Nipa is on the first floor of the Lancaster Hotel. An ornamented doorway leads into a smartly decorated dining room, with wood panelling and carpet. Head chef Nongyao Thoopchoi supposedly specialises in dishes from Thailand’s central region, though that was not really obvious from the menu, which featured normal Thai fare. According to the web site she flies in the spices and herbs directly from Thailand, which all sets up an expectation of something out of the ordinary.
There was a short wine list, mainly French and Italian, ranging from £23 - £57 in price, with most of the wines listed being under £30; growers were fairly obscure. Examples were Casa Orsola Barbera 2007 at £23 for a wine that you can find in the shops for £7, Chateau Tonnelle 2005 at £30 for a wine that costs around £12, and Chateau Desmirail 2006 at £57 for a wine that will set you back £18. Singha beer was £5 per small bottle, and mineral water was a hefty £5 per bottle.
Tom yum goong soup (£8.50) was pleasant enough: it did not have the complexity of the best versions of this classic dish, though the prawns in it were properly cooked (2/10). Crab filled spring (£7) rolls were crisp, but the filling was mainly vegetables, and pretty tasteless ones at that; perhaps there was indeed crab somewhere in this, but it was very hard to detect (barely 1/10). Som tam (£8.50) was poor, the papaya itself adequate but its dressing lacking much bite, and the salad having with it some quite unpleasant tiny, and rock hard, prawns that I found literally inedible (0/10).
Sea bass (£15.50) was a small portion of fish that had been cooked for too long, the fish being rather dry and anyhow lacking in flavour. The menu warned that the chilli sauce with it was very spicy, but what sauce there was actually had little in the way of chilli kick (0/10). By far the best dish was red curry with prawns, the latter cooked properly and the curry sauce actually being quite delicate and nicely balanced (3/10). Pad Thai noodles did not have great texture, though they were acceptable (1/10). A bowl of steamed rice was fine, but so it should be at £4.
Service was good, and the bill came to £52 a head with a couple of beers apiece. This was poor value in my view, much pricier yet of poorer quality than plenty of Thai places in London. A few carved vegetables to make the plates look pretty does not equate to high quality cooking. It was particularly disappointing given that this place, from décor to its menu promises, is clearly setting an expectation of something special, yet delivers something very ordinary indeed. Patara need not worry.