A plucky Peckham-pop-up turned permanent E1 resident, Som Saa is a Thai restaurant specialising in creative regional dishes from the country’s north-eastern province. Enjoy sweet and sour comfort food from the grill or masterful curries so hot you’ll walk away feeling like you’ve just been punched in the face. In a nice way.
WHERE? 43A Commercial Street, E1 6BD. In an old fabric warehouse on the south end of Commercial Street, a few minutes walk from Aldgate East station and Spitalfields Market. The decor is bright and airy at the front bar and moody and cool in the dining area, with a just-moved-in vibe in keeping with the place’s pop-up heritage.
WHO? Head chefs Andy Oliver and Mark Dobbie earned their stripes in Nahm, where they cooked together under the tutelage of renowned cook and Thai-cuisine maestro David Thompson. Neither are natives, but stalking Mark Dobbie’s Twitter feed reveals that he’s made at least one trip to Thailand recently, so the guy probably knows a thing or two about pad thai.
ORDER THIS... You don’t need to poke around on anyone’s social media to know that Som Saa does astonishingly good Thai food, just keep exploring the menu until your face (or somebody else’s) screams at you to stop. Try the delicate, deep fried seabass with roasted rice and isaan (a region in Thailand) herbs. The fish is served whole, so it can look you in the eyes as you reduce it to a comical-looking skeleton, the kind of thing you’d see in the Beano next to an old sock with a mushroom growing out of it. Go for the grilled aubergine salad too. It’s hot and fleshy, tacky with Thai tongue-tang and served with a soft boiled egg and prawn floss. Or if you want to sweat your cocktail back out, try the bombastic som tam thai, a bangkok-style green papaya salad that will have you calling the police on your server.
BUSINESS OR PLEASURE? The social, street food atmosphere here means you’d seem a little out of place rocking up in a suit and tie with your accountant, but for more laid back meetings you could certainly get some stuff done in one of the window-side booths near the front.
NEED TO BOOK? For two people dining you’ll have to walk in and wait for a table, but for groups you can book online at somsaa.com or by calling 020 7324 7790. The place is open from noon to 2:30pm and again from 6pm, with the waiting list opening at 5pm.
THE VERDICT… Spectacular food in a wonderfully restored warehouse setting. Som Saa is one of the best Thai restaurants in London.
ONE MORE THING… Looming over one side of the dining room in an old gantry are several giant silvery beer vats, in which Som Saa stores the unfiltered and unpasteurised pilsner it has delivered direct from Camden Town brewery. They say it’s the first setup of its kind and – whether or not you can taste the difference – it’s all in aid of fresher beer.