Restaurant Review: Thai Square, N1

Jon Dean enjoys a Thai feast in Islington that proves to be a cut above the rest

As a young lad growing up in the provinces, Asian food was limited to the occasional curry sauce and chips at an oily Chinese takeaway.

There were no Teppanyaki restaurants, no Vietnamese cuisine, and Thai was something that you did to your shoelaces.

Fast forward a few years to our nation’s fair capital and you find food from almost every country under the sun, and Thai nosh has emerged as one of the more popular dishes for our north European palletes.

In such an environment only the strong survive and a restaurant must prove itself a cut above the competitions.

Enter Thai Square.

Although part of a chain of 17 restaurants in the London area, the Islington branch we visited certainly had character. Golden statues, water features and ornately carved furniture litter both floors, and pseudo-traditional robes adorn the attentive waiting staff.

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As it was a lovely summer evening, we decided to sit outside and watch the busy Islington world go by as we tucked in.

The menu is a big one with plenty of choice, but we opted for the meal of champions - the Gold Set Menu. At �25 a go, it is certainly not the cheapest on the card, but offers four courses that make you feel you have a good crack at what the place has to offer.

A good example of this is the mixed starter - delicious golden sacks (dumplings), beautiful butterfly prawns, chicken satays and prawn toast - conjured images of elephant trekking in Chang Mai and full moon parties on the islands.

Following this, with barely a pause for breath, was the Tom Yum Goong Nham Khon, or soup to the uninitiated. This spicy mushroom and prawn affair was an unalloyed delight – spicy and a little bit creamy, it was a heady and aromatic cocktail.

Two courses of this size and I could see my girlfriend struggling. I however had only just got going and was licking my licks with abandon as our main courses arrived.

This is the only section of the gold menu that affords you a choice, and I had gone for the Phed Makahm - roasted duck breast - as it was something a little unexpected at a Thai joint.

It was rich, dripping with naughty tamarin sauce and topped with roasted chillies; I could almost feel the onset of gout as I tucked in.

In typically austere fashion, my better half had gone for a lighter bite - the prawn green curry. A classic of Siamese cooking, this didn’t disappoint.

The prawns were succulent, while the sauce was cocunuty and just hot enough to have me mopping my brow.

Both dishes were accompanied by stir fried mixed vegetables in oyster sauce, pad Thai noodles and steamed rice, which offered plenty to mop up the respective sauces.

With a final flourish the lychees in syrup turned up. I am not afraid to admit I polished off both portions and, despite their slightly suspicious appearance, the delicate flavour was the perfect foil for the several pounds of spicy food I had ingested earlier.

All in all, a triumphant evening, and one that wouldn’t be out of place on a rooftop garden in the city of smiles.