Thai Square – Putney Bridge
2-4 Lower Richmond Road, Putney SW15 1LB
Back in the dark days of the late 1990s suburban Putney was home to Putney Bridge, a Michelin starred French restaurant catering to West London yuppies like me in a prize-winning new build. Chef Anthony Demetre went on to open Arbutus, the restaurant that kickstarted the Soho dining revival.Fast-forward to 2011 and the same Putney site became a member of the Thai Square group of restaurants. I’ve been invited to the launch of a new Executive Menu created by recently appointed executive chef Parichat Sanguthai (or Oula as she is known to her friends). Oula was formerly executive chef of the Blue Elephant in Fulham and is known for her skills in blending western and eastern culinary influences to create twists on classic dishes.The restaurant’s exterior is designed to resemble a ship with vaulted steel beams and lots of glass which creates fantastic views across the River Thames from almost every angle. The interiors combine a modernist aesthetic with antique Thai artefacts, including eight Buddha statues who keep a watchful eye on proceedings. For summer eating and drinking the 40-cover riverside terrace offers the perfect spot for al fresco dining.But enough of the PR fluff…What about the cocktails? A refreshing Siam Tra-Kai (£7.50) was a blend of lemongrass, raspberry purée and cranberry juice and the Thai Square full moon (£11) was a sweet and tropical blend of Thai rum, Passai, pineapple and passion fruit juices and fresh passion fruit.A couple of snacks were a foretaste of the meal to come. Compressed watermelon was covered with crisp deep-fried shallots and flavoured with nam pla (fish sauce) and sugar creating a wonderful layering of flavours combining pungency, crunch and freshness.The delicate sweetness of pomelo was counterpointed with the unfamiliar but delicious flavour of caramelised coconut blended with ginger and chilli for a bit of bite.We moved on to drinking a crisp, lemony Chilean Emiliana Riesling that stood up well to the herbs and spices in the food. Next up we sampled a selection of starters.The centrepiece of a wonderful Seafood Platter was a whole lobster salad infused with chilli and lemongrass. The fragrance of the spicing brought out the delicate lobster flavour perfectly. Luxurious grilled scallops were drenched in butter, garlic and chilli; prawns and chicken dim sum were light and fluffy.Grilled wild tiger prawns came with a sweet basil parfait, rocket salad and radish. I could have eaten twenty of these but I’m greedy…A spicy and fresh tasting duck salad was made up of chargrilled slices of duck breast served with Longan fruit.Baked aubergine with quail egg, sweet pepper, minced chicken breast and prawn, spicy lime dressing and truffle oil was a plate of rich, squishy deliciousness.There was a wide selection of main dishes so we all chose one and tasted some others. A tangy yellow curry had the unmistakable sweet sour flavour of tamarind; the meat from the lamb shank tangy falling off the bone with the inevitability 0f me falling off the wagon.Grilled black cod came wrapped in banana leaf and was sweetened with miso and a chilli jam. It was a good size portion, the flesh was firm but simultaneously melted on your tongue. It tasted fab.Noodles with black truffles and crispy fried prawns with cherry tomatoes, red chilli, garlic, sweet basil and soy had sweet and sour flavours and lots of crunch. The truffles were a little underpowered however.Stir-fried morning glory is a staple in South East Asia, it’s one of my favourite vegetables and always a treat.I always think that having three desserts is a good starting point. A delicate lychee mousse was topped by a wonderfully wobbly jelly, the ginger creme brulée was a perfectly constructed Asian take on the French Brasserie favourite and the coconut flan gave a tropical flavour to the Spanish classic.I didn’t get the meal I expected at Thai Square. Chef Oula is creating a new cuisine blending Thai flavours with western ingredients and techniques to create an expertly delivered original fusion that I haven’t experienced in the UK. There are plenty of Thai classics still on offer but this new Executive Menu is really worth investigating.