Thai 101, with its bright pink décor, has long been a fixture of King Street in Hammersmith. It serves food from all over Thailand but specialising in the Isaan cuisine of north east Thailand. Isaan cuisine uses bold spicing but also fermentation to preserve food in the hot, humid climate. The narrow dining room of Thai 101 Kitchen has a TV at the far end showing Thai cookery shows, the dining tables a decent size and not packed as close together as some central London restaurants.
There was a wine list that managed quite detailed tasting notes but listed no vintages. Sample labels included La Lisse Soie d’Ivoire Chenin Blanc at £23 for a bottle that retails at about £11, Magpie Estate Rag and Bone Riesling at £31 for a wine that you can find in the high street for around £14, and Ant Moore MOKO Black Pinot Noir from Waipara Valley at £31 that has a shop price of about £12. Chang Beer was £4 a bottle.
Tom yum goong is a benchmark Thai dish for me, the hot and sour soup here featuring good quality prawns with mushrooms and a complex, rich broth that had plenty of different Thai flavours including galangal, lime and lemongrass in a pleasing spicy balance (13/20). A quartet of chicken and prawn steamed dumplings had a mild, sweet ginger soy sauce flavoured with garlic oil, with some salad leaves to provide some balance. The dumplings were quite delicate and the filling was good, spicy but controlled (13/20).
I was impressed with fried pieces of sea bass laced with turmeric. Quite often fried sea bass dishes in Thai restaurants can be soggy, but here the coating was crisp and the fish was cooked through nicely (14/20). Prawn red curry was quite spicy, with an enjoyable mix of Thai flavours including Thai aubergines, sweet basil and bamboo shoots and quite a lot of coconut milk, enlivened by red chilli paste (13/20). I enjoyed stir-fried morning glory cooked with garlic, oyster sauce, soy and chilli. The greens were lightly cooked and tender and their favour was enhanced by the garlic and the kick of chilli (14/20). Pad Thai noodles could have been a touch firmer in texture for me, but were nicely flavoured with spices and came with spring onion, beansprouts, peanuts and egg and a slightly sweet tamarind sauce (12/20).
Service was friendly, if a little stretched at times. Even on the chilly Tuesday night the dining room was very busy, with just two waitresses to serve all the diners. The bill came to £46 a head before tip, with beer to drink and plenty to eat. In an era when London dining is becoming an expensive treat, Thai 101 offers fair value and authentic food.