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Taste the history of Royal Siamese food, brought to life today thanks to chef David Thomson, for whom a last-minute holiday plan began a 20-year affair with Thai cuisine - now rewarded (again) by the Michelin guide.
Do you think Thai food is simply noodles and vegetable, quickly stir fried in a wok? That would be like comparing French fries and gourmet haute-cuisine in Paris. Real Thai food is a philosophy, an act of devotion, full of variety, and recipes complex enough to freak out a modern cook. To experience the golden era of Thai food and real Asian fine dining there is only one (award-winning) address in town.
In 2001, head chef David Thomson put Thai food on the Michelin map in his restaurant, Nahm, at the Halking Hotel in London. The story of an Australian gaining the first ever Michelin star for Thai food only six months after opening became legendary. The restaurant closed in 2012, but not before opening a branch of Nahm at COMO Metropolitan Bangkok.
In 2017 Nahm was voted number five in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants and ranked 28th in World’s 50 Best Restaurant list. But there’s more! The same year, for the first time in its 117-year history, the Michelin Guide inducted restaurants in Thailand. Nahm was awarded one of the guide’s coveted Michelin stars, placing it among the top restaurants in Asia, now featured in ‘The Red’ guide. Of the 17 restaurants in Bangkok awarded stars, only five serve Thai food. But Nahm is the only one can experience the forgotten recipes of the royals.
Funnily enough, chef David Thompson had ended up in Thailand almost by accident, changing his holiday plans last-minute. Twenty years on, he talks of how the people, the culture and the cuisine seduced him – enough to make Thailand his second home. Working alongside cooks who perfected their craft in the Thai royal palaces, he began to document the traditional recipes and culinary techniques handed down from generation to generation. Old-fashioned Siamese cooking, where taste and experience outrank rules and technique, is carried on today thanks to Thompson’s accident of fate. Since the very beginning, Nahm has been making history in Asian cuisine – which was for a long time dispelled as just pad Thai and green papaya – in a bid to save its gastronomical heritage from oblivion.
David Thomson’s research digs deep into the authentic cuisine and local produce that makes Thailand such a unique destination. His work has been influenced by the street food of Bangkok and centuries-old cookbooks found in Thai households. His style combines big, bold flavours with meticulous attention to detail, fresh local produce and traditional cooking methods, preserving traditional Thai recipes and ingredients. The combination of hot, sweet, sour and salty flavours is an intricate balancing act for Head Chef Prin Polsuk who creates intensely flavoured dishes with ingredients that simply cannot be found outside of the country.
Is it spicy? Yes. Nothing is toned down for a western palate. If you need any evidence, ask to enter the kitchen. The air is so saturated with chillies and spices that you cannot breathe. But you’ll be surprised by the wide range of flavours in the King fish salad with pomelo, lemongrass and lime, the Aromatic curry of chicken with pickled cucumbers and in the Stir-fried cured pork with tomato and fiddlehead fern. Signature dishes are the Coconut and turmeric curry of blue swimmer crab, the Hot and sour soup of chicken, prawn and wild mushrooms, Tamarind and chili relish with grilled catfish and neem leaves. For dessert, enjoy a Kaffir lime in perfumed syrup with candied coconut of challenge yourself with the unique smell of durian, served with sweet sticky rice.
The location is amazing and so is Nahm’s interior design, inspired by Thailand’s fourteenth to eighteenth-century Ayutthaya period. Hence the textured rusty-red brick-stepped columns reminiscent of Ayutthaya temples, and the hand-crafted wooden screens. Every design detail has been attended to, including the tableware. The handpicked selection includes Benjarong bowls from Thai Artisan ‘Pinsuwan Benjarong’ and Celadon plates from local manufacturer ‘Mengrai Kilns’.