The Blue Elephant has been a fixture on the Fulham High Road since 1986, but has now moved to Imperial Wharf. The original Blue Elephant was set up in Belgium in 1980 by Khun Nooror Somany Steppe, and there are now a dozen branches around the world. The Fulham Road branch was vast, with 250 covers, a stream running through the dining room and copious foliage. The new premises is more restrained, with plenty of dark wood, the dining room split into manageable partitioned sections over two levels, with wooden flooring and with river views. I prefer the new premises, which seem to me more tasteful than the sprawl that was the Fulham Road premises.
The extensive menu had both traditional and some modern Thai dishes. There is a reasonable wine list, and mark-ups were not excessive. Rioja Cantos Valpiedra 2008 was £32 for a wine that you can find in the shops for under £11, Casanova Neri Brunello Montalcino 2006 was £75 for a wine that retails at £37, and Ridge Montebello Chardonnay 2007 was £105 for a wine that will set you back £47 in the high street. However, mineral water was an absurd £4.60 for a bottle, and a small Singha beer was £4.50.
A nibble of duck spring roll was hard and tasteless, and did not augur well (9/20). Tom yum goong (£9) was fine, with just a single prawn and with broth not as complex as it might have been, but entirely pleasant (12/20). This was more than could be said for catfish and prawn salad (£12), which had little pieces of deep-fried catfish that tasted almost entirely of batter rather than fish, overcooked prawn and even deep-fried salad leaves (8/20). Both these dishes had quite a chilli kick, which was odd only in that none of the main courses did.
Black pepper prawns (£25) had large, over-cooked prawns with a surprisingly bland brown sauce coating that supposedly had lemongrass, garlic and black pepper, yet had little flavour (9/20). This was actually better than line-caught bream (£24), steamed with lemongrass, lime juice, picked garlic and chill, the problem being that the fish was seriously overcooked, to the extent that we couldn’t eat it at all (6/20). Vegetable green curry (£13) featured wildly overcooked vegetables in a rather under-spiced green curry sauce (9/20). Pad Thai (£9) was better, with decent texture though again rather bland (11/20). Steamed rice was OK.
Service was fine, and the waitress removed the fish from the bill without us asking. However even with one main course not charged at all, the bill still came to £55 a head. This was grotesque for the quality of cooking on offer tonight. The Blue Elephant was never exactly at the cutting edge of Thai cuisine, but I always remember it being decent if expensive in the several meals that I ate there over the years. By contrast, the meal tonight was very poor indeed.