For those of you who haven’t heard about it, nahm at the Metropolitan hotel in Bangkok is the Australian chef David Thompson’s attempt to bring traditional Thai food back to Bangkok. He already has a highly rated 1* Michelin in London (nahm in the Halkin) and the world’s most fiendishly difficult Thai cookbook but this new opening of nahm in Bangkok is something more than that. This is him coming back to the land of his culinary inspiration.
It has also kicked off a fair bit of controversy out in Asia with some soul searching by Thai people about why a farang* person is leading the charge on high level Thai food.
It is slightly difficult for me to review my meal at nahm in detail as, quite frankly, I am not competent enough in the flavours, spices and traditions involved in Thai food to be able to weigh up the successes or failings in each dish. Still, what I can say is that it was probably one of my lesser meals in Bangkok; partly by reference to food but mostly by reference to the experience.
Given my general ignorance about Thai food, my comment on the food is fairly simple; this wasn’t as good as otherworldly meals I had at Bo.lan, Sra Bua, Krua Apsorn and some of the better streetfood places*.
However, the biggest problem is that nahm is meant to be a serious restaurant but it felt like some middling hotel’s dining room. The interior is a touch bland – like it was modelled on a 1990′s Buddha Bar album cover - and the clientale were pretty much all Australian retirees or hotel guests in tracksuit bottoms. Coupled with service which forgot drinks, weren’t aware of or educated in the story behind the food or the ingredients, couldn’t discuss the menu with me etc. it meant that there wasn’t the buzz or expectation that comes with seriously good high end food.
I have read quite a few reviews by others on TripAdvisor etc. who have been and their experience of service is notably different. Many of them had David Thompson recommend dishes or attend them personally. I evidently didn’t get that. I didn’t get anywhere near that. I have heard he wasn’t working the night I went but I am not sure that is an answer, the problem was front of house generally and not in the kitchen (where the chef arguably should be).
And this was made worse by the pacing. Apparently nahm is trying to do traditional “family style” serving. What this meant in practice is that I got something like 6 mains altogether. Bang. No warning. All there. I am a greedy, glutinous, overeating fool. I couldn’t even begin to cope. I started with the squid as left that goes rubbery. Then danced between soups, salads, meats and fishes and curries. All far too much. The breadth of it meant that some dishes got cold, some mouldered. All of them suffered.
I would happily go back to nahm for the food but I would take a firm line with the pacing and ask for it to be brought out in a sensible way. Indeed two of the dishes made me want to cry with joy – a jungle curry and a black glutinous rice desert. If served in a way which would let me savor the food and relax this meal could have been something special.
Still if you wanted to have just one high level meal in Bangkok… you need to go to bo.LAN (review to come).
- Price – 1,700 baht for the set menu but with drinks it ended up as 3,000 baht a head
- South Sathorn Road, Tungmahamek, Sathorn, Bangkok 10120, Thailand (+662 625 3388)
PS as an aside I noticed that one common brand of toilet make in Bangkok is “Nahm”. I forgot to check at the time whether they use Nahm Sanitaryware loos in the Metropolitan.
PS for the other posts on Bangkok click here.
* Thai for Westerner
* well the grasshoppers wasn’t much cop but still