Thursday, 3 February 2011

Restaurant Review: Ora Thai

It's a case of style over substance at a distinctly average Thai restaurant with a high profile and a top class location. This review was originally written for Blue Tomato magazine.

Ora Thai is the latest restaurant from the team that have brought us Awana and Mango Tree. In this incarnation, they’ve ramped up the style factor, with a below ground restaurant that looks more like a hip club; Italian fashion-house designed staff uniforms; and an unlikely collection of cosmetics in the toilets.

It follows, then, that the food is presented in a sleek and stylish manner, with all kinds of flowers and garnishes helping transform Thai staples into artistic creations. Beyond surface level, the food is more of a mixed bag, though. A starter platter of mini dishes allows the kitchen to show off their skills, with intricate and complexly flavoured versions of crab cakes and pork dumplings making a good start.

As main courses follow, the flavour notches seem to have been turned down somewhat. Though an unusual and fantastic salmon tartare salad buzzes with lime and chilli, Ora’s take on a red Thai curry is decidedly lacklustre. The same goes for a green papaya salad, which is enjoyable in spite of very timid amounts of fish sauce and chilli. Having seen what the kitchen can do, we reckon it’s not incompetency but rather a conscious decision to keep flavours tame so as not to put people off. Maybe the slightly celeb crowd attracted by Ora’s sanitised glamour are after such dishes, in which case the restaurant have done well to know their audience. For what it’s worth, though, we’d rather head somewhere more authentic where we’d also pay considerably less.

Having said that, the desserts are worth a look. A platter comprises pandan jelly and fruit in coconut cream. There’s also some interesting Thai teas and coffee. The bar’s cocktail list is also quite dynamic, with ex-Quaglino’s mixologist Ivanic Branislav having put together some Thai themed twists on old classics.

Service is both friendly and efficient, and leaves us wanting to love Ora. It’s just a shame that some of the most classic Thai dishes are a disappointment. It’s worth a visit, but stick to some of the menu’s rarer offerings for best effect. And try and find an offer, as there’s no denying it’s a tad on the pricey side.

Ora Thai, 6 Little Portland Street, W1W 7JE

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