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Khaosan? Kaosan? Which K(h)aosan?

What’s indeed in the name? Or, in this case, the spelling?

One afternoon. A Twitter exchange between me and @MarinaMetro led to an earth-shattering discovery – she told me of course – of a Thai restaurant called Khaosan on Chepstow Road, Notting Hill. This mustn’t be confused with another Kaosan – also a Thai restaurant – in Brixton, which received a raving review by Jay Rayner. “H” or no “H”? Is there a rigid formula to Thai phonetic transcription? There isn’t. You can even spell “Khaosarn”, “Kaosarn”, whichever way you’d like as long as you know of the location you are heading and the menu you peek at online comes from your destination restaurant..

So, earth-shattering?

I was told.. Khaosan (with an “H”) is run by the team behind my ghetto, no-nonsense Thai grub The Heron. Enough to tickle my taste bud and curiosity.

A few buses later..

I was there. Very quiet street. A pink restaurant. That was some statement. Inside it was slightly run down, not to the extent of a retro-disco interior of The Heron. Very quiet restaurant. Locals only seemed to flock for takeaway.

The menu was not aggressively niche. There were curries. There were stir-fried dishes. Just like other Thai restaurants. The less conservative dishes could be, say, deep-fried marinated duck’s tongues. I settled for some usual dishes (for the other bib) and non-stereotyped ones (for me). Fish Ball Salad (1). A dish that could be missed. Very couth chilli and lime kick jostling with a medley of celery leaves, crunchy red onions, carrots and juicy cherry tomatoes. The balls were not distinctly fishy but had decent texture. It also wasn’t spicy enough. Grilled Tumeric Chicken (2) was staggeringly large and put Nandos to shame. The most delicious of all the dishes ordered. Tender meat with perfuming herbal aroma. Perfectly charred. Served with two kinds of dipping sauce: the fiery “Jaew” of fish sauce and dried chilli powder and the mellow sweet chilli sauce.

Red Chicken Curry (3) was commendable and almost authentic (if it weren’t for red chilli being substituted by red bell pepper slices). Fragrant holy basil nicely infused in a medium heat, velvety curry. Pearls of pea aubergines added a contrasting bitter taste. The chicken, sadly, was overcooked. Stir-Fried Crab Curry (4) was delicious. Crispy soft shell crabs revived by this omelette-like sauce of egg, milk and curry powder. A bit of heat, onion-y sweetness and tomato acidity. A megalomania of flavours. Shamed they could have made more effort draining the oil off the soft shell crabs.

Fit to burst…

Fortunately, my last dish of “Hor Mok” AKA steamed fish curry (5), which is a variation of Burmese fish amok, was bad. Badly cooked fish. The coconut milk was not thick enough, inexpertly cooked and distressingly curdled. No flavour whatsoever penetrated fish chunks. The dry banana leaves that encased the “Hor Mok” appeared abhorrent. I didn’t feel obliged to finish it.

It was an okay meal. Huge portion. Good value for money. Authentic flavours. Not piquantly, offensively Thai. Some non-stereotypical dishes. Many highlights, but with some intriguingly bad cooking. I could go back..

.. on a second thought I might not.

The meal did not thrill me. Khaosan is definitely a local restaurant. Not a destination. I’d rather hop off the bus half way to Notting Hill for my Heron!

Enough said,

My head rating says, “7.5 out of 10″.

My heart rating says, “6.5 out of 10″.


108 Chepstow Road
W2 5QS

Tel. 020 7221 9984

Khao San Thai on Urbanspoon


  1. Jeremy

    I often see reviews for thai food and i have also eaten at The Heron which is really good, very authentic, and my second favourite Thai restaurant next to 101 Thai Kitchen in Stamford Bridge. Have you eaten there? If so, have you chosen carefully? Because it is easily the best thai restaurant in London in my opinion. Order the Laoitian Fish Salad and the Kua Kling (not sure on the spelling there) and you will agree. In saying that, a lot of the menu otherwise is average and sometimes the food isn’t perfectly well balanced (Som Tam can be hit and miss). They also sell many variations of Som Tam from the classic Som Tam Thai to the more intense Isaan version of it.

    Please review 101 Thai Kitchen because it is always overlooked by bloggers and London reviewers. If you order carefully you will thoroughly enjoy the meal. My recommendations are the Laoitian Fish Salad, Som Tam, Kua Kling, probably something from the specials board, Isaan Sausage is okay but ive had better, same with the fried chicken, curries are okay but i prefer hand made pastes, fried and steamed fish options are all classic and quite good, most of the stir fries are a let down but there is a dish which has deep fried aubergine in a dry curry stir fry which is called something monk? and that is quite good. anything with a dry stir fry curry sauce is good (often on the specials board as well).

    • theskinnybib

      Hi Jeremy,

      Thank you very much for your extended comment and recommendations. I have been to 101 a few times (before blogging) but after my last visit, made a mistake of deleting pictures before uploading then. I second you that it is a very good Thai restaurant specialising in regional Thai dishes and with a lot more choices to choose from than the Heron. I also couldn’t agree more they have the best Klou Kling in the UK. (You must really love Thai food to handle the heat from Klou Kling!) and I am in line with you that it has been misunderstood by bloggers who don’t know Thai food too well, jump into ordering “commercial” dishes and do not try many of 101′s unique Thai dishes that are worth recognition!! All that said, the location of 101 is quite far from where I am based, accordingly I haven’t had a chance to make my way back there yet. Will definitely put it up on my priority list ^_^

      Thank you again for your passionate comment.

      All best.


  2. Pingback: Kaosarn: Thai + Some Joyful Stereotypes in South London | The Skinny Bib

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