Amaranth Thai Market – Thai Café & Noodle Bar
346/348 Garratt Lane
London SW18 4ES
The real door is the one at the right of the picture
Amaranth Thai Market or Thai Café & Noodle Bar – since the two names are listed – is located right at the intersection between Garratt Lane and Thornsett Road. The transparent door you see on Garratt Lane is not in use, and is blocked by tables. You need to use the door in Thornsett Road to get in and it is not that obvious that it belongs to the restaurant. We did see a few people trying to get in through the main, but closed, door. Inside is not very spacious and it has a cafetaria style with small tables and seats with metallic feet.
When the menus were produced, we were given some prawn crackers with a sweet and sour sauce to snack on. They were fine, and still crunchy, not affected by humidity.
The menu was quite interesting with a lot of noodle dishes from £5.95 (for the vegetarian or tofu versions), £6.95 (with chicken) to £7.95 (with prawns). You have the choice between “drunken spicy noodles” (chunky udon noodles with soy, lemon grass, chilli and hot basil), ho fun rice noodles (rice noodles in a mild sauce with egg, soy and mixed vegetable), phad thai noodles (rice noodles in mild tamarind, bean sprouts, egg and garlic chives) and egg noodles with mixed vegetables.
For curries the choice is between the beef panang (£7.95), the red roast duck curry (£7.95), the red prawn curry (£7.95), the red veg curry (£5.95), the green chicken curry (£6.95), yellow chicken curry, nutty musamum chicken and nutty musamum beef.
There are also noodle soups, rice dishes, mild stir fries… Plenty of choices.
As starters we chose the dim sum, described as Mums recipe with water chestnut, coriander, shitake mushroom and soy. We had the choice between the vegetarian version (£4.50), pork or chicken (£4.80) and prawn (£4.95). We opted for the pork dim sum. We also ordered the chicken satay and peanut dip marinated with home made peanut dip (£4.95). Other interesting starters were prawn in a blanket (toasted sesame filling wrapped and plum dip – £4.95), steam fish in banana leaves (code, chillies, coconut, ginger, lime leaves and basil – £4.95), Thai tempura, spicy sausages and cashews, duck rolls and tamarind dip…
As main courses we wanted a noodle soup and finally chose the thai laksa noodle soup (chicken, coconut broth, ramen noodles, lemon grass, lime leaves and galangal – £6.95). This meal was also available with with tofu (£5.95), prawns (£7.95) or seafood (£8.50). We hesitated with the chicken tom yum noodle soup (tangy, rice noodles lemon grass, shallots, galangal, coriander and lime – £6.95) and the pork won ton noodle soup (clear soup with egg noodles, greens, coriander and brean sprouts – £6.95) that looked interesting.
We also had the red roast duck curry (roast duck in a red coconut sauce with peppers baby tomatoes, pineapples & sweet basol – £7.95) and Thai sticky rice (£2.50) recommended by the waitress since the duck comes with no accompaniment.
For drinks, we chose the sparkling ginger and lemon grass and chilli (£2.50) and the sparkling elderflower (£2) as we were in a discovery mood. This restaurant is a B.Y.O so you can bring your own bottle of wine if you wish to. The corkage fees are £2.50 per bottle or £1.25 per half bottle of wine.
The two starters
Pork dim sum
The dim sum were very good. Full of flavour, but not too salty as is sometimes the case. And not at all greasy. The chicken satay was a bit more average. The sauce was not especially peanut-y, and whilst the garnish of diced vegetables was a nice touch, the whole thing would have been a bit better if the chicken had been barbequed with a bit more flavour. The Pepper Tree, not far away at Clapham Common, does this dish a bit better.
The main courses
Red roast duck curry
Rice and red roast duck curry
Red roast duck curry & rice in the plate
Close-up of the chicken laksa
The red roast duck curry was quite tasty, with a nice creamy sauce. It could perhaps have been a bit spicier. The chicken laksa was quite authentic, and very good – but be warned that this is the sour type of laksa, which can become a bit overpowering as you work your way through the dish. Overall very good though, and a large meal to which I nearly made it to the end.
Coconut ice cream
Banana dessert with rice & ice cream
The other side
The banana dessert (we forgot its name) was… interesting. And even quite pleasant, though I was a bit less thrilled by the icecream and cream-from-a-can that came with it. It certainly needed some accompaniment, as the banana rice would have been too heavy and too bland on its own – and the idea was the right one – it is just that the cream and ice cream weren’t particularly nice. The coconut ice cream was alright. Not bad and not fantastic either.
Sparkling ginger lemon grass and chilli
The sparkling elderflower was quite pleasant. One small complaint here is that they did not bother to chill the bottle, but instead just provided a glass with icecubes. That is fine, but does force the customer to consume the drink quickly – or else risk having a room-temperature drink. Does it encourage customers to buy more if they run out too soon, I wonder? The sparkling ginger lemon grass and chilli was very weird. It was sweet and spicy, burning the throat a little. There was a not-that-small piece of chilli in the glass after all…
Cost and conclusion: it was £38.55. With no complaints about the food or the service, you’d think I’d be saying we return, right? Wrong. I do have one major complaint with this restaurant that actually means we will never go back. When it came time to pay our bill, the waiter became very agitated when we wanted to take the itemised bill with us, insisting that he “needed that for his records”. OK, fine we said. Bring us a copy. Well, he spent the next 10 minutes trying to avoid our gaze until it was clear we weren’t leaving till we got it. With great reluctance, he went off and came back with a hand-writen bill. But did it itemise our meal? No – he had simply written “dinner” and the total amount. No breakdown of VAT either. With the lengths this guy went to to prevent us having a record of our meal, we could have been forgiven for thinking we were in China town! Far be it from me to speculate on this restaurant’s relationship with the IRS, but when you’ve got to throw a tantrum just to get your bill and even then can’t get a detailed one (per legal obligation – http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/vat/managing/charging/vat-invoices.htm) – it does rather prompt one to wonder the reasons why. Whatever the answer to that, it is just not acceptable practice to spend that much time and effort dodging that obligation when the customer has specifically requested a VAT receipt.
Other Thai restaurants we tried were the Banana Leaf Canteen near Clapham Junction and the Pepper Tree near Clapham Common tube station.