Next to the ever impressive Chelsea Harbour is a new and rather stunning development of restaurants, bars and apartments at Imperial Wharf. The jewel in the culinary crown so far here is the Blue Elephant, which has relocated from Fulham after 25 years as the unrivalled best Thai restaurant roundabouts, possibly in the whole of London. While some might mourn that the ethos of the restaurant has changed, it is equally true that walking into the new building offers a swanky and sophisticated experience, with river views and a splendidly Byzantine dining room that is half Thai tea house and half Uber-trendy restaurant. In both instances, it impresses immensely. Greeted by charming and friendly staff, a far cry from the more recalcitrant examples that you might find in Central London, we were brought a couple of fabulous cocktails – Lychee Martini and a spicy delectable twist on a Bloody Mary – and began to peruse the comprehensive menu.
We had heard that the food here was astonishingly good, and it did not disappoint. We were gently guided towards the ‘Memories of Siam’ tasting menu, which offers a mixture of what the restaurant calls its three separate styles of dish, namely ‘Thai Cooking of the Past,’ ‘Thai Cuisine of Today’ and ‘Thai Kitchen of Tomorrow’. In the first instance were famous and ancient dishes that have endured for centuries and represent what many people associated most strongly with Thai cooking, such as a sensationally good dish of Massaman lamb and a meltingly tender starter of chicken satay.
The second were more conventional but nonetheless excellent courses of steamed sea bream with organic lemongrass and wild-caught black pepper prawns. And the final series is not, as the name might suggest, something molecular and unusual but instead a collection of dishes showing the direction in which chef Nooror Somany Steppe and her team believe Thai cuisine is likely to head in the future. A dish of tamarind duck, served on a bed of seaweed, is a delectably unusual combination of elements, and puts more other pan-Asian dishes to shame.
Puddings, should you have room, are excellent quality, with the ginger crème brulee and mango cheesecake two of the most highly recommendable items. The whole meal should be taken with one of the superb wines on the comprehensive list – we had a very fine Gewurztraminer, the floral quality of which proved to be an invaluable means of cutting through the spice. Finishing with a cup of green tea was the perfect way to end an absolutely dinner.
Blue Elephant Thai Restaurant is already talked of by connoisseurs of great food as one of the best place to go in Chelsea, but it’s more than that. If you want excellent service, a wonderful setting, a really well chosen selection of food dishes and wine and a memorable experience, there can’t be many places that offer quite as much at such a high level. Once you’ve been, you’ll be longing to return.