By Phoebe Ollerearnshaw
The Greyhound Café—which is set amongst the uni-vibe quarter of Fitzrovia in London—is proving that Thai food can be whatever it wants to be. Most people have been drawn to this funky new eatery simply because of its eclectic décor and I’m willing to admit that this was the precise reason for my attendance. ‘It has a lovely outside seating area and pretty fairy lights,’ my close friend pitched to me in the hopes that the restaurant would be our next meet-up spot. Normally it would take more than aesthetics to draw me in, but I thought: ‘Why not? Sounds like fun!’
The restaurant originally made a name for itself through its outpost in Bangkok’s Sukhumvit district—a mecca for backpackers and hipsters alike. In fact, Greyhound actually began as a menswear brand in 1980 and then proceeded to join the food scene in 1997. As a result, their unique approach to fashion filtered down into their restaurants. This is the fashion house’s first foray in Europe, ergo the hype surrounding the place.
Entering the eatery, I immediately understood the appeal. It emanated a canteen sort of vibe, with the addition of a few thoughtful flourishes. A decorative basket, that almost resembled a bizarre piñata, was suspended overhead. Meanwhile, small lanterns and metal origami details were dotted around. A few plastic candles were placed on our table—a tacky touch, but not enough to put me off my dinner. Our trip to the Greyhound Café was a decidedly efficient affair—a midweek after work special: meaning no room for floundering. We needed sustenance and we needed it quick. The menu resembled a flashy magazine with alluring pictures that accompanied the entertaining dish titles such as weeping wolf, complicated noodles and salmon in hot pursuit.
In our party of three, two of us (one being myself) were spoilt for choice. There was a specific vegetarian section, which was received with great pleasure by my ‘flexitarian’ friend. The other of my companions is somewhat pickier and found it hard to cipher through the mass of fish dishes. Greyhound Café’s menu is a fusion of Thai and Italian (and apparently any other cuisine the chef feels may work in any given dish). Sounds peculiar and, quite frankly, it is. The thought of wok-fried spaghetti with Thai accompaniments seems unthinkable. Yet, the angry pasta was one of our orders and ended up being quite tasty. My fussy friend tried to negotiate with the waiter and request that the scallop pad Thai be accompanied with chicken instead—but to no avail. Our wide-eyed server stayed firm in his position: ‘Absolutely no substitutions’. A little bemused, she decided on the beef massaman. Possibly the best decision she’s ever made. The supremely succulent meat could be cut with a spoon—it quite literally was. The sauce was rich and soothing, full of fragrant spices and just the right amount of heat.
I ordered the scallop pad Thai, which packed a punch with tangy lime juice and pungent fish sauce. While the portion of scallops was generous, the mollusks arrived cold and not sizzling as expected. Luckily, the rest of the dish made up for it. The salty dried shrimp was a great addition and a nod to the traditional way the dish is served in Thailand. As to whether I think pad Thai is improved by the addition of scallops? I’m still uncertain. We also ordered a few sides: satay rib-eye and sweet corn pops—both were moreish and delectable. The beef was charred, yet tender. The pops were encased in a crisp, light batter that made them easy to nibble as we conversed with one another. There were plenty of tempting offerings that I would return for such as the hot oil pork knuckle, sea bass miang, grilled lobster with Thai herbs and the happy toast (topped with coffee custard or salted caramel)—yum!
I can imagine that many people will dislike this eatery on principle, quoting that the food served here is far removed from that of the bustling streets stalls of Bangkok (which is true). But, such individuals will have clearly missed the point of this restaurant. Greyhound Café’s intention is that of reinvention and fun. Apart from the pad Thai debacle, the establishment felt extremely laidback to me—it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
The experience of the Greyhound Café can be neatly summarised by its founder, Bhanu Inkawat: ‘Although we are Thai at heart, the restaurant will be anything but a traditional Thai restaurant. Our inspirations come from far and wide, some recipes were handed down from our grandmothers, some were dishes from our travel memories and others were inspired by our midnight fridge raids. Just like in Bangkok, we mix traditional and international, street and couture, all fused together in a beautiful, chaotic way.’
Greyhound Café | 37 Berners St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 3LZ
If you enjoyed reading our restaurant review of Greyhound Café, Fitzrovia check out other articles on The Master Chefs website.
See also: Interview with Nipa Thai’s Head Chef