Open Mon–Sun 5pm–10.30pm
This was a pretty tough review to write. I’ve struggled with reviews before, of course—usually when a restaurant isn’t very interesting. That’s not the case with Nipa Thai, which sits a few floors up in Hyde Park’s Lancaster Hotel. It’s not an uninteresting restaurant by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it’s a beautiful, friendly and intimate place and the food is pretty much perfect. That, I think, is why this was such a difficult review. From the moment you walk into Nipa Thai, everything goes exactly to plan. Nothing is unexpected but everything is excellent. That’s why it’s hard to say much about it. But I’ll try.
The restaurant itself is small and quiet. The screen windows on the far side look out at Hyde Park, which I’m sure is a spectacular view if you’re visiting before dark—after, you’re mostly stuck with looking at the roadworks on the street below. The scale of Nipa Thai gives it a delightfully intimate feel, despite being relatively busy on the Wednesday night we were there, whilst the décor is opulent, warmly-lit and unmistakably Thai. Honestly, you couldn’t hope for anything else.
Each dinner opens with some complimentary prawn crackers served with a sweet chilli sauce and a vegetable spring roll each—a suitably light and plentiful appetiser to the meal itself. To start, my steamed rice wraps with sautéed chicken (£11) were gorgeously presented (and well-explained by our server), with the addition of peanuts in the wraps proving a nice boon for the texture of the chicken, while the iceberg lettuce with chillies and coriander made a pleasant and unexpected accompaniment to the dish. My guest’s deep fried spring rolls with glass noodles, cabbage and oriental mushrooms (£10) were equally light, just crispy enough and were complemented well by their sauce.
My steamed sea bass (£22) was, without wanting to beat about the bush, by far the best sea bass—or perhaps even seafood—I’ve had in recent memory. The sea bass itself was smooth to the point of nirvana, intensely flavoured with garlic, lemongrass and lime leaf and, thanks to the addition of a chilli broth, just hot enough. My guest’s lamb curry with baby potatoes (£19) was less impressive, with the lamb being ever so slightly too tough, but still proved a cut above the sort of curry you’d get in any other similarly-priced restaurant.
Finally, my deep-fried ice cream (£9)—which I can only half-honestly maintain I was pressured by my guest into choosing—was, well, certainly something. Think diabetes-inducing scotch egg and you’re probably not too far off. It was, frankly, almost unbearably satisfying—and probably deadly to boot. My guest’s more sensible choice of vanilla cheesecake with mixed berry and banana sorbet (£9) was top notch too, with that particular flavour of sorbet proving a better match for cheesecake than most.
There’s not much more to say: the staff were cheery and helpful, the wine list is long and the prices aren’t too extortionate for the area. Nipa Thai knocks it out of the park. Give it a go.