Anyone who has ever been to Bangkok will chuckle at this clean, neutrally-decorated south London Thai restaurant. A mini Bangkok it most certainly is not. However, they do offer a great Westernised example of the best of Thai food.
Bangkok Bay is an understated restaurant that keeps it simple. An open frontage mainly covered in glass opens into a rather bland interior: cream walls; wooden floors; simple furniture; booths; and mirrors on the wall to open up the narrow room a bit. And that’s pretty much your lot. It’s a shame they haven’t gone for any of the decorative embellishment Thailand is so famous for, but at least it has veered away from being tacky.
What Bangkok Bay lacks in decorative oomph it makes up for with a friendly, warm service. As a longstanding family-run restaurant there’s a clearly loyal local following and the staff seem genuinely happy for you to dine there. Service is quick and efficient and you won’t be left waiting for long periods of time for a drink/your main course, even when the restaurant is busy.
The menu at Bangkok Bay covers all of the Thai classics at very reasonable prices. with most dishes coming in at well under £10. There is a crossover into Chinese food with the crispy aromatic duck but it’s so tasty it’s hard to care. For £8.90 for a quarter duck it’s enough for two people to have a well-sized starter, and the duck is full of flavour and not dry and tough like often is the case. It comes served with small pancakes, cucumber, spring onions and carrot with hoi sin sauce for a DIY dish that is as tactile as it is enjoyable.
Main courses cover all manner of noodle, rice and curry dishes – some authentic, others not so much – and it’s a menu designed to appeal to the masses. However, where they really earn their stars is with the pla noung king (steamed sea bass with ginger) for £11.95. This dish is enough for two (if ordered with a side of rice and perhaps a salad) and showcases what the kitchen can do when given fresh, quality ingredients – which is exactly what these are. The fresh, light and perfectly cooked sea bass comes topped with onion, earthy black mushrooms and hot crushed ginger, which adds a slight kick to the dish. Where the fish has just been steamed it lets the sea bass really sing for a simple but oh-so-effective Thai favourite.
Bangkok Bay operates a BYO policy with people nipping to the offie between courses to top up on beer and wine. Otherwise there are just soft drinks on offer, although the coconut milk is a suitable accompaniment for £1.50 a can. It may not be the same as sipping on a real coconut on a humid day in Bangkok’s Chinatown but it’s certainly pleasant enough.
The Last Word
Bangkok Bay is an independent restaurant in an area of London that loves indies. Come for the sea bass, leave with a smile.