Following on from the success of their original venue in Brixton Village Market, the family behind the Thai brand, Kaosarn, have opened a restaurant on St John’s Hill with the same authentically rustic charm, but on a much more upmarket stretch of road.
Situated on the corner, a white building with red awnings, Kaosarn is easy to spot, not least because it’s full to the rafters with waiting diners spilling out the door. Be warned that if you sit down before 9pm you will only have an hour and a half to order and finish your meal; frustrating for some, a sign of a much-loved and popular eatery to others.
In the summer months the glass windows are pulled back to create a wonderful al fresco feel, albeit inside. The wooden tables are packed closely together and wine tumblers - which guests are encouraged to bring along - create a very relaxed and communal vibe. The staff are efficient and clearly au fait with running such a popular joint, but it can feel as though they are rushing you occasionally, and if you don’t speed up your exit then you’ll even be told to move it by the, at times, exceedingly abrupt manager.
They serve really good, solid, authentic fare rather effortlessly and you can’t really go wrong with what you choose. The deep-fried pork ribs with lemongrass and hot chilli sauce are salty, spicy and incredibly moreish (£5.90) and the larb is quite exemplary: minced pork loaded with the epitome of Thai flavours; chilli, fish sauce, garlic, lime juice, mint and coriander (£6.90).
The traditional hot and sour green papaya salad is another must and a great accompaniment to richer or fried dishes (£5.50). Stir-fried chicken with chilli and holy basil leaves served on rice and topped with a fried egg is fragrant and comforting (£7.90), and the classic dish, Pad Thai, is loaded with egg, chicken, King prawns and topped with crushed peanuts, as it should be (£7.90). Next time, the Bangkok-style noodle soup with fish balls and sea bass topped with red curry sauce are both on the hit-list. Furthermore, all the dishes on the menu can be adjusted spice wise, so don’t be put off if heat isn’t your thing.
Kaosarn adopt a bring-your-own policy, so buy a bottle of cheap Pinot Grigio from the newsagents en route. And refreshingly there’s no corkage charge. No doubt it’s this which allows them to usher you out the door as soon as you’re finished, but at least you’ll leave feeling satisfied and longing for a return visit.
The Last Word
All in all, very good food with a buzzing ambience. Imagine you’re on the Kao San road in Bangkok grabbing a quick bite and you won’t be disappointed.