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What's the deal?
Luke Farrell loves a bit of atmosphere. The chef and Thai food-obsessive’s two proprietary restaurants – the excellent Plaza Khao Gaeng and the recently-opened Speedboat Bar – can best be described as “transportive”. Plaza Khao Gaeng is decorated top-to-bottom like a roadside restaurant in southern Thailand, complete with authentic signage, squeaky plastic tablecloths, and little Buddha figurines adorning random surfaces. A canny PR might even brand it “immersive” – luckily, though, no one’s calling it that.
At his second venture, Speedboat Bar – a dual-level drinking hole with a hearty snack menu – Farrell ups his commitment to the bit. Step through the red-awning-fringed doorway and into a lurid, LED-lit world inspired by the rowdy canteens of Bangkok. Each decorative detail – from the anachronistic, 70s-style carpeting to the portraits of Thai dignitaries and random sports merch – is facsimile of the Thai capital’s famed drinking-and-eating holes. Thai pop blasts over the speakers, mixing with the animated chatter of punters on the first stop of a Soho bar hop. Plastic-covered menus emblazoned with Thai script also add a heavy sprinkling of authenticity.
It’s all a bit of fun, an ethos that extends to the (photographically illustrated) menu. The cocktails are mostly sweet and on ice, the kind of moreish relief you’d be gagging for on a blisteringly hot day. You can pretend to be taking refuge from a sweltering, Southeast Asian city as you neck a cool Jelly Bia – served in a stein with ginger, Thai honey, calamansi (a type of citrus fruit) and Singha – or a Phed Pokati Margarita, mixed with mango tequila and topped with a cocktail umbrella.
And, though it may brand itself as a bar with a snack menu, the food here is outrageously good and more than sufficient for a proper sit down meal. The menu is as high-concept as the decor, inspired by the wok-fired, cross-cultural dishes of Yaowarat Road in Bangkok’s Chinatown. In the same spirit as Plaza Khao Gaeng, Farrell’s dishes are big, brash, and murderously hot. Stir frys scream with chilli; currys are laced with so many aromatics, you could smell them from a mile away. It all adds ups to a great pre-night-out fuel-up spot, or a lively destination for a big group dinner. With a strong two for two in his London portfolio, Luke Ferrell is on a winning streak.
What should I eat?
Within the category of drinking snacks, you can’t really better Speedboat’s sweetcorn fritters – corn kernels and fresh herbs held together by a crispy lattice of batter, served with a glossy, ketchup-red housemade sriracha.
No matter how worldly your palate, a meal at Speedboat Bar will likely expose you to produce you’ve never encountered before. Take the ash melon and aubergine curry – little orbs of sweet gourd imported from Thailand, pieces of aubergine, and bursting peas swimming in a lemongrass-laced green curry sauce.
There’s only one dessert option: an intriguingly named 7-11 pineapple pie with taro ice cream. Inspired by the American convenience chain’s grab-and-go pies (ubiquitous across Southeast Asia), its flaky encasing is loaded with apple filling that’s just-out-the-oven hot, and topped with a milky, mouth-cooling scoop of ice cream.
Why should I go?
For a restaurant that does “immersive dining” without being cringe.
30 Rupert St, London W1D 6DL