You’ll want to proceed at speed to Luke Farrell’s Bangkok Chinatown-inspired restaurant, says Zoë Perrett
The name of chef-restaurateur-grower-all-round-multihyphenate Luke Farrell’s latest (literally) hot spot Speedboat Bar is apt on the evening of our visit, ‘cause it’s raining so hard we could use one of the titular vessels to traverse the soaking streets.
The temperature is far from tropical, but the view from our Uber’s window is so rain-obliterated it could well be a stormy Samut Sakhon rather than Soho.
When we tumble our bedraggled selves into the patterned-carpeted restaurant the ‘here or there’ illusion is maintained in every sense; with every sense speedily and fully engaged.
We begin in the upstairs bar, where the obligatory pool table is enjoying some action. The gaudy laminated drinks list sadly lacks Happy Shakes (IYKYK), but thanks to a few Phed Pokati margs we’re soon doing a joyful jiggle anyway.
After an educational visit to the unisex loos where deliberately-typo-laden, marine-themed posters teach us to identify various sea species including ‘fresh crap’, it’s time for some food, which will hopefully be nothing of the sort.
The numeric labelling of the dishes on another picture-punctuated, laminated menu means I unwittingly assume the role of a sort of hunger-driven bingo caller as I rapid-fire a series of numbers at LB.
We’ve pretty much disregarded the set menus on the menu’s flip side; ‘cause set menus suck, right?
Wrong. Every single dish I’ve chosen features on Set Menu B, and Set Menu A’s an attractive prospect too. Far from the usual fixed abominations agglomerating the dud-est dishes ‘cause they happen to have the best GPs, these seem to genuinely showcase the kitchen’s oeuvre.
So we set about making a (set) meal of things, and behind door B we discover our prizes.
Incendiary ‘zaep’ seasoning on crispy chicken skins tips the pain-to-pleasure ratio in the latter’s favour just enough to keep us diving back in til the bowl is whistle-clean.
The bouncy bite of ‘ceviched’ prawns yields to a beguiling creaminess; their verdant, citrusy marinade contrasting with the finger-licking, palm-sugar-sweet, tamarind-tart dressing slicking a chicken winglet and papaya salad. I can’t comment on the sweetcorn fritters ‘cause I didn’t get a look in, but the gannet I dined with caned the lot so make of that what you will.
Aged beef in the pad krapow elevates the stir-fried breakfast favourite as much as the non-negotiable crispy fried egg one must plop atop a portion.
Drunken noodles feature the wide, delectably-textured ‘big noodles’ I love almost as much as life itself (at Speedboat, they’re hand pulled; sourced from Chinatown near-neighbour, Lo’s Noodle Factory). I want to devour them as fast as my fork and spoon allows but the chilli seeds that cling to every one say nay, and I’m forced to admit heat-induced defeat to the eye-watering Ryewater-grown chillies plucked from Luke’s own nursery.
Moreish greens and rice that clumps just the right amount round out – but don’t pad out – a meal that’s a rare example of a pre-prescribed menu that’s all killer, no filler.
The same could be said of the playlist, which masterfully treads a tricky tightrope between evoking what you’d hear in a Bangkok bar without replicating it so faithfully that people might actually leave. Thailand, ILYSM, but I think with your own abiding love for helium pop, that observation is fair.
No doubt the authenticity of this Bangkok Chinatown-celebrating restaurant will be debated, but that’s not really the point: like all the best Thai hangouts, Speedboat Bar is a riotous den of joy. That’s good enough for me and I suspect it will be for you, too.
MAKE IT HAPPEN