If you are old enough then you may a recall a TV comedy called Drop The Dead Donkey, which included an ironically named character called Joy, who never smiled. After being seated by our very pleasant Thai waitress, the female owner of the café wandered past and, while she seemed happy to banter with her regulars, gave us a rather frosty welcome. I jokingly remarked to my wife that she should be called Joy, remembering the old TV series; now hold that thought for a moment.
Café 209 is a compact café in Fulham with wood-panelled walls, plain wood floors and a few prints on the wall. It is pleasant if a little cramped, but had a relaxed atmosphere, with a couple of large tables of regular customers enjoying themselves. The menu is extensive and very fairly priced: starters are £3.95 - £4.45, main courses £4.95- £8.75. Moreover, it is unlicensed, so you can bring your own wine or beer without corkage. Prawn crackers were dull and clearly out of a packet, but Thai fishcakes were pleasant, served with a good sweet chilli sauce; although the fishcakes themselves were fairly bland they avoided greasiness (11/20). My tom yum goong soup was less good, with pleasant prawns, but the soup itself had just a one-dimensional chill heat, rather than the more complex blend of spices that this dish should have (10/20).
Things improved with a green curry with prawns, the coconut curry sauce having plenty of flavour, the prawns again cooked properly, and this time the curry seemed to have a better blend of spices (12/20). Pieces of salmon were deep fried and served with a tangy tamarind and chilli sauce and assorted pan-fried vegetables (11/20). Mixed vegetables were a little dull but cooked decently, while rice was fine (11/20). Pad thai noodles were offered either as rice noodles or egg noodles: we tried the egg noodles variety, and the texture was good, with a slight chilli kick (12/20).
The owner later made a pointed comment to us about preferring to deal with regular customers, which I found rather odd, but again I should emphasise that our waitress was friendly and capable. Overall, the food here is pleasant, and certainly I’d be happy if this was at the end of my road, though it is not somewhere to make a special journey to. The keen prices do seem to attract plenty of local regulars, and the place is clearly popular. By the way, I later discovered later the name of the owner - which was? Joy, really – I couldn’t make this up.