As anyone who’s had to do it more than once knows, dining alone can be a miserable experience. I often have to travel on my own both for business & pleasure, but one of the things I dread is looking for somewhere to eat.
Oh once you’re inside its fine, there’s your book leaning up against the wine glass whilst you quite happily consume and imbibe until the words run together in front of your eyes. It’s getting the table that presents the challenge. There you are queueing behind contented couples and happy families all enjoying their holiday, whilst the trattoria’s owner beady eyes seek you and your book out. He knows giving you a table will deprive him of a cover, so will come up with any excuse not to do so. I often find myself eating on the bar.
Anyway this review has next to nothing to do with the challenges I’ve faced trying to find somewhere to eat solo whilst away. I do however work from home a lot, and quite often find myself having lunch alone. As it happens I rarely find myself competing for a table with bemused looking American’s from the Garrett lane Premier Inn, they’re still trying to find their way out of the Southside Debenhams come lunchtime.
Thai Grocer is one of my favourite local haunts both in the evening and for lunch. It competes with two other Thai restaurants locally, Café Amranth and Green Curry both within about half a mile of Thai Grocer which lies rough equidistant to them on Garrett Lane. Personally I think that Thai Grocer is easily the best of the bunch, though both of the others have much to recommend them.
According to their website the Thai Grocer is decorated to provide a serene yet contemporary atmosphere. This sounds like somewhere which would therefore be ideal for your afternoon’s meditation or yoga practice, spacious with Buddha statues and tinkling fountains randomly placed according to some obscure rule of karma. Actually it looks rather like a small shop, with rather more tables than it strictly has room for shoehorned in. There is a rotating display of artwork for sale, some of which can actually be rather good, in fact I once bough a piece for the Delightful Dining Companion here.
Whilst bijou it’s clean and comfortable, even if there isn’t much room for laying out your yoga matt. Actually that’s one of the striking things about this place is how little room there is and how few covers they can, well, cover.
The quality of the food here is well known locally and it’s now becoming increasingly difficult to just turn up and hope to secure a table, even early in the week. As someone who’s been coming here for a number of years I can happily attest to the toothsome qualities of the evening menu, what I wanted to see though was whether these high standards were also present during the lunch service.
At lunchtime Thai Grocer offers a pared down menu. Starters of either dumplings or spring rolls, a choice of curries or stir fries. Actually though when you think of it, with the choice of beef, pork, chicken, prawns or vegetables as the base and 5 or 6 different curries or stir fries, that’s still about 50 different lunches you could have.
For this test I chose to start with the dumplings followed by a chicken green curry, ok I know not the most imaginative choice, but rather like asking a classically trained chef to produce an omelette this would be a test of whether they got the basics right.
The dumplings were good and even at lunchtime you get 4, so if two of you are dining it’s easy to split a portion. I’ve previously had the spring rolls and I’m happy to confirm their quality as well.
The green curry itself though I have to say was on another level. Spicy, citrusy this tasted like the tropics had been distilled and dropped into a bowl. Eating it you could almost see an elephant wandering past you on a beach whilst gazed out over funny shaped islands.
I loved it, and broke with my own practice of trying to savour things I find particularly nice by eating it slowly & shovelled it in so fast my hands blurred. Trying to extricate as much of the fresh, sharp delicious sauce I probably left scratch marks on the bowl for which I apologise. The portion size I felt was just right for lunch, not small, but not huge either. Enough to give you a feed, but not so much you want to sleep all afternoon.
In total I had the starter, main course and a bottle of sparkling water. The bill came to £9 about twice what you’d pay in McDonalds for lunch. So yes twice the cost but god knows how many times the quality.
So with Thai Grocer’s increasing popularity in the evening, lunch is perhaps now the best time of the day to sample what I truly believe to be one of South West London’s best and best value Thai eateries. Do yourself a favour and try it.
361 Garratt Ln, Southfields, London SW18 4DY
020 8870 8856