What an absolutely polarising experience, Patara was. On one hand, you have excellent, melt-in-your-mouth, near perfect main courses; and on the other you have what is probably the worst table service I’ve experienced all year. Somewhere in between were our starters.
DQ and I came to Patara‘s Soho restaurant for his birthday after a special screening of Senna at the Curzon Soho. It was a late dinner, 9:00pm, and most of the diners were on their way out. We sat down, ordered a couple glasses of wine, and waited. And waited. And waited. Finally after about 15 minutes, we were able to order starters.
We shared the Kong Nueng Ruam – Assorted steamed handcrafted dumplings with prawn, chicken and pork fillings – (£6.75) and the Porpia Tod – Crispy spring rolls of prawn, crabmeat and vegetable fillings – (£7.25), but unfortunately, that isn’t what arrived. Instead of the spring rolls, we were brought satay. Ok, fair enough – it happens – but we had to wait another 20 minutes to have it corrected.
Mistake aside, we mostly enjoyed what we had. The dumplings were perfectly steamed with three distinctly different fillings. The only slight disappointment was the shrimp dumpling, which was really quite dense and made chewing a bit more difficult than average.
Spring rolls were creatively packaged and lightly crisp. The crab rolls off to the left in the picture had clearly been sitting in the fryer too long, but the seasoning and lovely soy dipping sauce made it less noticeable.
If I sound a bit down about the starters, it’s only because the mains were so absolutely frickin’ brilliant in comparison. I’ll admit we were both a bit boring by going for the same type of meat (duck), but with both being cooked in different ways – and both being delicious – it showed me whoever was on the grill that night was a skilled DuckMaster™.
We had the Phed Tod Sauce Makham – Spiced crispy duck leg confit in piquant tamarind sauce and roasted pineapple – (£14.75) and the Phed Pad Graprao – Slices of Gressingham duck breast stir-fried in garlic and chilli sauce with crispy basil – (£14.50), with sides of rice (brown and white).
But again, there was a mixup, and I was brought brocoli instead of brown rice. We told the server, she apologised and promised to correct it. So we waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, I started tucking in to my duck before it got cold.
And it was delicious. So tender it fell of the bone. The roasted pineapple’s tart juice mixed perfectly with the sweetness of the tamarind sauce. With just a bit of heat and a few bitter garnishes, this dish achieved brilliantly what all Thai food strives for: the perfect balance of the sweet, spicy, bitter and sour.
DQ’s duck breast was equally tender, and the crispy basil was rich and fragrant, giving a delightful texture to the dish overall.
But guess what? Despite us trying to make eye contact with every server that walked by, my brown rice never showed up. It was fine because DQ shared his with me, but it really shouldn’t have happened in the first place.
By this time, it was nearly 11:30, and the thought of staying another estimated hour for dessert made me ill. With my credit card out and waving in my hand, we flagged down the server for our bill, and sure enough, we were charged for the missing brown rice and the satay instead of the spring rolls. I let him know, he disappeared for another 10 minutes. I still had my card out, clearly ready to pay, but as he returned the new receipt, there was no credit card machine to be found. Another 10 minutes passed before he came back with one. I swear, I couldn’t make this shit up.
I really really want this to be one bad service experience because, honestly, the food was gorgeous, but I’m not sure I could take a repeat of that dinner.