Richmond is that leafy and rather posh terminus of the District Line. It’s got swanky river frontage, historic buildings and The Green skirted by homes of the rich and famous. A good location for some decent restaurants catering for the discerning high-end palate.
The latest addition to the Thai Square group has arrived on the Kew Road, next to the imposing Carluccio’s and just a few yards from Richmond Station. It’s the former Duke of York pub but any evidence of that incarnation has been replaced by a modern façade and a light and bright interior.
It’s evident that it’s a Thai restaurant, but of the confident and contemporary variety. A few tasteful artefacts give a gentle nod towards graceful exotica, and the skylights at the rear of the restaurant will allow diners to bask in the timid British evening sunlight.
We settled ourselves just under the aforementioned roof window on a warm summer evening. The cocktail list offered us some tempting Asian options and the Lychee Martini – fresh lychee, vodka, syrup, dash of lime juice – seemed appropriate for the occasion. Pale and delicate and very much that evocative flavour of the East.
The menu is considerable, with a raft of set meals as well as a regular a la carte section. For our first starter we ordered Kanom Jeeb – Thai dim sum of minced chicken, prawn, water chestnuts, coriander root, garlic and pepper, all wrapped in wonton dough and steamed. These were mild, soft and just the sort of nibble to enjoy with that cocktail.
Tempura Soft Shell Crab was our second starter dish. These crabs are increasingly popular in restaurants of every culinary persuasion. I first encountered them in the US a couple of decades ago and I was at that time intrigued by the prospect of eating the whole crustacean. Happy to say I can now indulge in this seafood dish without running the gauntlet of US Customs and Immigration. Sweet crab meat, crunchy batter and a tangy dipping sauce make this a Thai Square signature dish.
We selected a couple of glasses of the Languedoc rosé to accompany our main dishes – a light and crisp wine that works well with robust flavours. It’s sold by the glass and it’s under a fiver, so worth considering.
Lamb Mussaman Curry is a traditional mild Muslim dish from the south of Thailand. It’s a standard on many Thai menus because it’s aromatic rather than being searingly hot, and has an appealing richness from coconut milk. The potatoes add substance and peanuts give texture. Spinach with Ginger and Garlic was the side dish, a fresh, vibrant green plateful which was an admirable foil for the curry sauce. Sticky rice is an indispensible part of any Thai meal, here served in a woven basket, a nice ethnic touch and practical: the rice remained moist for the duration of the meal.
Moo Ping – marinated barbecued pork chop served with a traditional Thai spicy sauce – is a must-try dish. The meat was deliciously charred from the grill. Real flavour but simple. The dipping sauce excited the taste buds – so vibrant that I could have enjoyed just a bowl of sticky rice drizzled with this. But to be honest I wouldn’t want to miss that pork: memorable even for those of us who don’t consider meat an indispensible part of every dining experience.
Thai Square was packed on the evening of our visit. Yes, it’s a recent opening so there are bound to be plenty of first-time-thresholders, but it’s a welcome addition to the Richmond restaurant scene. The restaurant needs to pay attention to detail to assure return custom as the competition is keen, but the menu is tempting and the prices are reasonable. I’ll be returning to try some more of the chef’s specials.
Mon-Sat 12.00 – 15.30; 18.00 – 23.00
Sun 12.00 – 15.30; 17.30 – 22.30
Thai Square Richmond
29 Kew Road, Richmond Upon Thames, Surrey TW9 2NQ
Tel: 020 8940 5253
Fax: 020 8940 4258
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018