Nahm Official site
The Halkin SW1X 7DJ +44 (0) 20 7333 1234
Lunch £20pp Dinner £60 pp
Nahm is the only Thai restaurant in London to have a michelin sparkle around it’s neck. The restaurant is of course Chef David Thompson’s labour of love; Legend has it that the Australian chef who was once ‘seduced by the gracious country‘ spent many moons training under the guiding hand of an elder matriarch who cooked for the Royal Thai family. The man’s story is an inspired one and his dedication to Thai food is perhaps only rivalled by his head chef at Nahm, Matthew Albert. I was fortunate enough to be invited to sample Nahm’s food and I was expecting nothing less than regality.
A Royal Amusement
I don’t do well with invites, it gives me the jitters. How am I suppose to be completely objective with this stuff? Ah well, I do try. I’m following Helen the world foodie guide’s lead who was also invited on a separate occasion.
The marble floors and polished woods were all bathed in full regal glory under the golden hued lights and amazingly large golden pillars. After all, Nahm is based on age old royal traditions, so one should feel suitably like a King when stepping through to the restaurant.
The front of house recommended we go with the Namn Arharn, which I intepreted as a kind of degustation style taster menu what with the michelin conventions and all. But it wasn’t. The Nahm Arharn allowed you to pick five courses from the a la carte, and all the dishes were to be shared by the table. This included a soup, a salad, a relish, a curry and a stir fry. It also includes additional appetiser course as well. Oh and the all important jasmine fragrant rice.
Wonderful, I am in anticipation of a full on banquet now, but first an amuse bouche in the form of a sweet and savoury concoction of minced meat over a slice of pineapple, with coriander to top it all off. This was interestingly appetising as the caramelised palm sugar blended well with the peanut flavours. There was a faint hint of heat in my aftertaste too – good start.
The theme of salt.
So, the first dish to land on our table were the salt chicken wafers, with longans and thai basil. A light crispy crunch to the wafers and I could taste green curry heat and aromatic coriander flavours. I was looking for the sweet longans in the wafer, but the pieces weren’t enough and while the intensity of the salt chicken was appetising, at first, it quickly became much too salty for me, to the point where the salt had completely drowned out the sweetness of the longan. Water, water.
After we finished up on this little appetiser dish, our waiters proceeded to lay out all the rest of the dishes on the table. She then took the time to explain what each dish was, and how to best enjoy it (apart from me just stuffing it all in one go) with the relishes on the side. Still feeling a tad dry from the salt infusion earlier on, I started with the hot and sour, dtom yam soup, made with mussels, shrimp paste, tomatoes, thai basil and coriander, the dtom yam is the quintessential Thai dish and perhaps the best way for a chef to showcase his talents in balancing the dominant flavours in Thai cooking what with the savoury, the sweet and the spicy.
Oh, the chilli is indeed intense as I immediately felt the burn – a good thing for clearing up the sinuses. I do appreciate the flavours which the mussels contribute to the soup, but phew, like the salty chicken before it, this one was just a little too salty for me, to the point where it was beginning to compete with the chilli and drown out the rest of the good spices in this delicate balancing act of strong flavours. In the end, I was reaching for more water as the scales tipped over the salty scale.
The lobster salad
I should mention that the staff are excellent. Friendly, helpful and one could tell that they share a similar passion for Thai food as their chefs. I was a little disappointed with the soup, but perhaps we’ll do better with the mains. Starting with the young ginger and lobster salad. The brightness of the citrus was a welcomed change, with the shallots giving it a fresh edge. The light ginger broth which accompanied the dish helped to moisten things up, however, Matt could have been a little more generous with the lobster as I felt a little embarrassed to be digging around for the few shredded pieces, when whole lobster tail chunks would have made for a more inspiring, and tasteful salad.
I love rice. I grew up with it, afterall. Some people tend to go with brown rice because it’s healthier but nothing beats great thai fragrant rice, like thai fragrant rice. I’ve one of these people who likes his bowl of rice to be pristine at the start of a meal (ie: sauce on side, not on top) , but will lovingly spread any relishes or gravies when Im eating.
Going around the table to the next dish is a Chiang Mai relish with minced pork and tomatoes served with grilled trout. This is much better. The mince pork relish is an excellent companion with the rice, one would have preferred the pomfret to the trout; but that’s just me. The sweetness of the palm sugar is beautifully balanced against the savoury muscle of the garlic, shallots and chilli, giving it a sweet taste as it hits your mouth and just a little bit of the heat as it hits the throat. The graininess was great too and the chunky sauce was delightfully appetising, really reminded me of my surrealistic experiences as a child when my folks took me to Thai restaurants.
Next up were the grilled scottish scallops with garlic, chilli and lime sauce. It had a rrp of £18.50 on the menu, £2 supplement to the £55pp Nahm Arharn, and we were served with two scallop shells, hm, pricy stuff.
The scallops were really juicy, as one might expect and the sizzling citrusy soup was great. Not entirely certain what the slices were (I want to say mango), it did well to bring a edgey dynamic to the palette. It’s a little more intense than usual, but I quite enjoyed the sharp tanginess against the sweet scallops.
Let the curry be the acid test
Thai restaurants need to have great curry. It’s where all that strong flavours finally gets to delicately meld together. If there was one dish that had to be good, it had better be this one.
I opted for the red curry of roast duck with longans and thai basil. And thankfully this did not disappoint. The rich red curry was alot milder than I had anticipated, probably due to the juices from the longan, imparting a slight sweetness to the curry. I appreciated the thick graininess to the mix and I was thoroughly impressed with the soft duck – which was now a wide gamut of sweet and spicy flavours. This was the best dish of the lot.
There is always room for pudding and little bit more
I was royally stuffed at the end of the meal, but I always manage to find abit of room for dessert. That does explain why I don’t fit into the jeans I bought last month anymore.
The good stuff were the mango slices layered on top of sticky rice. Those golden slices were juicy and full of honey-like flavours. So much so, I might have mistaken them for Filipino mangoes (nb: Filipino mangoes are really awesome.), they went well with the savoury rice, and like a yin to a yang, this was fantastic.
The not so good stuff was the rather confusing coconut jelly with rambutans steeped in perfumed syrup. The jelly was far too tough as it very nearly slipped away from the plate as I tried to cut into it, and I didnt quite understand the need for fried shallots in an almost sour ‘perfumed’ syrupy soup with which the rambutans swam in.
All in all, I had a good meal at Nahm. There were certainly highlights but at the same time, there were a few dishes where I felt could have been better. You’ll forgive me for my biasness being a complimentary meal, however in my struggle for the ever objective opinion, I found the flavours lacking balance. Given that Thai flavours of strong on strong is a difficult one to manage and to get right, I felt that every dish seemed to have a tad too much of an overriding component. While this imbalance means an eye-openingly intense mouthful, upon first tasting; it does tend to drown out the rest of the variety of flavours, leading me to experience a kind of flavour fatigue and drinking more water than necessary to cleanse the palette. Purists might disagree with me, hmm, I dont know, what do you think?
A dinner at Nahm does not come cheap and you’re looking at about £60 per head, though a two course lunch is a tad more affordable at under £20 per head. Thank you David, Matt and Diana for the wonderful meal, I thoroughly enjoyed it, however I need to be honest: There are flashes of brilliant Thai food here that will give one a mild rush, just not a sizzling sinus clearing one.
The Gist of It.
Nahm Official site
The Halkin SW1X 7DJ +44 (0) 20 7333 1234
Lunch £20pp Dinner £50 pp