Anglothai Pop Up, Allegra, The Stratford Hotel, London

John Chantarasak of Anglothai and I were both living in Bangkok at the same time sometime over 2013/2014 (I forget which, I’m getting old) and although we moved in the same circles & I saw him out & about, we never actually met until he came to Yangon to do a pop up in one of the restaurants I was managing in 2017 (and then again for another pop up in 2019 too)

I absolutely love Johns style of cooking, adding a subtle British note to classic (and not so classic) Thai dishes through his clever use of seasonal British ingredients, and I am also a huge fan of his lovely wife Desiree’s wine pairings.

My 2019 meal at his pop up at Wander restaurant only served to highlight just how sickeningly talented this young couple are, and whilst I was sad that his long awaited restaurant isn’t set to open until 2022, I totally lucked out by snagging a table for his one night pop up at Allegra in Stratford, not long after I returned to the Uk for the summer.

The pop up started with “hoi naang rohm” a Carlingford oyster with his signature seabuckthorn nahm jim. By swapping out the lime for seabuckthorn, John manages to create a taste that is different yet also familiar, the tart seabuckthorn working brilliantly with the oyster and the chilli.

This was followed by “gai satay” a sesame seed chicken wing which had been crusted in sesame, popped rice and peanuts; a really clever twist on such an iconic dish. I’ve seen chicken wings on tasting menus a few times recently actually, and Johns still stands out as the best.

Next up was a bonus dish of a Thai style scallop ceviche (I’m afraid without seeing it on the menu I cant get more descriptive than that) which positively sung with freshness and zing, a perfect way to let the scallops shine through.

You may remember that I am not keen on ordering/eating beef, however Johns “laab dip neua” may well have been the dish to convert me! It had more in common with steak tartare than laab, with the raw beef cut into small cubes and seasoned with prickly ash & black garlic, then served with a shrimp cracker like lavosh. A perfect portion size and packed full of flavour, I would definitely eat steak tartare if it was more like this!

Our curry dish was another of my favourites, “gaeng ba” of skate wing and pork fat jungle curry with wye valley asparagus that was served with rice (of course) and a “som tam” of IOW tomatoes, rainbow carrots and pumpkin seeds. The pork fat added a wonderful depth of flavour to the curry sauce, already unctuous with the skate wing gelatin and it was quite unlike any Jungle curry I have had before or since – definitely a recipe I will try to weasel out of him when he visits Thailand next month.

Our final dish was “mamaung khao mak” mango sorbet with fermented rice and coconut tuile, withe the tuile being a beautifully dainty spin on kanom dok jok ( a popular thai biscuit made with coconut milk and sesame) A lovely dish to finish our meal with.

I cant wait for Anglothai to open next year, with fans such as Marina O’Loughlin, I am certainly not alone in being full of praise for the Chantarasks and I know it will be a smash hit!

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