To celebrate B's graduation, we strolled from Violet Cakes, across London Fields, to Som Saa in Climpson's Arch. This was the final place on our list of 'places we absolutely have to visit before we leave London for a few years'.
It more than deserves its place on that list, and really should have been top of it, in bold, and double underlined. Som Saa cooked up the best Thai food I've tasted out of Thailand: packed full of flavours that are strong, balanced, and oh so moreish. I could have eaten this meal for weeks in a row and been super happy every single time.
We started with drinks in the early evening sunshine in the yard outside Climpson's Arch, where the Som Saa residency currently sits. A shipping container and open hut sit on one side of you, while trains rattle overhead. We sat mesmerised, watching all of the restaurant's food being cooked and served out of these two constructions. Grilled aubergine flesh, fresh fish, bright vegetables, adorn the front of the 'kitchen', and the summer smell of barbecue is comfortingly strong, as every other item on the menu seems to be cooked over those hot coals or in the burning hot wood-fired oven.
The boys slurped on beers while maman and I sipped on the most exotic and flavoursome cocktails. Rum and lemongrass filled my glass, while maman's tasted of gin and basil, with the funniest looking frogspawn ingredient frozen on to the ice. We are incapable of having a drink without also having something to nibble on in this family, so we ordered a little pot of nuts, which turned out to be the best ever nuts. Coated in kaffir lime, dried chilli and lemongrass, they were spicy and fragrant. We considered sitting outside and just eating more and more nuts and enjoying a couple more cocktails for the rest of the evening, but eventually decided to go and find a table inside instead.
We ate most of the menu (everything apart from 2 items was the way I ordered) - and every plate was licked clean. Green papaya salad was crunchy, and fresh; aubergine salad with egg, prawn floss, mint and coriander was soft and almost sweet; the chicken legs tasted perfectly of the woody-charcoal smell from outside; and the pork belly curry made me think that perhaps I really had been transported back to Thailand after all.
The most dramatic dish was the much-instagrammed deep fried seabass with Isaan herbs and roasted rice powder. This little fish was served up whole: the crispest, lightest exterior encases light, succulent flesh, which falls away from the bones with just the touch of a fork. We were left with a satisfying fish skeleton on a very empty plate.
A ball of palm sugar ice-cream with turmeric grilled banana and sesame ensured our sweet teeth were satisfied, in a sophisticated, deep and darkly flavoured way, and set us up for a walk along the canal back home. We will have to cross our fingers and hope that Som Saa will still be here when we return in many years.
Highlight: Those damn nuts
Lowlight: No New York branch
Som Saa, Climpson's Arch 374, Hemsley Place, Hackney London, E8 3SB