with his green tea. End of review."

                                      1. re: JFores

                                        yeah i havent been there for a long time either. the heron's just that much closer that we now go there instead... altho looking at their menu online i'm intrigued by all the new nahm priks -

                                        Nam Phrik Kapi
                                        Very popular in Thailand, this is made from fresh chillies, garlic,
                                        shrimp paste (kapi), palm sugar and lime juice.

                                        Nam Phrik Plaa Ra
                                        The main ingredients in this one are Plaa Ra or fermented fish, mackerel,
                                        grilled green chillies, garlic and shallots

                                        Nam Phrik Narok
                                        The name means ‘Chilli dip from hell’, this is made from fried fish and shrimps,
                                        it is dry and very hot!

                                        Nam Phrik Sawan
                                        The name means ‘Chilli dip from heaven’, this is made from fried prawns and
                                        fish, also dry but with a bit of sweetness.

                                        Nam Phrik Plaa Too
                                        This is made from grilled Indian mackerel, chillies, garlic and shallots,
                                        and has a salty and sour in flavour.

                                        Nam Phrik Pao
                                        A creamy Nam Prik with fried prawns and chilli oil, this is the paste that helps
                                        Tom Yum soup to get its colour

                                        Jaew Bong
                                        A true taste of Isaan, this one is made from fermented fish, lemongrass, very
                                        hot chillies, galangal and many other herbs and spice, pounded together till
                                        becomes a paste, then it is cooked till fragrant (not for the faint hearted).