I haven’t yet graced the shores of Thailand, but in my dreams it’s a fragrant tropical paradise. One with coral seas and sparkling white beaches where the air is redolent with… massaman curry. Disclosure: We were guests of Nipa Thai, a delicious restaurant in the Royal Lancaster Hotel – it’s always, always a pleasure to dine there. All random musings are mine and mine only as ever.
Forget the scents of orchids, jasmine, lemongrass, ratchaphruek and lime – I would love the spiced aromas of silkenly tangled tamarind, cinnamon, coconut and kaffir lime to float my way whilst exploring those tropical shorelines. Especially around lunch and dinner times.
But, until then, London is lucky to have the award-winning Nipa Thai, with an all Thai, all female ‘kitchen brigade’ in the heart of the Royal Lancaster Hotel. (NB: I adore that term.)
Nipa Thai Head Chef Sanguan Parr invited the charming MasterChef finalist Nawamin Boss Pinpathomrat into the Tigresses’* den – and together they designed an exclusive four-course dinner menu, celebrating the 2019 coronation of King Vajiralongkorn in Thailand, inspired by a beautiful poem written by King Ramas II of Siam. Thai winery, Monsoon Valley Vineyard will offer a tasting flight to match the food.
We began with cocktails and canapes – and glasses of prosecco, the very robust Coconut Caipirinha and the non-alcoholic Garden Sparkle floated about the room as canapes were served in the Park Restaurant, overlooking the leafy boughs of Hyde Park.
Every canape I nibbled was scrumptious – Crystal Parcels of steamed rice with pickled radish and peanut, delectable Golden Baskets stuffed with sweetcorn and free-range chicken, Silver Bags – crispy wontons of prawn and spring onion, and Lotus Petals which wrapped diced Thai herbs, toasted coconut and sweet fish sauce.
The starter is a slightly British twist on the national dish called Fluffy Fish – pillow-like fried seabass, lemongrass, ginger, kaffir lime and Thai spicy dressing, which all disappeared from our plates with lightning speed.
๏ กอ้ยกุง้ปรุงประทิ่น วางถึงลิ้นดิ้นแดโดย | รสทิพย์หยิบมาโปรย ฤๅจะเปรียบเทียบทันขวัญ ๏
Raw shrimp salad full-flavoured, once savoured, dying on cloud nine. The taste this divine, unrivalled by any.
But, the mains, oh the mains. I love the fragrant piquancy of Thai cuisine at the best of times, but these dishes demonstrated exactly why Nipa Thai is frequented and approved by the Thai government (the ambassador and his wife actually joined us for lunch!) The mains were served family-style, to encourage the sense of community.
Every one of the flavours were elegant and precise, but also richly patina-d. Crab and coconut relish was beautifully presented in hand-carved vegetables with salted pork belly marinated in fried fish sauce, and a vegetable broth poured at the table over local Thai vegetables in a black pepper and shallot broth.
But the massaman, oh, the beef massaman curry.
๏ มสั มนั่ แกงแกว้ตา หอมยหี่ ร่ารสร้อนแรง ชายใดได้กลืนแกง แรงอยากให้ใฝ่ ฝันหา ๏
Massaman curry, my dear, blessed with cumin’s sheer scent and spice. Any man trying some bites, appetites growing more and more.
๏ ไตปลาเสแสร้งวา่ ดุจวาจากระบิดกระบวน | ใบโศกบอกโศกครวญ ให้พี่เคร่าเจา้ดวงใจ
Tai Pla and Saeng Wa, verbally are deviousness. Sok leaves mean sadness; as you grieve, I console.
Boy did we grieve when we got to the point of appetite no return – every one of us was sneaking ‘just one more forkful’ of the ridiculously succulent beef, one more cheeky tine of the rice and another scoop of the curry sauce. Sanguan Parr popped over to see if we were enjoying our meal, but she didn’t get much more than a growl/purr of satisfaction from us. Oh, wait, that’s not true – I asked for a bath sized portion.
Dessert was a rather theatrical delight – a swan themed coconut sticky rice, caramelised coconut and coc0nut custard, served with an intriguing salted coconut cream.
๏ สังขยาหนา้ไข่คุน้ เคยมี | แกมกบัขา้วเหนียวสีโศกยอ้ม | เป็นนยันา วาทีสมรแม่มาแม | แถลงวา่ โศกเสมอพอ้ ม เพียบแออ้กอร ๚
Custard made with egg yolks, well known, served with sticky rice shown dyed green. The green hints my woe alone I miss, my love – miserable I have been, always without you.
We loved every bite. Every single one.
If the flavours alone don’t convince you, guests attending the MasterChef Pop Up Event at Nipa Thai Wednesday 25 or Thursday 26 September2019, will have the chance to win return flights from London to Bangkok, courtesy of Thai Airways, plus a three-night stay at the Royal Lancaster London’s sister 5-star hotel, ‘Lancaster Bangkok’. Click the above link for more details and how to book.
For another taste of that massaman curry alone, I would be tempted to buy every seat in the pop-ups…
What is your favourite Thai dish?
*This is total writers license – we were allowed into the kitchen for a sneak peek, and it was an incredibly calm, well-oiled machine.
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