Brixton Village Market, Coldharbour Lane, London, SW9 8PR
Price: £15 per person (drinks excluded)
I ate twice at KaoSarn, and twice I was shocked by the poor service and marvelled by the delicacy of the food.
The first time I went with friends for dinner, the queue was 45 mins long. Fair enough. When we are then pointed at our table, we are also told ‘you have one hour to finish’. ‘Well’ I though, ‘This depends on how quick you are in delivering the orders’ – we made it, in case you are wondering.
The second time I was with my partner and we went for a late lunch. We arrived in front of the place which was magically empty. Two members of the staff were inside, busy with unpacking straws. I looked at them not sure if the restaurant was still opened. They looked at us, a bland, inexpressive stare. No sign, no waving. Obviously we are still not convinced the place is open. Not that anyone cares I see… A waitress comes out to pick up some left overs. ‘Excuse me, are you still open?’ I dare. ‘We are open till three thirty’. It was quarter to three, so we decided to assume that her statement was meant to be concluded with ‘come in please!’.
The little attention to details for the customer is also noticeable from the name of the restaurant: spelt ‘KaoSarn’ on the entrance and ‘KaoSan’ on the menu…who knows. Anyhow, no matter how bad the service can be or how the name should be spelt, the food make you soon forget it all.
I am not going to spend too much time on the interiors…as there aren’t any really…the decor inside is equalled by the service…absent. So let’s move on to what matters.
This is a summary of what I had during my visits.
Geaw Tod: pastry filled with chicken and prawns served with sweet chilli sauce and ground peanuts: nice way to start the meal, the pastry was very light and crunchy, a lightness hard to find in Asian restaurants. The ground peanuts were also a pleasant surprise that made the sweet chilli sauce more interesting than usual.
Phad Thai with prawns: the beauty of this dish completely clashed with the whole setup of the place… Thank God. As you can see from the photo it was a delight to the eyes. The big, flat plate made it a bit difficult to eat but definitely pretty to see. The phad thai was good and light but not over exciting. I believe this is a place you go to for its curries.
Green curry chicken with mixed vegetables: what a curry! Only slightly sweet, absolutely tasteful. I love this kind of light sweetness in Asian dishes, in this case the coconut milk made the vegetables and chicken flourish under the palate.
Lamb Massaman – red curry of coconut sauce with lamb, onions, potatoes, peanuts, anise: absolutely the best dish I had here. When you say ‘Thai’, you usually imagine coconuts, prawns, coriander. This dish is offered with lamb. Moist and tasty lamb. This is a vibrant, aromatic dish where the lamb and coconut sauce are the king and queen of the party…with a touch of anise as crown.
This is definitely the best Thai restaurant I tried in London so far… And the most polarised! Once you try a bite of that lamb, the bustling surroundings, the cheap tables and the horrible service are projected in a far-away black hole, and you are left with that delicate coconut sweetness under your palate… reminding you of distant Asian shores.
If you take a walk among the stalls at Brixton Market on Saturday, you might encounter a delightful mix of African and European haute couture. Pebbles of Pebbles Wearable combines colourful textiles with elegant and innovative shapes creating coats, dresses and accessories…all absolutely hand made.
Addendum – 17 May 2015 @ Kaosarn, St. John’s Hill, Clapham
After being so keen on stressing the poor service at Kaosarn in Brixton, it seems only fair for me to mention its nicer cousin restaurant, Kaosarn in Clapham. I was extremely pleased to see that while keeping the food level at the amazing standards we already know, the service here was ten times better. Extremely polite staff, the possibility of booking and normal size tables. What a pleasure! I doubt the Kaosarn in Brixton will see me again after trying its 2.0 version in Clapham.