The Boulevard, Townmead Road,
(020) 7751 3111
The ViewLondon Review
Blue Elephant has packed its trunk and said goodbye to Fulham Broadway, relocating itself at nearby Imperial Wharf to a spot overlooking the Thames. Its palatial new look and similar fine Thai dining makes for a rather grand reopening.
London’s branch of this international Thai brand has made the move from its popular Fulham Broadway location to a larger spot near Imperial Wharf. Components from the venue's famous decor have come along for the ride (minus the dominant water feature) so expect to see again the barge shaped bar decorated with glittering gold dragon; Siamese antiques in glass cabinets; and beautiful, fresh flower arrangements just about as tropical as can be. It all makes for a breathtaking experience, especially now it’s met with scenic views of the river.
It's also worth noting just how the new venue accommodates so many diners without the experience ever seeming anything other than placid. There's dining space across two floors, as well as in private rooms and sheltered spaces, but the look of a Thai palace is achieved without sacrificing intimacy or atmosphere.
From the moment you set foot inside you are treated like royalty by gracious and polite staff kitted out in sharp, silk suits. Given its swanky SW6 postcode, it’s no surprise that showy diners have a bit of cash to splash, but you get the impression that staff would be just as welcoming to the more casual customer, too. With all the tropical plants and authentic décor you’re immersed in an oriental experience that feels a world away from London town.
The food menu spans the many regions - and periods - that make up Thai cuisine. As such, classic, traditional Thai food mixes with more contemporary options, something that differentiates Blue Elephant from many other Thai restaurants in the capital. The Blue Elephant brand (as well as head chef Khun Noroor Somany Steppe), has international renown, with eleven successful outposts across the globe. And although there are plenty of modern, almost fusion, dishes, they don’t lead to a compromise on authenticity; the successful balance of sweet, sour and spice so vital to Thai cuisine is present throughout.
A great example of Blue Elephant looking to modern Thai cooking can be seen in the duo of prawn croquettes, a dish that combines European cooking techniques with traditional Thai flavours. Each prawn is coated in red and green curry paste respectively, and covered in a crispy breadcrumb coating. A sweet chilli dipping sauce on the side brings it all together. The mixed satay uses free range chicken, with two satay skewers succulent from their marinades and benefiting first from the peanut satay sauce on the side and then from an excellent cucumber salad that gives a sharp hit of citrus and chilli heat.
For exemplary, traditional Thai cooking try the massaman lamb curry (or Muslim curry), a delicately flavoured dish from southern Thailand with Thai sweet potatoes, crispy peanuts and cashew nuts, and chunks of very tender lamb infused with a delicious, coconut-rich curry flavour. This dish works well with benjarong rice (a crunchy combination of wild rice, lotus seeds and black sesame seeds) that is aromatic once released from its banana leaf packaging. For more of an intense hit of heat, the red conger curry is a fiery dish with tender chunks of the meaty eel sitting inside a blend of red curry paste, pineapple, kaffir lime and sweet basil leaves.
Blue Elephant offers a wide range of Thai puddings or traditional desserts laced with the characteristic flavours of Thailand. For example, a traditional crème brûlée is given a Thai twist thanks to ginger and coconut, for a triumphant, balanced blend with the requisite crispy, caramelised topping. It's presented with tropical flowers and a splayed pandanus leaf on top, and will probably be the prettiest crème brûlée you’re ever likely to see. Just as creamy - and impressive - is the coconut flan, a wobbly slice of tart that comes over all toffee-like from its delicious caramelisation.
Maintaining the paradisiacal vibe, cocktails are mouthwateringly tropical. A traditional mai tai (£9.50) is Blue Elephant’s house cocktail, and with good reason: they knock up a good version that combines a rum kick with just the right amount of fruit. It's served with a chunk of pineapple, a cherry and a beautiful pink flower all balanced on top. A watermelon martini (£9.50) is a little less graceful in its giant cocktail glass, but its blend of gin and watermelon liqueur is agreeably refreshing. The bar also entertains those with more expensive tastes, boasting a range of prestige spirits priced as high as £200 for a measure of vintage Bowmore malt whisky. Other spirits away from the prestige menu are a little more manageable in price, and the barge-shaped bar is certainly well stocked with an array of rums, vodkas and gins for under £10 a measure. The wine list is equally as vast and varied, with world wines at reasonable starting prices as well as top dollar prestige wines – mainly French vintage bottles – for the swankier clientele. Of course, no curry would be complete without a nice, cold lager, and thankfully Cobra is on tap (even though the £5.90 a pint charge might shock most), whilst Singha by the bottle will cost you £4.50. And to wrap up your meal, try taking tea the Thai way with jasmine, lapsang souchong and green sencha teas all £3.
The Last Word
Flavoursome Thai food, breathtaking décor and sparkling service ensure that Blue Elephant is more than the match of all those very pleasant new views.
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