Now here’s a place that can’t decide what it wants to be. I was quite excited when I heard that there was going to be a branch of Thai Silk opening at the Dome as the one at Waterloo (now closed, I’m told) was quite a classy joint. I thought it was a great idea to have one or two quieter, more intimate restaurants in the complex – after all not everyone wants to cram into noisy bars with a load of other fans of whatever they’re going to see – some people must fancy something a bit more more exclusive. And it’s not as though they’re short of space in that great tent.
The first thing that hit me as I walked in was the number of TV screens dotted around – one giant one and at least four smaller ones. The sound was turned off, but the pictures continued – showing football, of course – though two different matches, in case one wasn’t enough. Now, as regular readers will know, I’m not a fan of TV screens in bars, but there are occasions when they are appropriate. I can imagine gig nights and big matches can be a draw for a bar like that. But a whole bunch of us had popped in for lunch on a Sunday. The place was full, and not one face was watching telly. Not one.
But back to the restaurant. Or the bar, anyway, as the restaurant, despite the bar being jam-packed, was closed. There’s no doubt that the place is situated in the Dome – the feet of one of the tent-poles are firmly placed in various parts of it, which at least provided a topic of conversation, mainly of the odds-calculation variety, surrounding the lightning conductors down the side of them.
It’s painted a burnt orange with funky red lampshades and most of the seating is squashy leather armchairs – comfy enough as bar seating – very nice, in fact, but rather slidey when you’re trying to sit forward to eat. Similar problems occur with the tables. There were six of us, and the few ‘ordinary’ tables were already taken, so we, like everyone else, had to sit in our armchairs with three tiny round tables to balance the food on. All this would be ok – I don’t mind balancing food if there’s no other option – but there was a really nice-looking, totally unused restaurant upstairs.
Now, I know why they do it – they want the place to look full – and maybe they’re not counting on repeat business – but I really think they would have got drinkers as well as eaters if they’d opened upstairs. Everyone in that bar, including several families, was eating – and presumably having the same less-comfy-than-they-would-have-been-upstairs experience.
But the food. Now there’s my problem. How can somewhere that relies so much on what it looks like – to the point of making its diners less comfy than they could be – serve such heavenly food? Everything, save a rather unexciting green curry, was wonderful. Beautifully presented, well-executed and extremely tasty. The starters were, without exception, superb – smoky satays (I could had a bit more sauce but that’s just greed) rich soups, fabulous sweetcorn cakes, interesting leaf-wrapped chicken – all was beautiful. The dim-sum was dainty and tasty.
The best of the mains was definitely the lamb-shank – a good cut, practically falling off the bone and done to perfection. The duck gave the lamb a good run for its money though (oh, what an image that conjures…) and the jungle curry was much better than the plain green one which was frankly a bit unsubtle. One of our party had asked for a slightly different combination and had been told a categorical ‘no,’ so had ordered something else. When she looked at her meal, though, it was what she had asked for after all – so the kitchen certainly can create things off-menu – it’s worth an ask.
So – great food, not so great place to eat it. This would be a good bar to go to before a gig – or just as a bar – I don’t even mind the TV screens if I don’t have to look at them (though the waiter told us that they even get complaints from football fans – they’re never showing the game they want to watch – an occupational hazard at somewhere that attracts visitors from all over Britain….) – but I really wish they’d just open the restaurant for those of us who want to enjoy that fabulous food (it was even mooted that it could be better than that of Kum Laung, though I’m not so sure myself) in relative peace.