WHEN I was a cub reporter I used to cover a village where the manager of the local pub was always on at me to write a story about the new Thai menu he’d introduced.
Rices, spices, exotic names for dishes featuring rather bland ingredients? Why would I do that I thought? How is it any different to a Chinese or Indian meal?
Flash forward 10 years and - now a Thai-food devotee thanks to my partner - and I of course realise how wrong I was.
For fans like me, The Blue Elephant in Fulham Broadway was among the ‘must-do’ destinations. With a reputation as vast as its menu, it has spent 25 years providing the people of West London with traditional and exceptional cuisine.
Now it’s moved to a new home in the stunningly grand surroundings of Imperial Wharf, with a riverside location overlooking the equally grand south bank at Wandsworth.
The oppulence strikes you from the minute you walk through the door, to find yourself surrounded by beautiful plants, golden statues, and intricate wood paneling and carvings. The whole interior is based on the Saran Rom Palace of Bangkok, the former home of Thailand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.
We were met by the manager Jack, who showed us round and explained the move was still being finalised and that the spacious upstairs rooms were not yet ready for general use.
Although they had hosted a party of 110 people the weekend before which gives you an idea of the scale of the place. This is truly a restaurant where the past, present and future of thai cooking blend together to create a fusion menu of variety and value for money.
At Jack’s suggestion we began with a house speciality cocktail, we waivered at his suggestion of a Mai Tai which sounded superb, but in the end we both chose a Lychee Cocktail (£9.50).
Suitably relaxed, we cast our eyes over the extensive menu and despite having Jack on hand to offer suggestions and extensive knowledge of every dish, we could not decide. So that left nothing else for it but to go for one of the tasting menus, the Memories of Siam Tasting Menu at £45 per person, or Amazing Thailand Tasting Menu at £55 per person.
We compared each one carefully but it was the presence of a half grilled lobster in the Amazing option which swung it for my partner.
Now, yes I will admit the overall cost for such a spread is pretty steep, but only a few days before I had been to the establishment of a well-known celebrity chef where we paid over £100 for a meal which contained less food in four courses than Blue Elephant provides in one.
First up was a selection of Foie Gras in Tamarind Sauce, Emerald Chicken, Khang Khao Phuak (minced prawns, chicken and sweet spices in pastry) and the perenial favourite Dim Sim (minced pork, shrimp and crab parcels).
A great deal of care has been put into producing a wine list which compliments the food. Again it runs to page after page, but for the uninitiated you cannot go far wrong with a bottle of Riesling le dragon 2007 (£38 a bottle) which resembled a glass of liquid gold and was refreshing, crisp and delicious.
Then came the much-anticipated lobster course, it was simply dressed in corriander and garlic butter, but I have yet to taste a better-prepared bit of shellfish.
The main courses had stand-out hits like the wonderfully named Drunken Beef (rib eye steak in chilli paste and sweet basil) and a lamb shank where the meat simply fell off the bone.
To finish there was a choice of black sticky rice pudding or ginger creme brulee - we had one of each and both were outstanding.
All too soon the taste sensation evening was over and we were leaving with our minds firmly made-up about whether we would be making a return visit.
Apart from anything else we simply have to give the new on-site cooking school a try - then perhaps the secrets of this award-winning food will be ours.