Got Me In Chains: Patara, Black & Blue

I am loathe to eat in chain restaurants. But what makes a chain a chain? How many restaurants constitutes a chain? When should I just be pleased that a restaurant is being successful?

Zizzi, Prezzo, Miller & Carter, Frankie & Benny’s, Nando’s, Giraffe, etc etc are undoubtedly chain-chains. Identical restaurants found the country over. Reassuring as you know what you’re getting, unremarkable and dull as you know exactly what you’re getting. When you’re paying to eat out you’re paying for an experience. Bland is not an experience, or it is as much of an experience as a yawn.

Then there are the Wahacas, Pizza Pilgrims, Honest Burgers and Franco Mancas, ‘grass-roots’ efforts, most of which seem to start somewhere like Soho or Brixton, which through hard work and hype make it so that new restaurant openings are made to meet demand. Once they’re out of London, they’ve really made it. Plus higher-end restaurants such as Gaucho and Hawksmoor

Then there are group-owned restaurants. Soho House owns Dirty Burger, Individual owns Piccolino and Gino D’Campo, Living Ventures seems to own every “place to be seen” in Manchester and Cheshire. And so on and so forth.

The number of hyperlinks in this point shows that my initial statement is quite false. I eat in a fair few ‘chain’ restaurants, whatever it is we mean by ‘chain’. It is unavoidable, like trying to avoid products from the NestlĂ© corporation. Successful brands that wish to grow often succumb to the lure of selling out, and I am just a hungry person on an impossible journey to support the little man, the rare man (or woman) who is happy to keep their restaurant as is, keeping their one (or two) restaurant(s) full ad infinitum without having a desire to expand.

I wanted to find a good Thai place and to settle the great steak debate (Gaucho wins). My dining companion on this particular quest was Henrik, a long-time Londoner and restaurant enthusiast.

He can’t get everything right.

Black and Blue lacks far behind the aforementioned Gaucho and Hawksmoor. We went to the Marylebone restaurant as there had live jazz there, though not on the night that we visited.

“A shame, but at least we have steak.”

Gristle is my predominant memory of this. And very tough for rare-medium. The portion sizes are good, but good portioning doesn’t make up for bad eating.

This branch has since closed, with other restaurants remaining in South Bank, Waterloo (why two so close together? Technically my former closest steakhouses), Notting Hill Gate, and Borough. Unless you really care about saving those extra few pounds, take the leap and go to a better steak place.

Before going to Patara, I had only been to three other Thai places in my life: Thai Spice, Chorlton; Chaophrya, Manchester; and Hikari, Lambeth (which is technically more of a cheap, all Asian place which I loved nonetheless). I order pad thai and try to understand why people like Thai food so much. My conclusion is that they drink a lot of wine with their Thai food, even if the wine is a red served in a cooler.

As their Google SEO would have it: “Patara, authentically different fine Thai dining restaurant in London since 1990.”

I have no idea what “authentically different” means. That there is nice decor? That the dessert that the recommended was lacklustre, even for an Asian dessert – apparently the sweet rice dessert is their specialty; I wish I had gone for a trusty old chocolate pudding.

Having since visited Thailand and visited both hawkers and the Mandarin Oriental, I have come to the conclusion that I don’t particularly like Thai food and that, fine, Patara is a relatively authentic representative of Thai cooking. As are all the other restaurants I’ve visited. So ambivalent am I to Thai food that I probably couldn’t tell the difference were you to serve me bad, bad Thai food (it would be over-salted. That would be the giveaway).

A not unpopular place for Thai brides and trendy city slickers alike, in the Oxford Circus branch at least. As for Bangkok, Beijing, Singapore, Geneva, Vienna, Berners Street, Hampstead, Knightsbridge, Soho and South Kensington, I couldn’t tell you. They must be doing something right though.

Plush Thai for a flush guy.