In a city teeming with international restaurants, it’s surprising that London’s best-known Thai eatery is a chain. That’s not to say the city cannot do Thai food well, but the capital has long lacked a frontrunner.
Filling this gap is Som Saa, an authentic restaurant brought to Londoners by co-head chefs Andy Oliver and Mark Dobbie, and manager Tome George. In fact, Som Saa earned its bragging rights well before opening it’s new location — the restaurant started life as a pop-up in Peckham and its current, permanent, presence in East London is thanks to a crowd-funding campaign. Here, ubiquitous favourites are bypassed in favour of regional specialities. Coconut and pandanus-smoked trout may not be an obvious choice for the uninitiated, nor the fiery som tam thai (green papaya salad), but their freshness and uncompromising flavours are a revelation. The same can be said of the potent cocktails, all presented in thick porcelain cups that are both beautiful and all-purpose; their cooling touch taking the sting off Som Saa’s intense housemade curry pastes.
It’s all offered in a space that reflects Som Saa’s humble beginnings. The former fabric warehouse offers few polished edges, sprinkled with charming tchotchkes picked up in Thailand alongside distressed walls and exposed brick arches. Designed in collaboration with Coriander Buildings, the interior features many layers, split between a bar area and a dining room which in itself contains three distinct pockets, including elevated booths constructed from steel I-beams. London finally has the Thai it’s been waiting for.