som tam house

Som Tam House
131 Askew Road
London W12 9AU
Tel: 0208 749 9030

Free tea at Som Tam House
Free tea at Som Tam House

It’s snowing in London today, which means that my ‘goodbye winter’ Spanish stew was somewhat premature. The weather also means that people are being extra-irritating – huddled in inconvenient places like the tops of escalators, walking three abreast on footpaths, standing immobile in bus and tube doorways. All of this makes me cranky. And crankiness needs good food.

Som Tam House is a little Thai restaurant on Askew Road, and I chose it because it’s gotten some great reviews and today was clearly not a day to tempt Fate. It was completely empty when I went in at 12:30pm (Saturday), which usually makes me nervous, but it got busier as I was leaving and as it turns out I needn’t have worried about the food in the slightest.

The Restaurant

A small restaurant on Askew Road
A small restaurant on Askew Road

Som Tam seats around 30 covers and is the very definition of ‘cute’. Wooden furnishings, comfy cushions and air conditioning are about all you could ever hope for in a restaurant that also offers a great value lunch menu for £5.50. The lunch menu changes every month and currently includes curry or stir-fry with rice, or a good selection of noodle dishes. You also get free tea, which cheered me up to no end.

The Food
I tend to judge a Thai restaurant on two dishes: Pad Thai and Panang curry. Is that fair, given that Pad Thai is really of Vietnamese origin and Panang curry is named after a Malay island? No matter. They’re what I always order when I’m trying out a new Thai restaurant and I think they’re a pretty good indicator because they’re (apparently) fairly easy to cook, yet you can get both of them really, really wrong.

Chicken Pad Thai can make everything right again
Chicken Pad Thai can make everything right again.

I can only talk about the chicken Pad Thai because I was dining solo, but rest assured Panang curry will be in my future. The coriander garnish had seen better days, but it was easily picked off and didn’t do anything to mar the dish.

I was concerned because it looked a little wet, but the noodles were done to perfection – chewy and thankfully not sloppy. There were generous chunks of succulent chicken, a bright crunch from the bean sprouts and a deeper toothsomeness from the peanuts. Oddly, these were added to the noodles and fried, rather than being served alongside as an optional garnish.

The sauce was spot on – the chef had gotten right balance between the sugar and the tamarind, so it sat at that perfect place between sweet and sharp. It came in a nice big portion that still left me feeling a little bereft when it was all gone. For £5.50, this is a steal.

The Service
Flawless and snappy. The lovely waitress was so cheerful it shamed me out of my bad mood. Better still, there was no service charge on the bill which I really appreciate, even though I tip anyway.

I dislike the current London trend of adding ‘optional’ service charges to the bill – it’s just so gauche.

The Quibbles
Uh, the plate was slightly chipped? I’m struggling. I know some people freak out about crockery but in my book, if the worst thing you can say about a place is that its garnishes are limp and the plates are chipped, that’s a damn good restaurant.

The Verdict
The prices on the a la carte menu range from around £5.50 for fishcakes to £7 for a green curry. The webpage boasts that their prices are the same now as in 1999 – quite a feat and even more impressive when you realise that the food is of decent quality and very tasty.

I’ll be back! I’ll bring all my friends!


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