'Opium Den is intimate, plush and perfect for small groups'

Opium Den at Nam Long Le Shaker

Open Mon–Sat 7pm–2.30pm

The style and crowd:

Thai Dang opened Nam Long Le Shaker in the mid ‘80s and it quickly became a haunt for celebrity diners, known for its Flaming Ferrari cocktails, pan-Asian food and strict door policy – Prince William and Mick Jagger have both been turned away. It still draws the Chelsea crowd (though admittedly the women were more glam than the mostly overweight middle-aged men in the bar area during our visit).

Thai died of cancer, aged 62, last year, and left the South Ken venue to his daughter, Dzuyen. She aims to draw the next generation with an updated soundtrack, conventional service and a new bar downstairs, Opium Den – it’s intimate, plush and perfect for small groups. Reached via a wrought-iron staircase, a mosaic bar dominates while handcrafted statues, traditional artworks and a wood-patterned flooring offer an authentic vibe to the Thai den (though opium isn’t on the menu).

The food:

The buzzy, upstairs restaurant area is the place for sharing dim sum. We went for vegetarian gyoza (£6) and steamed prawn dumplings (£6) to start; warm crisp duck and pomelo salad (£12) and braised tofu with shitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots and pak choi (£13) with a side of brown rice (£2.50) for mains. Service was a bit hit-and-miss (neighbouring boisterous parties and a noisy soundtrack probably didn’t help) and the dishes tasted fresh, though lacked kick. I guess that’s where the cocktails come in…

The drinks:

Nam Long Le Shaker – and now also Opium Den – is the place for cocktails. We witnessed the famous Flaming Ferrari (Green Chartreuse, Grand Marnier, dark rum and yellow chartreuse; £19) served lit, being drunk through a straw while staff slammed the bartop and cranked up the sound of a revving Ferrari (the bartender will caution you not to have more than one).

Two new cocktails have been added to the menu: Mr Thai (in honour of Thai Dang), a short of rye whisky, truffle honey and grapefruit bitters (£13); and a smooth Bardot (lychee liquor combined with gin, a little cherry herring and finished off with rose water; £11). The classics are made just as they should be – uncomplicated and boozy. My banana daquiri (£11) brought back holiday memories.

Opium Den at Nam Long Le Shaker, 159 Old Brompton Road, London, SW5; www.namlong.co.uk; 020 7373 1926

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