They should give Jess a pay rise. And if they don’t give Jess a pay rise someone should walk into Plaza Khao Gaeng and pay her what she’s worth because dinner very nearly didn’t happen before she took over and delivered a masterclass in how to look after two people who just want dinner and a few drinks. It should have been so simple. We walk into Arcade Food Hall on the corner of Tottenham Court Road looking to eat there, armed with the suitcases from five days work in London. They tell us we are at the wrong entrance for a table, sending us to the opposite end of the vast hall. “Oh, Plaza Khao Gaeng” someone grunts, “they have their own floor at the other end” sending us back to where we came from. The lift isn’t working so I stand at the bottom with the suitcases whilst the girlfriend checks on tables. It’s not going well upstairs; the host owes more to the biological definition than the hospitality version. She thinks she has somewhere for us, but can’t move us there until we are both present, even though it’s just a set of stairs between us. I get there, she sees the suitcases, sits us in the arse-end of nowhere and leaves us menu-less until Jess arrives. From there it’s fine, but crikey, we would have left a long time before had Sophie’s suitcase not clocked in at five tons. Those turning up after us are treated with similar disdain.

Maybe the host didn’t want to be there. Maybe she wanted to inhabit another space, but it’s odd behaviour given that this kind of thing never happens at Speedboat Bar, their brilliant sister restaurant some ten minutes away. There nothing bad can happen in the world, and if it does, they have shots and a pool table until it passes. Here, it’s more canteen style. It’s noisy and loud. The surfaces and decor are hard and devoid of soul, whilst cutlery and napkins are tucked away in steel boxes. They have no pool table but they do have shots. We have shots.

The food is better than Speedboat Bar, I think. It leans on the Southern cooking of Thailand where the sea and jungle meet. There is chunks of chicken thigh thrown into the fryer so that they are bound by thick shards of batter. They are great, even better when coated in Sriracha. And top marks to the mango salad that smacks of lime, dried prawn and the tempered note of toasted coconut. Vibrant, hot, and refreshing, it’s needed for later courses.

It’s needed because I ordered the minced chicken stir fry, described as “quite hot” but actually is so spicy with chilli, long pepper, and galangal that beads of sweat run off my brow. The rice does nothing to help. The fried egg I ordered does nothing. The wine does nothing. It’s an assault of heat coming from all angles. I absolutely fucking love it. It’s thrilling. Sophie has a fish curry, herbal and with the heat softened with lots of coconut milk. She likes it but it’s not the chicken stir fry. The bill is £80 including a large glass of wine each, and we decide to get a McFlurry for dessert over anything in Arcade Hall. On the way out Jess stops us to ask if we write a review could we please mention her by name. Sure thing, Jess. Sure thing.


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